Selected Halachos Related to Parshas Ha'azinu-Erev Yom Kippur
By Rabbi Doniel Neustadt
The following is a discussion of Halachic topics related to the Parsha of the week.
For final rulings, consult your Rav.
APPEASEMENT and FORGIVENESS on EREV YOM KIPPUR
A well-known principle in the Mishnah states that Yom Kippur does not atone
for sins committed bein adam l'chaveiro unless one has first sought to
appease whomever he has wronged and obtained his forgiveness. The Divinely
ordained power of Yom Kippur to atone for sins cannot be activated, so to
speak, unless one has assuaged any hurt feelings that he has caused(1).
Asking for forgiveness is usually an unpleasant task where one must lower
himself to admit his wrongdoing to his fellow-man. Since people naturally
wish to avoid such painful or embarrassing encounters, they delay asking for
forgiveness for as long as possible. Recognizing this factor, the Rabbis
established Erev Yom Kippur as the final "deadline". Since everyone wants to
maximize Yom Kippur's potential to cleanse and purify himself from sin, that
desire become the impetus to ask for forgiveness(2).
One must ask to be forgiven for any type of act that may have harmed
another person, whether it is of a physical, verbal or financial(3) nature,
etc. and whether the act was committed directly to the person's face or
behind his back.
Before the advent of Yom Kippur, one should review in his mind any comments
he has made or acts he has done that would require him to approach the
injured party and ask for their forgiveness. While many people ask
forgiveness from their friends for routine, relatively inconsequential
slights, this is easily asked for and easily forgiven. But one must also
approach those whom one has seriously wronged and obtain their forgiveness.
This is much more difficult and absolutely essential.
QUESTION: Does Shimon need to appease or ask for forgiveness from Reuven if
he knows that Reuven has already forgiven him in his heart?
DISCUSSION: There are two opinions. Some hold that as long as Reuven is
appeased and no longer bears a grudge, then there is no reason for Shimon to
ask forgiveness, since the goal has been achieved(4). Others, however,
maintain that the process requires that Shimon humble himself before Reuven
and make up for hurting him by asking forgiveness. The embarrassment
involved is part of the purification process, a form of yisurim that the
sinner must go through before Divine forgiveness may be granted. The fact
that Reuven has already pardoned him does not remove that obligation(5).
While the major poskim, including the Mishnah Berurah, do not explicitly
discuss this issue, we may support this point by mentioning that the Chafetz
Chayim urged that the Declaration of Forgiveness paragraph, whose original
place in the lengthy Tefillah Zakah was towards the end, be moved up to the
beginning of the tefillah so that everybody will be sure to recite it(6).
Apparently, it was his view that reciting this paragraph is crucial since it
allows for forgiveness to be granted despite the fact that Shimon did not
humble himself and expressly petition Reuven for forgiveness.
QUESTION: Reuven, who in the past spoke lashon ha-ra about Shimon, now seeks
his forgiveness. If Shimon is unaware of what exactly was said about him, is
Reuven required to repeat to Shimon what he said about him in order for
Shimon to forgive him completely?
DISCUSSION: If the lashon ha-ra that was spoken was not "accepted" by the
listeners and no harm was done to Shimon, Reuven does not have to ask
Shimon's forgiveness at all. He must, however, repent for his sin and ask
forgiveness directly from Hashem(7).
If the lashon ha-ra did cause harm to Shimon, and Shimon is aware of the
lashon ha-ra that was said about him, Reuven must beseech Shimon directly.
If Shimon is unaware of what was said about him, Reuven must tell him(8). If
the information will cause Shimon embarrassment or pain, then Reuven need
not elaborate upon the lashon ha-ra that was spoken(9). A general request
for forgiveness will suffice.
Harav Yisrael Salanter(10) explains that there is no need to hurt Shimon by
letting him know the lashon ha-ra that was spoken about him. He adds that
the custom of asking forgiveness of everyone on Erev Yom Kippur avoids such
QUESTION: Reuven feels that Shimon is upset at him for no reason at all.
