Yet another instance where repeating something three times is significant concerns asking someone for forgiveness. The Talmud (Yoma 85b) states that regarding “sins between man and his fellow man, Yom Kippur does not atone until he asks his fellow’s forgiveness.” The Gemara (87a) quotes R. Hisda, who maintains that a sinner must ask forgiveness before three groups of three people each. R. Yosi b. Hanina states that whoever asks forgiveness of his fellow man should not do so more than three times (if the latter remains unappeased).
The Mechaber (Orach Chayim 606:1) rules accordingly. After pleading with one’s fellow three times – and being rebuffed three times – the offender no longer bears any iniquity, and Yom Kippur will surely atone.
(To be continued)