When someone harms or upsets us, but eventually apologizes we still might think to ourselves “doesn’t he know how to ask for forgiveness in the proper way?” Yet, when we are the ones who offend the other party, we tend to think that if we just apologize, we have done all that is necessary.
Have we really done all that is necessary? As in all areas of life (and not just ‘halacha’) we look to the Torah for guidance for the proper way for a Jew to conduct himself.
Rav Yerucham Levovitz, the Mir Yeshiva Mashgiach, suggests we look to the way Yosef responded to his brothers after revealing himself as their brother, as an example. The brothers were now in Yosef’s clutches, and he could do anything he pleased with them. One might think that it is sufficiently proper for Yosef to simply not flaunt that his dreams came true and that they did indeed bow down to him. Perhaps now that everyone had perfect clarity about the events and dreams of the past, and how Yosef was right, and the brothers were not – it would be incumbent upon the brothers to take the first steps towards reconciliation? But instead Yosef stepped up and consoled the them. After identifying himself as Yosef, he didn’t even give the brothers a chance to respond. Instead, he consoled them immediately, as it says in the medrash: “his weeping was an act of appeasement” (Breishis Rabbah 93:13).
We interact with many people in our lives, and inevitably we come to situations in which we believe we have been wronged, and that the other party should apologize for their actions. Yet what did the other party really do to us? Did their action(s) cause us many years of slavery, abuse and banishment from our home – as was the case for Yosef? Reb Yeruchem tells us that forgiving generously is not just an outstanding achievement of a Tzaddik, but an ideal set by Yosef for us to follow.
May we merit to follow in Yosef’s footsteps, to try to mollify those who are pained by the pain that they caused to us.