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Must I forgive someone who has wronged me if the offender begs forgiveness?

by Rabbi Naftali Silberberg


Library » Jewish Identity » Love thy Neighbor | Subscribe | What is RSS?


According to Jewish law1 , if it is apparent that the wrongdoer is sincerely penitent, the victim is obligated to grant forgiveness2 -- even if the offender amputated his leg!3

The Talmud (Yevamot 78b) tells us that because the Gibeonites were unwilling to forgive the descendants of Saul (see II Samuel, chapter 21), King David banned marriage between a Jew (or Jewess) and a Gibeonite.

Jews are characterized by their mercy, bashfulness and kindness
Jews are characterized by their mercy, bashfulness and kindness. David decided that the Gibeonites, who demonstrated a lack of these basic traits, could not be allowed to marry Jews.


  • 1. Shulchan Aruch (Code of Jewish Law) Orach Chayim 606:1 - from the Talmud tractate Yoma 87a
  • 2. Talmud Baba Kama 92a.
  • 3. Tanya, Iggeret Hateshuvah ch. 11.


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What is the answer?

Posted by: Anonymous on Aug 31, 2005

The original question was not answered.

Editor's Comment

While there is no explicit obligation to forgive another, it is seen as the correct thing to do, part of the Jewish tradition.


Posted by: Lloyd on Nov 01, 2006

So if Hitler asked for forgiveness we would have to accept it? How about we accept his act of contrition than bring him to trial for his crimes against the Jewish people and the rest of the world. Than after he is tried and found guilty have him executed by stoning.

My point is forgiveness does not entitle the person to reconciliation with the injured party nor does it mean there are no consequences to the person actions.

Shalom Lloyd


Mitzvot » Love thy Neighbor
Mitzvot » Repentance
Holidays » Yom Kippur » Repentance
Philosophy » Character

Usually referring to the Babylonian edition, it is a compilation of Rabbinic law, commentary and analysis compiled over a 600 year period (200 BCE - 427 CE). Talmudic verse serves as the bedrock of all classic and modern-day Torah-Jewish literature.
1. A prophet and judge who appointed Saul as the first king of Israel in the 9th century BCE. 2. One of the 24 books of the Bible, named after the abovementioned Samuel, one of the main characters of the book.
First king of Israel, anointed by the prophet Samuel in 878 BCE. Was dethroned because he failed to carry out G-d's command, and the royal crown was transferred to King David and his descendents.
King of Israel who succeeded Saul, becoming king of Israel in 876 BCE. Originally a shepherd, he became popular after he killed the Philistine strongman, Goliath. He is the progenitor of the Davidic royal dynasty -- which will return to the throne with the arrival of King Messiah.