Abstracted from Guidelines, by Rabbi Yitzchok Jaeger and Rabbi Elozor Barclay
- It is absolutely imperative that one receive forgiveness for sins committed against other people. Even if one is full of remorse, the day of Yom Kippur will not bring atonement for such sins unless one has appeased the hurt party and obtained his forgiveness. This includes all forms of interpersonal offences such as hurtful remarks, slander, damages, overdue debts, dishonesty in business, not respecting parents and teachers, etc.
- Ideally, one should ask forgiveness as soon as possible, whatever the time of year. However, people are often too busy or embarrassed to do this immediately, and the task is left until erev Yom Kippur when everyone is willing to forgive others. Rectification of any financial injustices should not be pushed off until erev Yom Kippur, since there is a positive commandment to correct such matters as soon as possible.
- Ideally, one should ask forgiveness personally. If one cannot go to the offended party, he may call or write. However, if this is difficult, or if the person will be appeased more easily by another person, one may use a third party.
- Ideally, the person asking forgiveness should specify the sin. However, if he thinks that doing so would upset the other person, he may ask in a general way.
- For the offended party, it is wrong to be cruel and refuse to forgive. One of the inborn traits of the Jewish people is to be kind and forgiving. Our Sages teach that whoever forgives the faults of others, will have his sins pardoned by Hashem.
- If the offended party refuses to forgive, one must attempt to obtain forgiveness an additional three times. Each time, three people must accompany him and different words of appeasement used. If after this the hurt party still refuses to forgive, one is not obligated to try further. One should announce in front of ten people that he has done his utmost to obtain forgiveness. If one has offended a person from whom he learned Torah, he must continue to ask even more than three times, until he is forgiven.
- There are situations where it is permitted to withhold forgiveness: 1. If the intention is for the benefit of the offender, to make him feel regret and prevent him from repeating the sin; 2. If the victim is afraid that he will suffer further pain if he seems to forgive easily; 3. If the victim has been slandered in public and people will not know that there has been an apology.
However, even in these cases, the victim must remove all feelings of hatred from his heart, otherwise his Yom Kippur prayers will not be accepted. Furthermore, it is praiseworthy to forgive even when the law does not require him to do so.
- If the offending party cannot find the offended person, he should firmly accept upon himself to contact him after Yom Kippur to ask forgiveness.
- If the offended person is deceased, one must go to his grave with ten people. He should say, “I have sinned against the G-d of Israel and against this person”, and should specify the sin committed. The assembled people should then say three times, “You are forgiven”. If he cannot travel to the cemetery, he should ask someone living nearby to take ten people and seek forgiveness on his behalf. If this cannot be arranged, he may gather ten people wherever he is and ask the deceased for forgiveness