|Cruelty is forbidden
has been used - with permission gratefully received - from
Torah : Center for Basic Jewish Education by Eliezer C. Abrahamson http://members.aol.com/LazerA/forgive.htm
Jewish law (Halacha) requires the people to ask forgiveness
from anyone whom they may have harmed, whether the harm was physical, financial,
emotional, or social. Nevertheless, one is required to be gracious in granting forgiveness. The Mishna in Baba Kamma 8:7 says,
"From where do we know that it is cruel to not forgive?
For it says, "Abraham prayed to God and God healed Abimelech..."
(B'reishis (Genesis) 20:17).
The Ramba'm in Hil. Teshuvah 2:9-10 says:
"Repentance and Yom Kippur only atone for sins
between Man and God such as eating forbidden foods or engaging in forbidden sexual
relations. Sins between one man and his fellow, such as striking, cursing, or stealing are
never forgiven until one pays up his debt and appeases his
fellow. Even if he returns the money he owes he must still ask for forgiveness.
Even if he only spoke badly about him, he must appease and beseech until he is forgiven.
"If his fellow refuses to forgive him then he must
bring a group of three of his friends and go to him and ask him [for forgiveness].
If he still does not forgive him he must go to him a second
and third time (with a different group of three people). If he still refuses to forgive him he may cease and the other is the sinner. If [the
injured party] is his teacher (rebbe) he must go to him even a thousand times until
he is forgiven.
"It is forbidden to be cruel and difficult to appease, rather, a person must be
quick to forgive and difficult to anger and when the sinner
asks for forgiveness he should forgive
him willingly and wholeheartedly...."
The Rem'a does add that one may withhold forgiveness if it
is for the good of the person asking. The Mishna Berurah explains that it may be
appropriate to withhold forgiveness to teach the supplicant
not to take it lightly. The Rem'a also permits withholding forgiveness
when someone spread false rumors about you but the Mishna Berurah says that in such a case
one should still forgive.
The Tefilah Zaka which many people say before Kol Nidrei at Yom Kippur says:
"I extend complete forgiveness to everyone who has
sinned against me, whether physically or monetarily, or spoke lashon hara (negative
speech) about me or even false reports. And (I also forgive
them) for any damages, whether on my body or my property, and for all sins between a man
and his fellow except for money which I can claim in a court of law and except for someone
who sins against me saying, "I will sin against him and he will forgive
"Except for these I grant complete forgiveness and no
person should be punished on my account. And just as I forgive
everyone so should You grant me favor in the eyes of all men that they should completely forgive me."