Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Who asks for forgiveness

The Elul season is one time of year I try to do a serious cheshbon hanefesh (self appraisal).  I think about the big personal events I had this year, how I acted during them and how I wish I had acted.   Then I review my relationships with my close friends and determine who I owe apologies to and for what.  Since I view the purpose of doing teshuvah as self-improvement, I don't regard blanket statements to people of "If I did anything that wronged you this year I'm sorry." as having any value at all.  Instead I try to think hard about what specifically I did that I need to apologize for, and then make my apology to that person directly for that behavior.

I'm finding this was easier to do when I lived in a nonobservant and nonJewish community.  The coworkers and friends I approached started by getting weirded out, but afterwards they said they actually appreciated the discussion.  Sometimes I learned that what seemed a big deal to me wasn't anything they even remembered, but something I had forgotten seemed like a big deal to them.

Here in my frum community I'm finding this exercise somewhat harder.  The one person I approached this year didn't let me finish speaking, but since told me I was forgiven (for what he had no idea) and asked that I forgive him for whatever (unspecified) wrongs he had done me.  It was formulaic and very offputting.

I'd be interested in the opinions of my readership (all 5 of you :>).  Do you do detailed apologies?  Do people stop to listen to them?  Do they serve a purpose in your eyes?