Photo Credit: Jewish Press

The great posek Rav Yosef Sholom Elyashiv was asked a question by a man in emotional dire straits. He had been engaged, but the bride had broken the engagement, and a short while later, asked the erstwhile groom for forgiveness. It is common practice in the event of a broken engagement to ask mechila, and even to obtain a shtar mechila, a bill of forgiveness, stating that the offended side, who had not broken the engagement, has no emotional or financial claims against the side who did. In this way, everyone can move on with a clean conscience. The problem was that the young man wasn’t ready to forgive. He was aware, though, of the statement in the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 606:1) that someone who withholds forgiveness is considered cruel. What should he do?

Rav Elyashiv counseled the groom that there is only one circumstance in which withholding forgiveness is an act of cruelty: when the request for forgiveness is sincere, and reflects a true understanding of the pain the penitent had caused. In this case, it seemed that the bride’s family were only asking to discharge an obligation and to remove any “bad energy” that could impact her in the future; they were not acting out of feelings of remorse.


The pre-Yom Kippur “mechila rush” does no one any favors – but everyone who comments on this speaks from the perspective of those who ask for it. The reason we need to give our requests for forgiveness more time is that we are human. Granting forgiveness isn’t easy, especially if it is sincere. It is only fair to give time to those from whom we request forgiveness.


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Rabbi Rackovsky is rabbi of Congregation Shaare Tefilla in Dallas, Texas. From 2007-2012, he served as assistant rabbi at The Jewish center.