Inner work and repenting before God for sinful behavior are crucial elements of preparation for Yom Kippur. But Rabbi Avigdor Miller (1908-2001) teaches that the very first thing we must do is correct wrongs we have committed against our fellow humans. Sins against God (i.e. breaking His laws) can be rectified by sincere prayer and repentance on Yom Kippur. But God cannot forgive our sins against other people. It says in the Talmud, Yom Kippur won’t help if you haven’t appeased your fellow who you sinned against. (Yoma 85b). Rabbi Miller says, “That’s why it’s so important to learn to say ‘Forgive me.’ And don’t wait for Yom Kippur.” We should make it a habit to ask forgiveness when we have wronged someone. According to Rabbi Miller, “It’s a small matter to get forgiveness because most people are willing to yield once they see you are contrite; but you have to ask for it. Even calling up on the telephone is worthwhile. And it should be done to as many people with whom you had dealings as possible if there’s the slightest suspicion that you wronged them in any way. That’s the number one requirement before Yom Kippur.”
May you ask and receive forgiveness from those you’ve wronged, and may you improve yourself in the year to come so you don’t have to ask next year!