Beit Midrash

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How Can I Request Forgiveness from Rabbis?

Shalom. I am not religious. How can I ask forgiveness of rabbis to whom I related in a derogatory manner? I insulted and maligned them… and some of them are no longer living. Thank you. Sincerely, David

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Rabbi Yitzchak Grinblat

Elul 20 5782
Translated by Hillel Fendel

Question: Shalom. I am not religious. How can I ask forgiveness of rabbis to whom I related in a derogatory manner? I insulted and maligned them… and some of them are no longer living. Thank you. Sincerely, David

Answer: Shalom to you too. It is very moving to read such a letter in which you so sincerely express a desire to rectify what you did in the past. This is a very important step, and a great merit to make such a decision. I bless you that you will have the strength to continue and complete the rectification of the bad things you did. Making fun, ridicule and scorn are very bad things – for even if they do not hurt the subject of the derision (for instance, if he does not know of them), they actually hurt the speaker! This is because speaking in this way brings him down to a bad place, one of negativity, bad thoughts, small-mindedness, and bad desires. To rise above this is a large merit, and by doing so, you have taken an important step.

As is known, a very significant stage in the process of teshuva (return, repentance) is to ask forgiveness of the person whom we have hurt. At the same time, we must take upon ourselves not to repeat the bad thing in question. Without these two steps, we truly cannot attain our goal of rectifying the past, because the roots of the bad deed remain with us. It is very important that we learn how to change these aspects of our internal world, so that it is truly led by happiness and goodness, and to stay away from the negative places of anger, criticism, arrogance, and looking down upon others. 

If you wish, I would be happy to discuss these issues in more detail with you – and if you have already merited to undergo this process, I would be happy to hear about the steps you merited to take.

Regarding the asking of forgiveness, certainly one who hurt someone must apologize and ask to be forgiven. If the person who was spoken about does not know that he was spoken about, there is no need to tell him; rather, the "penitent" should say in general, "In the past I was once angry at you, and I said some things that I now regret. I would like to ask forgiveness for what I said in my anger." There is no need to go into details, for that would serve no purpose.

If the person who was harmed is deceased, one should bring a minyan [ten men] to the gravesite and there ask forgiveness. It is important to do this, and not find excuses not to. I believe that when you do this process, you will feel a wonderful sense of cleanliness and purification from what happened in the past. Until this cleansing, not-good things take up negative space inside us and weigh down on us, and when we cleanse ourselves of them, a beautiful feeling of renewal comes over us.

I wish you great success!


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