Yom Kippur only atones for sins between us and Hashem. Sins between us and our fellow man are not erased until we appease those we’ve hurt and attain their forgiveness. That’s why it’s important to forgive people during Elul. After all, do we really want someone to break a leg because they were nasty to us?
Let’s remember that forgiving others is an act of compassion and therefore improves our chances of being blessed with a good year. For we know that “kol hemiracheim al hebriyos merachamim alav min Hashamayim – whoever has mercy upon others receives mercy from heaven.”
But what if you find it difficult to forgive someone? Let’s say, for example, someone caused you to lose an exciting job opportunity or wrecked your chances at a good shidduch. How can you sincerely forgive someone who hurt you in such a terrible way?
Here’s a suggestion: Make a deal with Hashem. Say to Him, “Hashem, this person was very nasty to me. He really doesn’t deserve my forgiveness, but I am willing to forgive him anyway. So please, please forgive me for my sins even though I surely don’t deserve it.”
You might add the following afterthought, “Hashem I know this person might harm me in the future, but I am still willing to forgive him now. So please forgive me as well even though I might also slip up with aveiros sometime in the future.”
Elul is the last month of the year, and Chazal teach us that “hakol holeich achar hachasom – everything goes according to the finale.” It therefore behooves us to make the last part of the year the very best by, among other things, davening better, learning more Torah, spending more time with our spouse, concentrating more while putting on tefillin, being more careful about taharas mishpacha, and trying to find as many opportunities as possible to visit the sick, gladden the hearts of brides and grooms, help the needy, give respect to the dead, and show special kindness to the widow, orphan, converts, and the poor.
Let’s also not forget to thank Hashem for all the wonderful things He has given us during this past year. The central prayer of the first night of Selichos has the following recurring stanza: “Lishmoa el harina v’el hatefillah.” We ask Hashem to listen to our songs and our petitions. Note that we mention songs first because it’s imperative that before we ask Hashem for future privileges, we thank Him for all the things He has done for us in the past.
Think of how we relate to older children on whom we spend a lot of money and to whom we devote a lot of time. If they are appreciative and voice their gratitude, it’s a pleasure to do more for them in the future. Hashem acts the same way vis-à-vis His children.
The Chovos Halevovos writes, “Devarim sherotzeh lehasmid bah, al tiftach bah – Things that you want to continue – don’t take them for granted.” So constantly thank Hashem for all the kindnesses He showers upon us, and then it will be a pleasure for Him to continue providing for us in the future.
We are called “Yehudim,” which means “people who give thanks,” since we understand the importance of constantly saying thank you. That’s why we start every day of our lives by saying “Modeh Ani’ and say a whopping 100 berachos every day.
As we prepare for Yom Kippur, it’s of course appropriate to examine our misdeeds. It’s also important to look to the future and make commitments to be better in various ways. After all, we are not just asking Hashem to grant us another year. We want an even better year.
But in addition to all this, it’s important to say thank you for the many happy times we’ve had and the many successes and moments of nachas we’ve enjoyed. In the merit of doing so, may Hashem bless us with a very healthy, happy, and wonderful new year.