June 22, 2024
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‘Happy’ Yom Kippur-Facebook Teshuva

“Happy birthday!” “Happy New Year!” Do we also greet each other and say “Happy Yom Kippur?” Also, in these modern times, can we email our friends and ask for forgiveness before Yom Kippur? Better yet, can we post our request asking for forgiveness to all of our 535 BFFs on Facebook? It seems like an efficient model. What would the halacha say about this?

Reviewing R’ Eli Mansour’s Daily Halacha blog, I am reminded that Yom Kippur is actually considered by our Sages to be one of the happiest days of the year. “We are not despondent or dejected on this day. To the contrary, we are invigorated and inspired by the words that should be ringing in our ears throughout Yom Kippur—“Ki Le’chol Ha’am Bi’shgaga!” Yom Kippur is the day that reminds us that deep inside we are all good, we are all holy, and therefore God wants us to return to Him.”

Not only that, but we are pretty much guaranteed that our sins will be forgiven and that we start out fresh again. Our slates are cleared and renewed for the year. So much so that I was consoled last year when my father, a”h, passed away at this time and I was reminded that those who die after Yom Kippur are guaranteed their place in Gan Eden. After all, their sins were all just forgiven.

R’ Shimon Ben Gamliel is quoted in Gemara Bava Batra (121a) as saying that Yom Kippur and the 15th of Av were considered the greatest festive days of the year. So is it appropriate to wish each other “Happy Yom Kippur”? R’ Shimon Ben Gamliel would have probably answered with an emphatic “yes.”

While Hashem forgives us on Yom Kippur for sins between man and God, we are also enjoined to ask forgiveness of anyone we might have offended. These are considered sins “bein adam lechavero,” between man and man.

The “Ribebot Efrayim” (R’ Efrayim Greenblat of Memphis) asked whether one fulfills the obligation of asking for forgiveness by contacting his fellow man by telephone. He points out the dilemma that there is less of a degree of shame in asking forgiveness this way. A major component of repenting, after all, is to feel shame and regret. A telephone call, while being direct, may not sufficiently shame the caller. He concluded that while one satisfies the requirement of asking forgiveness by apologizing by phone, it is preferable to approach the victim in person to apologize.

Rabbi Mansour proceeds in his blog by noting Rabbi Bitan’s opinion that apologizing by a letter, fax, email, texting or the like would not be sufficient because one cannot ascertain that the victim received the letter and actually granted forgiveness. It therefore stands to reason that apologizing en masse to 535 friends (BFFs) via Facebook, although economical in time and effort, would not be a wise or sufficient way to ask for forgiveness before Yom Kippur.

May we all find forgiveness from Hashem and our fellow man as we enter the Yom Kippur holiday. May we merit to celebrate it the way R’ Shimon Ben Gamliel in the Talmud saw it, as one of the greatest festive days of the year.


 Rabbi Dr. Avi Kuperberg is a forensic, clinical psychologist in private practice. He is vice president of the Chai Riders Motorcycle Club of NY/NJ. He leads the Summit Avenue Shabbos Gemara shiur and minyan in Fair Lawn, NJ, and is a member of the International Rabbinical Society. He can be reached at [email protected].

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