Forgive Me Father

Dear Rabbi

I hurt someone pretty badly earlier last year and to be honest I don’t have the guts to apologise. Why can’t Yom Kippur atone for me the same way it does for everything else I might have done wrong. Surely G-d forgives all sin?



Dear Jason

If I slapped the Queen and I slapped one of her foot-soldiers, which would be considered the greater offence? Typically we would assume the Queen. So why does Yom Kippur atone for my offences onto G-d but not my offences to my fellow man?

There is a book authored by renowned Nazi hunter, Simon Wiesenthal in which he describes being summoned to the bedside of a dying Nazi soldier asking him for forgiveness for atrocities he committed against fellow Jews. Wiesenthal describes walking away without offering that solace. Thereafter he penned “The Sunflower” in which he asked numerous theologians and other leaders what they would have done. Not surprisingly, all the many Jews he asked agreed with his stance of not forgiving. The position is simple: It is not his right to forgive. If you do something wrong to me, then I am the one who can forgive you. But if you wronged someone else, what place do I have to step in and offer any atonement?

That’s the same position G-d finds Himself in. It’s not that He won’t forgive you. It’s simply that He can’t! You offend Him and Yom Kippur can provide atonement. But if you hurt someone else, only that other person can forgive you.

I know it’s never easy to apologise, and it remains incumbent upon the offended party to be compassionate and forgiving. But as you had the guts to hurt the other in the first instance, summon the guts to make amends now. He’ll feel so much better for it, and so will you.