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If somebody has repeatedly wronged me (in the same way) in the past, am I obligated to keep forgiving him if he asks? On the one hand, maybe this time he finally is really doing teshuva; on the other hand, there's a track record. What happens if I decline?

I'm not asking for a ruling, of course, but rather sources that should inform the decision.

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3 Answers

up vote 8 down vote accepted

Yoma 87 explains how to properly ask for forgiveness. The offender must go with three friends to the offended, and publicly ask for forgiveness.

If the offended does not want to grant forgiveness, this process is repeated a second, and if needed, a third time.

After the third time, the offender need not ask for forgiveness again - and the offended has transgressed the prohibition of holding a grudge!

So - if the person who is repeatedly transgressing against you isn't admitting his sin in front of friends and asking you for forgiveness, you don't have to forgive him. If this person is not well versed in Gemara, explain that this public admission and sincere request for forgiveness is what you need in order to forgive, and nothing less.

(If the person is willing to shame him/herself publicly by admitting the trangression and publicly asking in a contrite way for forgiveness, that's a fairly decent indication that the person really regrets his/her actions).

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Thank you! I did not know that the request was supposed to be public. Almost all of the requests for forgiveness that I have been part of (on either side) have been private. –  Monica Cellio Jan 15 '12 at 21:26
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To clarify - you are ALLOWED to forgive anyone at anytime, whether or not they ask you, and whether or not they ask you publicly. However, you haven't violated "don't take revenge" until the offender has followed the process above on three separate days, and you STILL don't forgive him/her after the third time. –  user1095 Jan 15 '12 at 21:31
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This piece from Derekh Eretz Rabbaiti is one of my favorites: There is no reason to treat people unkindly but we don't have to open ourselves up to being hurt. For people who repeatedly cause us pain or transgress against us, I try to remind myself of this. Suspect them protect yourself but never embarass humiliate or refuse to show respect to them. The story is awesome!

לעולם יהיו כל בני אדם חשובין לפניך כלסטים והוי מכבדן כרבן גמליאל, ומעשה ברבי יהושע שהשכים אצלו אדם ונתן לו אכילה ושתיה והעלהו לגג לשכב, ונטל סולם מתחתיו, מה עשה אותו האיש, עמד בחצי הלילה ונטל את הכלים וכרכן בטליתו – וכיון שביקש לירד נפל מן הגג ונשברה מפרקתו, לשחרית השכים רבי יהושע ובא מצאו כשהוא נופל, אמר לו ריקה כך עושין בני אדם שכמותך, אמר לו רבי, לא הייתי יודע שנטלת את הסולם מתחתי, אמר לו ריקה אי אתה יודע שמאמש היינו זהירין בך. מכאן א"ר יהושע לעולם יהיו כל בני אדם בעיניך כלסטים והוי מכבדן כר"ג

Every person should always be to you like thieves (marauders) and you should show them respect (honor) like Raban Gamliel. It once happened to Rebbi Yehoshuah that he fed and gave drink to a visitor to his home and helped the visitor up to the loft to sleep, Rebbi Yehoshua removed the ladder from beneath him (the visitor). What did that man do? He stood in the middle of the night and collected all of Rebbi Yehoshuah's things and hid them in his cloak, when the man started to come down from the loft he fell and broke his back, in the morning Rebbi Yehoshua awoke and found the man laying on the floor, he said to the man: Fool! this is what people like you do!? He responded Rebbi! I didn't know that you had removed the ladder! Rebbi Yehoshuah responded: Fool! didn't you realize that we had suspected you from the begining?!

From here we learn that Every person should always be to you like thieves (marauders) and you should show them respect (honor) like Raban Gamliel.

Beyond the message the obsurdity of the thief's answer amuses me.

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Thanks for the interesting story. Where does Rabban Gamliel fit into it? (It starts and ends by mentioning respect like him, but he's not in the story.) –  Monica Cellio Sep 9 '13 at 15:41
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my sense is that he is mentioned because he is the nassi sanhedrin (the head of the supreme rabbinical court) so the point is - suspect everyone as if they were thieves yet you should show them respect as if they were the nassi sanhedrin. –  Eytan Yammer Sep 9 '13 at 18:03
    
Oh, I see now! I thought it was saying "show them honor, the way Rabban Gamliel did", as opposed to "show them honor like you do to Rabban Gamliel". Big difference! –  Monica Cellio Sep 9 '13 at 18:26
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Check the prayers found in most Machzors before Kol Nidrei; here it is from this one (conjugated in the plural, but I'm used to seeing it in the singular; emphasis added):

Image with text from prayers

I hereby absolutely forgive anyone who has harmed me, other than money I can still claim by law, or those who harm me figuring that I'll forgive them. Other than those, I completely forgive, and may no person be punished because of me.

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Wow, I need a new machzor. I've never seen that part, though I insert something like it because blanket forgiveness no matter what seems wrong to me. –  Monica Cellio Sep 28 '11 at 17:55
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I would make a distinction between someone who sins on the basis of getting forgiveness and a repeat offender. I do lots of bad stuff that I asked Hashem to forgive me for, but do it again. You don't have to forgive anyone, but it is praiseworthy to do so and, hopefully Hashem will reciprocate in the same way toward us. –  YDK Sep 28 '11 at 18:16
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And Highly advisable too as we all are repeat offenders against Hashem and he treats us as we treat his children –  simchastorah Sep 28 '11 at 18:54
    
Thank you again for this helpful answer. The recently-added answer from @Will explains what a person actually has to do (if pressed) to ask forgiveness, which if followed reduces the likelihood of getting into the original bind. So I've accepted that one. –  Monica Cellio Jan 17 '12 at 20:51
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