Ask Shuli: Are e-mail apologies kosher?

Ask ShuliDear Shuli:

Before Yom Kippur, if I need to “atone” in a personal relationship, is e-mail okay?

Heavy heart

Dear Heavy heart:

You’re right: the operative word is BEFORE Yom Kippur. On the “Day of Atonement,” we ask God for forgiveness, to wipe our slate clean for the New Jewish Year. Our sages have said—and this 21st century yenta heartily agrees—that it’s crucial to ask forgiveness from friends, associates and loved ones we’ve wronged, before we can ask for divine leniency. The sages called them sins bein adam l’havero, between a person and his or her fellow person. It may be something as simple and uncomfortable as embarrassing a friend in public, even by accident. Or, it could be the closure that’s eluded you since you broke up with your significant other. Whatever it is, make sure to take care of business this week. Otherwise, sweetie, no clean slate on Yom Kippur for YOU! If you’re a religious person and believe it, that is.

So, e-mail’s easy, convenient and safe, right? Wrong! Don’t even think of asking forgiveness for your wrongs, small and large, via e-mail. That’s like breaking up with someone on their voicemail or answering machine. Don’t go there. Or, as the sage Hillel (and your kindergarten teacher) taught you: Treat others the way you would like to be treated. It’s best to apologize in person, even if it’s difficult to look your loved one or colleague in the eye. They don’t have to accept your apology, but they probably will. If you try to apologize and they refuse to forgive you, you’re absolved before Yom Kippur.

If the person you’re thinking about lives far away, a phone call is the next-best option. At least they’ll hear the sincerity in your voice. Do not apologize via e-mail, Facebook, text, e-card or the like. If you just can’t face them, even over the phone, write a nice letter and send it, post haste.

If it’s any consolation, hon, I forgive you.

Shana Tovah Tikateivu from Shuli – Happy New Year, and may you be sealed in the Book of Life!