Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Locate Your Friend and Ask for Forgiveness

Whether the creation of the wheel, and tools to create and advance civilization, or the discovery of penicillin or the polio vaccine, our lives have changed profoundly because of such discoveries. Productive societies invest in scientists and inventors who dedicate their lives to helping advance society through such innovation. While history has marked certain inventions and discoveries as changing the way we live, few have had as much impact as the development of the internet and the proliferation of social media.

With the advent of the internet and the ability to mass-communicate in a way never known previously, we are also able to be in contact with friends, relatives and acquaintances in a way that was previously unimaginable. Mental Health professionals note that while many in society may be in touch, today, with more people using social media, they are nevertheless, likely lonelier than ever before. Although, on its face, one would think that with so many more “friends” one would be happier, in truth, interacting online and via social media is not at all similar to a traditional relationship.

Today, September 17th has been designated as “Locate an Old Friend Day.” Try to do this the old-fashioned way, not via social media. The timing is also important, since at this time of year, prior to the High Holidays, Jews have traditionally endeavored to mend personal relationships and to seek out opportunities to rebuild friendships.

At the end of the second chapter (paragraphs 9-11) of his famed “Laws of Repentance,“ Maimonides makes this case quite strongly. With regard to interpersonal sins, two actions must be taken for the relationship to be repaired: financial restitution must be made, if necessary, and the sinner should seek appeasement from the victim, and personally request forgiveness. If the harmed individual refuses to forgive, which is his or her option, the one asking for forgiveness is to sincerely ask a total of three times, even invoking a committee of friends of the aggrieved, to help the aggrieved accept the petition for penance. Ultimately, if a serious attempt at forgiveness is rejected or offered thrice, there is no need to pursue the matter further, unless the victim was their rabbi, in which case he or she must continue until forgiveness is accepted. Maimonides adds that one must not be cruel when they are being asked to forgive.

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