We are entering the last hours of 5771. And soon the Jewish New Year will be here. I am fascinated by the number of posts and status updates on facebook, linkedin and the like that are blanket apologies for behavior. New Year’s greetings abound. But I have been noticing this year more than last many folks resorting to blanket apologies. Let me say this is no substitute for the real thing. Part of the process of Teshuvah or repentance for sins committed in this past year has to do with actually facing those who were wronged. Not just a general statement. But a specific encounter with those who you hurt. So while the sentiments of a status updates reaches many -and perhaps with the new format changes on Facebook the real time feed-even more, it is this rabbi’s opinion that these status apologies are no substitute for actually making teshuvah/repentance to the individual harmed. While teshuvah/repentance can’t always be done face to face. Sometimes a conversation by phone or even a letter may be the way a true apology can be made. Perhaps by direct message on twitter-however you would be limited to 140 characters. But blanket apologies do not suffice.
As the RAMBAM writes in Hilchot Teshuvah of the Mishneh Torah in Chapter 2.9
Repentance and the Day of Atonement atone only for sins, such as eating a forbidden food, having prohibited intercourse, et cetera, which are committed against God. Sins such as injuring, cursing, stealing, et cetera, which are committed against one’s fellow man are never atoned for until one has paid any necessary fines to the person against whom one sinned, and discussed it with him. Even though one may have paid back any due money one still has to discuss the sin with him and ask for forgiveness. Even if one teased someone else just verbally one has to appease him and make up for it, in order that he will forgive one. If the person against whom one had sinned did not want to forgive one then one has to ask him for forgiveness in front of three of his friends. If he still didn’t want to forgive one then one asks him in front of six, and then in front of nine, of his friends, and if he still didn’t want to forgive him one leaves him and goes away. Anybody who does not want to forgive is a sinner. If one had to ask one’s Rabbi for forgiveness, one us to approach him even a thousand times until one receives forgiveness.
So while the sentiments for wishing all a Shanah Tovah are welcomed. Make teshuvah/repentance/apologies/ask for forgiveness in a direct way.
Wishing you all the sweetness of the season.