Does Reuven have to appease him anyway?
DISCUSSION: Yes, for two reasons. Firstly, because Reuven must clarify
whether or not Shimon has a legitimate claim of which Reuven is unaware.
Secondly, Sefas Emes(12) proves from the Talmud that even when someone is
unjustifiably upset, he must still be appeased.
It is reasonable to assume, though, that this is only required when Reuven
actually did something that could cause Shimon to be upset. But if, in fact,
Reuven did absolutely nothing wrong, and Shimon's grievances are
irrational - possibly because he is jealous of Reuven or he is an insecure,
neurotic individual - then Reuven would have no obligation to appease
QUESTION: Can the appeasement be made through a messenger or must it be done
DISCUSSION: L'chatchilah, it is preferable that it be done in person. If,
however, this is difficult to do, or if there is a better chance of
forgiveness being granted if a third party mediates, then it should be done
through a third party [or by phone or mail](13).
QUESTION: How is Reuven supposed to react to Shimon's appeasement?
DISCUSSION: Reuven is required to let his anger towards Shimon - even when
justified - dissipate and abate. Reuven must do this not only for the sake
of Shimon who otherwise will be denied atonement, but also for his own sake.
The following four reasons are offered:
As children of Avraham Avinu, we are expected to learn from him and follow
his example when he graciously forgave Avimelech for abducting Sarah(14).
Anyone who conducts himself differently is, in the words of the Rambam,
cruel and akin to the hard-heartened Gentiles(15).
Middah Kneged Middah - Hashem deals with us in the same manner that we deal
with others. If Reuven pardons Shimon for anything Shimon may have done to
him, including acts that Shimon did intentionally or in spite, then Hashem
will forgive Reuven for any sins committed against Him, including those sins
done intentionally or in spite(16).
One who allows hatred towards another person to remain in his heart blocks
his prayers from reaching heaven(17).
According to some Rishonim(18), one who refuses to forgive transgresses the
Biblical prohibition of Lo sitor (Do not bear a grudge).
QUESTION: If Reuven refuses or rejects Shimon's appeasement, what should
DISCUSSION: If Reuven rebuffs Shimon, Shimon must return twice more(19) to
ask for forgiveness. When he returns he should not go alone, but with three
people who stand by while he appeases Reuven(20). If that, too, fails,
Shimon has done his duty and is no longer required(21) to ask for
QUESTION: Are there any situations when Reuven is not required to forgive
and may continue to hold a grudge against Shimon?
DISCUSSION: Yes. There are several such cases:
If Shimon owes him money and refuses to pay or denies his debt(23).
If Shimon slandered him falsely (motzi shem ra) and there is a possibility
that some people who heard the slander will not hear its retraction(24). If,
however, such a possibility does not exist, then Reuven is obligated to
If Reuven fears that the episode will repeat itself; i.e., he will pardon
Shimon and Shimon will hurt him again(26).
If Reuven withholds forgiveness in order to reform Shimon's future conduct
QUESTION: After Shimon petitioned Reuven for forgiveness, Reuven forgave
him, but only outwardly. In his heart Reuven is still angry. Has Shimon
fulfilled his obligation?
DISCUSSION: In the opinion of Alter of Kelm(28), Shimon has fulfilled his
obligation once Reuven has verbally expressed forgiveness. The fact that in
his heart he has not done so does not negate his spoken word in keeping with
the rule of devarim shblev einam devarim. But other poskim disagree and rule
that Shimon has not fulfilled his obligation and must further pacify
QUESTION: After Reuven physically attacked Shimon with provocation, Shimon
returned the blows many times over. Does Reuven still need to ask
forgiveness from Shimon or has Shimon evened the score between them?
