In the previous Halacha, we have discussed the general laws of Teshuva (repentance).
Between Man and His Fellow
The Mishnah in Masechet Yoma (85b) states: “Rabbi Elazar ben Azarya expounded: The Torah states (Vayikra, 16) regarding Yom Kippur, ‘For this day shall atone for you by purifying you from all of your sins, before Hashem shall you become purified.’ This teaches us that Yom Kippur atones for sins one commits against Hashem. However, sins committed between man and his fellow man are not atoned for on Yom Kippur until one appeases his friend.” Thus, if one teases or insults one’s fellow in any way, one must appease the individual so that he may forgive him for the iniquity committed against him.
Similarly, the Gemara in Masechet Baba Kama (92a) teaches us that if one damaged one’s friend’s property, although one compensates him for the damage he has caused him, the one who caused the damage is not forgiven until he requests forgiveness from the damaged party, as the verse states (regarding Avimelech who took Sarah away from Avraham Avinu, at which point Hashem told him) “And now, return the man’s wife, for he is a prophet and he shall pray on your behalf so that you may live.” We see that if Avraham would not have forgiven Avimelech, his sin would not have been forgiven. This means that besides for repenting before Hashem for the sin of damaging another, one must also appease one’s friend so that he forgives him.
Forgiving One’s Friend
When one’s friend asks him for forgiveness, one should not harden his heart and refuse to forgive him. How do we know that if one does not forgive one’s friend, he is considered cruel? As the verse states, “Avraham prayed to Hashem and Hashem healed Avimelech.”
The Rambam writes likewise in his Hilchot Teshuva (Chapter 2): “Repentance and Yom Kippur atone only for sins one commits against Hashem. However, Yom Kippur does not atone for sins one commits against one’s fellow man. If one’s friend refuses to forgive him, one should bring along three of this man’s friends and they should ask him to forgive him. If the wronged party still refuses to grant his friend forgiveness, one should bring a second set of three of this man’s friends and then a third in order to convince him to forgive. If, after all of this, he still refuses to forgive, he should leave him alone and the one who refuses to forgive is considered the sinner (for he should have pitied his friend who has repented and forgiven him). If, however, the wronged party was one’s rabbi, one must repeat this procedure even a thousand times until he forgives him.” Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch (Chapter 606) rules likewise.
It is forbidden for one to be cruel and refuse to be appeased; rather, one should be easily forgiving and long to anger. When one who has sinned against him asks one for forgiveness, one should forgive him willingly and whole-heartedly. This is indeed the practice of the Jewish nation, for they are straight of heart. Gentiles, however, forever hold on to their anger and hatred about someone who has wronged them.
If One Hurts an Individual Who the Passes Away
If one wrongs another and the wronged party passes away before the friend has the opportunity to ask forgiveness, one must bring a quorum of ten Jewish men to the man’s grave and say, “I have sinned to Hashem, G-d of Israel, and to so-and-so whom I have sinned against as well.” The Rambam writes that one must detail how one has sinned against his friend; the Eliyah Rabba and the Mishnah Berura rule likewise. If one is in a different city, it is sufficient for one to ask forgiveness from one’s friend in front of ten men (without actually going to his grave). If, however, one has a friend in the place where the deceased man is buried, one should appoint one’s friend as his agent to ask forgiveness in front of ten men at the deceased man’s grave on his behalf.