A thousand pardons: So how exactly are you supposed to ask forgiveness ahead of the approaching Yom Kippur? Rabbi Ovadia Yosef writes the following in his rulings on the issue of forgiveness:
"If he asked his friend for forgiveness and his friend is not prepared to reconcile with him and forgive him, he should return and try a second and a third time. And each time he should tell him something different to placate him." After three tries, one may give up. But "when he sinned against his rabbi, he has to go and appease him even 1,000 times."
"The forgiver should not be too cruel to forgive his friend ... but should forgive with a full heart and a willing soul." Nonetheless, the person being asked for forgiveness is allowed to give his friend the runaround for a bit, refusing to forgive him immediately so that he learns his lesson. "And if he damaged his reputation, he isn't obligated to forgive him," but it is recommended that he do so.
"He who sinned against his friend, and his friend died, brings 10 people and stands them near his [friend's] grave, and says: 'I sinned against God, the Lord of Israel, and against so-and-so buried here.' And if he sinned against him with money, he should return the money to his heirs."
On the eve of Yom Kippur, "husband and wife should forgive each other for all their sins against each other and angry speech throughout the entire year."
Ethnic forgiveness: The two major political requests for forgiveness of the last decade were based on ethnicity. Nine years ago - during the Hebrew month of Elul of 1997, on the eve of the Labor Party convention - then-party chairman Ehud Barak asked forgiveness in the name of the past and present Labor Party for the damage it caused to Mizrahim, Jews of Middle Eastern descent. It is not clear whether late prime minister David Ben-Gurion indeed gave Barak the authority to ask for forgiveness in his name, but it is possible that the move helped Barak win the 1999 elections.
A year later, during a rally held before former Shas chairman Aryeh Deri went to jail for corruption, Deri asked forgiveness from the Degel Hatorah leader at the time, Rabbi Eliezer Menahem Shach, for violating his instructions. The request for forgiveness was particularly humiliating because Deri was essentially asking forgiveness for listening to Sephardi leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef rather than the Ashkenazi leader. The reason for the request for forgiveness was that Deri believed it was the strictness of Rabbi Shach that, in a mystical way, caused all his troubles.
The "unforgiven": Are there acts that cannot be forgiven? If so, there's no doubt that genocides, led by the Holocaust, are at the top of the list. It's reasonable to assume that this is the reason so many requests for forgiveness have already been made regarding the Holocaust. The most famous apology seems to be that of former German chancellor Willy Brandt, who prostrated himself in the Warsaw Ghetto in 1970. In 2000, then-president of Germany, Johannes Rau spoke in German from the Knesset podium to ask forgiveness from those who had been murdered.
In response to an apology by German President Horst Kohler in 2005, then-opposition chairman Yosef Lapid, also the chairman of the Yad Vashem board of directors, said: "We will never forgive what Nazi Germany did to us. The rules of forgetting and forgiving do not apply to the annihilation of a third of the Jewish people."
Forgiving the collaborators: Apologies for the Holocaust are not just a German issue. In 1995, French President Jacques Chirac recognized French responsibility for the crimes of the Vichy government and the deportation of Jews to the camps, saying, "we owe them a debt that will not be erased."
Earlier, on a 1993 visit to Israel, then-Austrian chancellor Franz Vranitzky acknowledged Austria's role in the Nazi crimes and admitted that the Austrians had willingly served the Nazis. And in a 2002 interview with Haaretz's Adar Primor, the leader of Italy's National Alliance party, Gianfranco Fini, accepted responsibility for the crimes of the fascist regime in his country during the Holocaust.
Christian forgiveness: Forgiveness is sometimes a matter of negotiation. In 2000, ahead of his millennial visit to Israel, Pope John Paul II published an apology for the crimes the Christians committed against the Jews and expressed regret.
This was undoubtedly an important historic move. Nonetheless, the Catholic Church was criticized extensively for failing to take direct responsibility for persecuting the Jews, speaking instead about the actions of the Christians.
The late pope was primarily criticized for failing to apologize for the church's role in the Holocaust. Sorry, but the Catholic Church has a lot to apologize for - and confessing to a Catholic priest is not enough for it. In 2004 the church apologized for the crimes of the Inquisition. But while it took responsibility, the church also tried to minimize the crimes. It published research documents arguing that the Inquisition tortured, burned and killed far fewer heretics and witches than was customarily thought.
The literature on forgiveness generally states that only the one who caused harm can ask forgiveness, leading to the question of whether the pope can really ask forgiveness for the Inquisition.
At first glance, it seems logical to assume that only the one who was harmed could accept the request for forgiveness.
In accordance with this principle, it seems that no one will be able to forgive in the name of the 6 million.
Forgiveness without borders: Are there really crimes for which there is no forgiveness? Not according to the members of South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which was established in the middle of the last decade. Criminals of the apartheid regime confessed their crimes before the commission, and no matter how terrible they were, they were pardoned.
Why did the blacks agree to this? Perhaps because of the recognition that both sides needed to live together. Perhaps also because of the African ubuntu ideology, which holds that humanity is one living tapestry and, therefore, when you punish the criminal you also harm yourself.
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