I know we are to reconcile ourselves to G‑d and our fellows for our transgressions. This is a very basic Jewish teaching. But what about offering forgiveness to those who have wronged us?

A not so modern method of spiritual 'health and wellbeing' teaches that we must forgive others in order to save our own emotional health in order to keep from harboring resentments. It is likened to forgiving a debt. A person may have robbed another of something irreplaceable, and the offender doesn't want to be forgiven, but the teaching says we forgive him anyway to improve our own mental condition. I would like to know how Judaism, chassidism in particular, views this teaching, as I practice this principle and find it to be highly effective.


If someone wrongs us and sincerely asks us for our forgiveness, we must forgive them—provided that they have compensated us for any actual damages.

This is according to the strict letter of the law. Acting beyond the letter of the law, we ought to forgive others even if they do not ask for, or even want, our forgiveness. In fact, in the prayer text of both many Ashkenazim and Sephardim (and Chabad too) before retiring for the night, we utter a declaration forgiving anyone who has offended us.1

Now while it is true that forgiving others, even without being asked, is in our own best interests, I think we should aim to do so for more noble reasons. Firstly, we have to consider that anything harmful that befell us comes from G‑d. As such, the person who has hurt us, is merely acting as G‑d's agent. So we can only be upset with him for having chosen to be G‑d's agent. Reflecting on this idea should already lessen any hard feelings we have. (For more on this idea, see Anger Management 101.)

Secondly, just as a mother, for example, forgives her child without being asked, out of love for her own flesh and blood, so, too, should we strive to forgive others for their wrongdoing, simply out of love for members of our same family. (Click here for more on this subject.)

Let me know if this helps.

Rabbi Eliezer Danzinger for