Question & Answer With Rabbi Lazer Brody - Asking For Forgiveness
A Simple Jew asks:
I recently listened to your CD "Queen of the Class" and wanted to know if you could address the issue of forgiveness from from the angle of our duty to ask forgiveness from another person. It is well known that Yom Kippur only provides atonement for the aveiros that we commit which are between Hashem and us, not for the aveiros that we commit against another person. We are instructed to attempt to make a rapprochement with anyone we are at odds with, and to ask forgiveness for things that we have done wrong to this person.
On a very practical level, let's say that you have repeatedly spoken lashon hara about a person. Are you obligated to go to this person before Yom Kippur, tell them that you have spoken ill of them when they were not present, and then request that they forgive you?
Now, perhaps they were truly unaware that you harbored such feelings in your heart. Whereas you can certainly explain that you gave voice to these feelings out of a sense of frustration, and tell them that these words were only spoken in the privacy of your own home, the underlying message you are sending this person is that "You made me mad and I didn't like you at one time". Are you exacerbating the problem by doing such, or is this truly what is required of us? Is this sense of embarrassment that we feel when asking for forgiveness supposed to be part of the tikkun for the aveira?
Rabbi Lazer Brody answers:
Superb question, SJ. Our answer depends on one of two situations:
1) The person is not aware that you spoke loshon hara about him/her, and no damage has been done: In such a situation, it's senseless to inform the other person that you spoke the Loshon Hara, because it will only trigger ill feelings. Teshuva to Hashem is the order of the day, with a firm resolve to try your utmost to improve.
2) The person is aware that you spoke loshon hara about him/her, and/or damage has been done: In such a situation we have to beg their forgiveness and rectify the damage to the best of our ability even before we do teshuva to Hashem. For example, if the person was fired from his/her job because of the Loshon Hara that a coworker says, then the coworker should help the victim find a new job or get the old job back. Please note that material damages from Loshon Hara are often difficult to prove in a Beis Din, and even so, the Beis Din is likely to view the damages as a grama, or indirectly caused, whereas the guilty party would be exempt from paying damages. The Gemarra warns though, that although grama lav milsa in this world, the guilty party remains liable in the next world, and that's bad news. Therefore, one should do his/her utmost to apologize and appease the damaged party. Halacha requires us not to be cruel, and to forgive those who ask our forgiveness.
With blessings for a healthy summer to you, your family, and your readers, LB