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November 07, 2011



Are sins against G-d really interpersonal offenses?

Take "דעלך סני - לחברך לא תעביד. זו היא כל התורה כולה, ואידך פירושה הוא, זיל גמור" literally (as opposed to redefining "Chaverekha" to refer to the Creator or the like). Or take R' Aqiva or Ben Azai at their word: "ואהבת לרעך כמוך רבי עקיבא אומר זה כלל גדול בתורה; בן עזאי אומר זה ספר תולדות אדם זה כלל גדול מזה.‏‏" All three tannaim appear to say that bottom line, it's all about the interpersonal.

On the other hand, in the second mishnah in Avos, Shim'on haTzadiq appears to be saying Torah, Avodah, and Gemilus Chassadim are three distinct primary, irreducible, values.


'Comes out that there are two types of interpersonal offenses: those that are both against Man and G-d, and those that are against Man alone. If so, we have here our distinction, although I don't currently know the parameters of how to define which sins are which.'

- It is possible, based on what you have written from the Pri Megadim, that the distinction may be whether the harm done was tangible or non-tangible. Was there a noticeable change brought about by the exchange or not. Stealing is an act that affects the environment in a tangible way. However, the removal of an opportunity or insults affect the interiority of the person alone. The surface appearance of the surrounding environment was not changed in any noticeable way. If these are the parameters, then we could explain your questions/points as follows:

'The early sources seem to imply that one must always ask a friend for forgiveness, even if one knows that the friend had already put an incident or injury behind him.'

- Sefer Minhagos cites the cases of Avimelech and Yosef (as does Rebbeinu Bachya). These are both cases in which the harm caused was tangible. Hence an expressed mechila was required.

- The cases in Yoma of R Zeira and Rav involved insults which pashtus would be cases involving the non tangible harm to the individual alone. The difference in these cases is that they were known Talmidei Chachomim. So in terms of their own honour, they probably would have been moichel. But in terms of Kovad HaTorah, they were representing something outside of their individual sphere of self. They were representatives of the klal, which is a tangible degradation of the authority of Torah. For such an offense they required and encouraged the antagonists to take responsibility for their actions.


'On the other hand, there are indications that being sure that a friend had forgiven him is enough. Many people declare nightly in their version of bedtime Shema that they had forgiven all who wronged them,'

-The act of forgiveness has two functions. One is more obvious than the other. One is for the sake of the mazik, it releases the antagonist from his liability as we have been discussing. But the other reason is for the nizak himself. The capacity to forgive and let go of grievances, to be Maaver al HaMidos is by definition the fulfilment of Halicha Bederochov of the 13 Middos HaRachamin.This is discussed thoroughly in the Ramak’s Tomer Devorah. So therefore, forgiveness is a process in this respect quite separate from the original issue that brought rise to the need to forgive.


Thank you for your contributions. The need to let go is certainly a real one but is it codified in halacha? What does it mean to nightly forgive others when it is has no actual effect?

Regarding your suggestion on interpersonal, it can certainly be. I was thinking that the acts which involve Hashem are ones in which something granted by Him was taken away, f.e. stealing. On the other hand, an insult or taking away an opportunity to profit, is a purely interpersonal offense.


'The need to let go is certainly a real one but is it codified in halacha?'

- The closest thing I could find so far in Shulchan Aruch is the Rema in O'Chaim 226:1. There he writes that one should not be cruel by refusing to forgive someone. The earliest source in the Rishonim I could find was Rebeinu Yonah in Sefer HaYirah, who says to forgive others nightly. But yes it is an interesting question. Why isn't this brought down in Shulchan Aruch, Rambam or Rif? One could possibly suggest that based on the source of this practice to forgive in Megillah 28, the Gemorah was asking as to the special merits of great people such R Nechunia Ben Hakanah. So the Gemorah was treating this practice as Midos Chasidus. As a result, the Poskim did did not see fit to codify this practice as normative. This makes sense, as we all presumably know it is one thing to say Rebono Shel Olam and another to really mean it!

'What does it mean to nightly forgive others when it is has no actual effect?'

-It does have an effect. The Gemorah in Megillah lists two.

1 Arichas Yomim of the forgiver.
2 Forgiving someone else creates a ripple effect which bounces back to the forgiver. It causes klapei Shamaya to be mochel the forgiver for his own iniquities.

'I was thinking that the acts which involve Hashem are ones in which something granted by Him was taken away'

- Yes, or perhaps in other words, that which is already granted and thus manifested by Him in the world could be likened to 'hekdesh dami' (conceptually speaking of course) So therefore the process of rectification is more involved requiring the formal mechila process to repair the damage of 'maeilah' that was done towards the other party.

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