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teshuvah

Rabbi Yoel LiebermanTammuz 25, 5777
86
Question
Hello, my question involves teshuva. It’s in two parts: 1. Does someone need to do teshuva for not returning calls or emails? A person that I dated briefly years ago has continued to email and text me throughout the years and I do not want him in my life. I have ignored the communication (I am a baal teshuva and this is not an influence I want in my life.) May I continue to ignore them or do I need to do teshuva for ignoring them to begin with (in case they were offended by my ignoring them?) I am trying to set a boundary and protect myself and I would appreciate your advice. 2. The second question regards how do you know when you need to do teshuva? For example I should have contacted someone sooner then I did, do I need to apologize and ask forgiveness? I find that sometimes it makes people uncomfortable that I apologize when nothing was done "offensive" it’s just more like I’m trying to make sure I don’t offend anyone. Needless to say this causes me a lot of stress. Clearly if someone said something bad or embarrassed someone, that warrants teshuva. But could you please elaborate on when it is appropriate to to teshuva for day to day interactions like sending emails late or forgetting to do something innocently. Thank you for your help, I appreciate it.
Answer
ב"ה As far as the first part of your question, I don't think you have to apologize or do Teshuva. If you politely made your position clear once that you want no more contact with someone, which is your prerogative and this person hasn't accepted your decision, then it his problem, not yours. I don't know to what degree these mails come, but there are also laws about these things if the mails come to an extreme. 2. This is more of a question, which is always best with personal guidance from a Rabbi, but I will say, that unless you're providing a paid service that requires a limited response time, I don't see if Jewish law would apply here to require you to answer in a certain time any more than social etiquette requires you to answer. People, have busy schedules at work, with their families, health issues and others to deal with. The time limit for answering these mails seems to me more of an issue of common sense. You must your judgement depending upon your time schedule, the urgency of the mail your relationship with the person etc. I, myself in this website which is a volunteer service, have to make decisions of which questions deserve quicker attention than others. Sometimes, with my busy schedule it takes me longer to answer people like you, and I will include an apology if necessary. However, I see no justification for stressing yourself with this issue. Unless, someone has pointed out to you that you have hurt them, there is no reason to suspect that you have. Your question seems to reveal a measure of sensitivity in these areas. Also, Judaism has a built in "Teshuva" mechanism. In many prayer books, before going to sleep there is a prayer which begins with the words in Hebrew "הריני מוחל" meaning "I hereby forgive" and then goes on stating that you forgive anyone who may have hurt you. It then continues asking forgiveness from Hashem, if you have sinned unknowingly and so on. In this way, you won't go to sleep before you have resolved any possible ongoing issues. I hope I have helped, and not exceeded the time limit you may have expected. If you feel you need more practical guidance, I again suggest turning to your local Rabbi. All the best
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