6

The "standard" text for forgiving everyone before kriat shema al hamita (from Artscroll, no idea about other nuschaot) begins:

רבונו של עולם, הריני מוחל...‏

Why address Hashem? Isn't this a legal statement? I've never seen anyone say, for example,

רבונו של עולם, בהדין עירובא יהא שרי...‏

רבונו של עולם, כל חמירא וחמיעא...‏

רבונו של עולם, הרי זה מעשר...‏

  • Interesting question. However, I don't see this as a legal statement at all. Can you explain how you see this as such? Within the context of this tefillah, I think this confession may be a part of the Ve'avta Lere'acha concept. Thus, by forgiving people who have hurt you, you are in a way performing this mitzvah. Thus, by addressing G-d, you may be indicating that you are performing this mitzvah. – DanF Jul 7 '17 at 14:40
  • @DanF not "legal" in the sense that a beit din could do anything with it, but in the sense that you're accomplishing something by your statement alone. It's not a classic tefillah, where you're praising, asking something from, or thanking Hashem. And the other three examples I gave are all mitzvot as well (eiruv miderabanan, the others potentially mideoraita). – Heshy Jul 7 '17 at 14:46
  • If you like an answer, consider marking it correct. – mevaqesh Aug 1 '17 at 23:21
5

Two possibilities come to mind:

1) After the declaration of forgiveness, the rest of the paragraph addresses God directly and asks Him, among other related things, to erase one's sins. Perhaps the declaration of forgiveness is essentially the introduction to this request, as if to say, "God, just as I forgive all who have acted against me, please forgive me for having acted against you".

2) The origin for this custom may be the Gemara Megilla 28a, which recounts Mar Zutra's declaration of forgiveness every night. According to the Bach's version of the text, it reads "God should forgive all who have wronged me". It was a plea to God to forgive them, in addition to being implicitly a declaration of his own forgiveness. Perhaps that is the implicit meaning of the words 'ribono shel olam' here.

4

The simple answer is that it is not a legal declaration. One does not have a legal right to exact retribution from those who have angered him, which he can formally waive. Rather, God may punish those who wrong others, but may not if the victims forgive the perpetrator. Unlike for example, when forgiving a monetary debt; a purely legalistic action, in which divine punishment is not on the line, here the whole thrust is that the perpetrator not be punished; hence the explicit request: ולא יענש שום אדם בסיבתי; that others not be punished on the speaker's account. This is a prayer, very different in nature from a legal declaration, and therefore addresses God. Nullifying hammets is a formal legal procedure, which does not require invoking God. Asking God not to punish a sinner, is a prayer which naturally invokes God.

2

Vayikra 19:17 says not to hate your neighbor in your heart. Verse 18 says not to bear a grudge.

It seems, then, that by forgiving your neighbor you are performing one or both of these mitzvoth. It is common to address G-d in a tefillah prior to performing mitzvoth. (See, e.g. the declaration prior to waving the lulav.)

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