DISCUSSION. Reuven is still required to ask for forgiveness. The fact the
Reuven was injured more severely than the injury he inflicted on Shimon,
does not alter the fact that Reuven hit Shimon first. Moreover, since Reuven
caused Shimon to strike him (which is a sin rendering him a rasha), he must
seek his forgiveness for that as well(30).
The same halachah applies with verbal abuse. If Reuven provoked Shimon and
Shimon answered back sharply, Reuven is required to ask forgiveness from
1. See Birkei Yosef 606:1 and Hirurei Teshuvah (Harav M. Gifter), pg. 121.
2. Mishnah Berurah 606:1. See Tur for another reason why Erev Yom Kippur was
chosen as the appropriate time to take care of this need.
3. While Erev Yom Kippur seems an unlikely time to settle monetary claims,
actually, it is a very good time to do so, for there is no greater
impediment to atonement than wrongful possession of someone else's money
(Mishnah Berurah 606:1).
4. Teshuvos D'var Yehoshua 5:20; Az Nidberu 7:65.
5. Pele Yoeitz (Teshuvah) See also Tanchuma, quoted in Beiur ha-Gra 606:1;
For a detailed explanation see Moadim u'Zamanim 1:54 quoting Harav Itzele
Peterburger and Hirurei Teshuvah, pg. 123.
6. See the ArtScroll Machzor.
7. Rabbeinu Yonah in Sha'arei Teshuvah 207, quoted by Chafetz Chayim, Lashon
8. Chafetz Chayim, ibid.
9. Mishnah Berurah 606:3
10. Quoted by Harav E.E. Dessler and published in Mo'adim u'Zemanim 1:54.
11. See Az Nidberu 7:66, who rules in accordance with this view. In his
opinion, as long as Shimon is unaware that lashon ha-ra was spoken about
him, there is absolutely no requirement to inform him of what was said.
12. Yuma 87b.
13. Mishnah Berurah 606:2.
14. Aruch ha-Shulchan 606:2.
15. Rambam, Hilchos Teshuvah 2:10.
16. Sha'ar ha-Tziyun 606:8. See also Tiferes Yisrael, Yuma 8:54.
17. Mateh Efrayim 606:4 quoting Kabbalists.
18. See Rambam, Hilchos Teshuvah 2:10 and Sefer ha-Teshuvah, pg. 221; Terumas
Hadeshen 1:307 and 2:212. See also Chezkuni Vayikra 19:18. See, however,
Ritva (Rosh Hashanah 17a) who disagrees.
19. If Reuven is Shimon's rebbe, then there is no limit to how many times
Shimon must ask for forgiveness.
20. Rama 606:1.
21. According to some poskim, he has done his duty and his atonement on Yom
Kippur will no longer be blocked (Pri Chadash). Most poskim, however, hold
that while he is not required to ask more than three times, if he wishes to
do so he may [since, after all, he was still not forgiven]; Mishnah Berurah
606:5 and Sha'ar ha-Tziyun 6.
22. Shimon, however, should announce [in the presence of ten people] that he
did his very best to appease Reuven and it is not his fault that Reuven
refuses to be appeased (Rama 606:1). See explanation in Beiur ha-Gra.
23. Rambam Hilchos Teshuvah 2:9.
24. It is middas chasidus, however, to forgive even in this situation; Mateh
25. Aruch ha-Shulchan 606:2.
26. Mishnah Berurah 606:10. This is similar to the case cited in Tefilah
Zakah where the sinner says, 'I will sin against him and he will forgive
27. Rama 606:1. Reuven must, however, remove the hatred from his heart and
only show it outwardly; Mishnah Berurah 606:9.
28. Quoted by Harav R. Grozovsky (Sefer ha-Zikaron Even Tzion, pg. 542). See
also Ohr Yisrael (Nesivos Ohr, pg. 116).
29. Harav S.Y. Elyashiv (oral ruling quoted in Toras ha-Adam le-Adam, vol. 3,
pg. 36); Alei Shur, vol. 2, pg. 240. See also Teshuvos v'Hanagos 1:739.