Composed on Facebook on September 12, 2021
Inspired by Mordechai, some thoughts on mechila, forgiveness (really more of an absolution) that we're supposed to try to be granted before Yom Kippur by people we've wronged.
When I was growing up people zoomed around school before Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur saying "Are you mochel me? Are you mochel me?" And once I actually dared to say no, so she asked two more times and I laughed and said that doesn't count as three separate instances of sincerely asking for mechila, but nice try!
For anyone not familiar, there's a concept that after asking for forgiveness three times the blame is transferred to the one refusing to grant forgiveness, so this person was displaying a full sense of entitlement by 4th grade.
That was the last time I ever casually asked for mechila. And then I would watch people who has casually teased, belittled, excluded, and otherwise deeply hurt people ask for mechila with no change in their behavior, no sense of regret (charata). No change being done. They were utilizing the need we have to be nice, to not cause others harm, to take advantage of their victims. And I don't mean best friends who had a small fight, I mean kids who were basically ostracized b
eing asked by the daughters of the inner circle for mechila as if they were a spare tissue to wipe up their misdeeds.
There was no thought to the pain they'd caused or the huge consequences of being bullied. And now people were being asked to mochel the bully or risk being called mean, selfish, a bad Jew. It was sickening once I saw it.
So as we go into these final days of school, please teach our kids what mechila really is. And teach them that they don't only have to get it by Yom Kippur, that we should be self reflecting throughout the year and always working to fix relationships we've damaged. That mechila has to be earned just as much as teshuva does. Teaching humility and maybe a touch of mussar would help in these settings.
And then once they get that, *maybe* the kids will understand that before YK they can stand up and say "If someone is holding a grudge against
me for something I have done this year please let me know so I can talk with you and make things better between us." It's fair to ask for that opportunity as a public statement. There's no obligation on the other person's part, and Lord knows I work to get over my grudges before Yom Kippur as well. And for the record, that doesn't mean going back to neutral. You can still be wary of the person, still remain distant, but without that dark nugget of a grudge lodged in you.
Mechila is not a casual thing.
In a case where someone was abusive is a case where they should *not* ask for mechila unless they know the victim is receptive t
For most people who've been abused the power dynamic of the relationship is so toxic that the abuser asking for forgiveness will actually be abusive itself. The best thing an abuser who's changed can do in that case is leave the person alone, but make it known that if the person ever wants a full apology they have full charata and will apologize and ask for their forgiveness. Keeping your distance is the kindest thing you can do.