In the prayer introducing the bedtime shema we say we forgive everyone for everything, even in previous incarnations (gilgulim), and then say, "every Jew." I'm not sure I'm understanding it correctly, but it sounds as if all this forgiving doesn't apply to non-Jews. When it comes to the halacha on forgiveness, do they apply equally to (a Jew) forgiving a non-Jew? Or do different laws apply for forgiving non-Jews?

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    – Double AA
    Feb 12, 2013 at 4:45
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    A couple of points: 1.) For the most part, non-Jews are not technically liable for the sins that are most ordinarily committed (gossiping about someone, provoking, taking revenge), and thus do not strictly speaking require a declaration of forgiveness from their victim. 2.) Nevertheless, we do not want anyone to suffer Divine wrath on our account, which is why the prayer ends with "and may no man be punished on my account."
    – Fred
    Feb 12, 2013 at 5:45

2 Answers 2


According to some sources, such as Chaim Vital, Shaarei Kedusha I: 5 and Eliyahu Pinchas of Vilna, Sefer HaBris II: 13, we should love all people, whether they are Jews or not (see the book Compassion for Humanity in the Jewish Tradition b R' Dovid Sears, available for free viewing on Google books, for translations of these quotes).

Specifically, R' Vital says loving non-Jews is a sign of a high spiritual level, while the Sefer HaBris tries to prove that the commandment to love your neighbor should really apply to all nations as well.

So regardless of whether the laws of forgiveness technically require Jews to forgive non-Jews in the same way, under these views it would be praiseworthy and proper to do so.

Similar teachings, such as Ramak's in Tomer Devorah that we should have compassion on all people (even all beings), would seem to compel the same conclusion.

I'm trying to track it down, but I think a Breslov chassidic rabbi from the 19th century authored a short prayer forgiving everyone no matter what, and does not make any distinction between non-Jews and Jews. I'm not sure if the prayer was intended to be used in the bedtime sh'ma.

  • I'm not sure that loving generates an obligation to forgive, but rather an obligation to treat someone nicely. If they don't know that I've hurt them, why do I have to ask forgiveness?
    – Double AA
    Feb 12, 2013 at 16:30
  • Kordovero, welcome to Mi Yodeya, and thanks very much for sharing these sources! I hope we'll continue to see you around, and that you'll find more here that interests you, including, for example, our 231 other questions (to date) about gentiles.
    – Isaac Moses
    Feb 12, 2013 at 16:32
  • DoubleAA, I'm having trouble thinking of a situation in which I hurt someone but they don't know it and wouldn't benefit from knowing it. I'm not sure whether halacha would demand that I ask forgiveness in such a situation anyway. I'd say being loving and compassionate towards others includes forgiving them: if you don't, they may be punished for their deed (if there is something akin to Yom Kippur for non-Jews), and if they know you are offended at what they did then your forgiveness will make them feel better.
    – Kordovero
    Feb 12, 2013 at 20:35
  • By the way, DoubleAA, thanks for the welcome above -- I'm user2380, but I registered and chose a different name.
    – Kordovero
    Feb 12, 2013 at 20:36

The obligation to forgive those who have hurt you stems from the prohibition of ona'as devarim (verbal abuse) (Mishnah Brurah 606:1). It would therefore make sense that one is only obligated to forgive another Jew, since the prohibition of ona'as devarim is only to a Jew (VaYikra 25:17).

Note: See the comments to this answer.

  • But isn't the foundation of the Torah to do to others what we would want them to do to us (according to Rabbis Hillel and Akiva)? And aren't we supposed to emulate Hashem's traits of compassion and lovingkindness?
    – user2380
    Feb 12, 2013 at 5:03
  • @user2380 That might be a different reason to forgive them.
    – Double AA
    Feb 12, 2013 at 5:09
  • I'm not an expert in the subject, but it seems that if that is the root of the prohibition there should be no obligation to forgive non-Jews. Even if it's commendable (I don't know), perhaps the author of the prayer didn't want to force it into the sayer's mouth. (Though I did see somewhere in the Tefilah Zakah where it says something beyond the letter of the law according to one opinion.)
    – b a
    Feb 12, 2013 at 5:16
  • Where does Mishna Berura say such a thing? All I see there is that if someone teased someone else they are guilty of onaas devarim and need to seek forgiveness, but nothing about that being the reason why the person wronged has to forgive.
    – Michoel
    Feb 12, 2013 at 5:18
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    @ba: I don't understand at all how you could read the Mishna Berura like that. Shulchan Aruch states that Yom Kippur does not atone for interpersonal sins until he appeases the person he has wronged and that even if he only verbally teased him he still needs to appease the person. Mishna Berura explains that "even this is considered anaas devaroim". How could he be referring to the obligation to forgive? Especially considering S.A. only speaks about the person accepting the apology and forgiving afterwards (in the Rama).
    – Michoel
    Feb 12, 2013 at 5:56

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