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Chapter 128:14
The Month of Elul

14. On the day preceding Rosh HaShanah, it is a universally accepted custom to fast until [at least] after the afternoon service ("Mincha") (1), and then to eat something, so that one will not enter the holiday amidst discomfort (2). One should spend the entire day occupied with Torah study, mitzvos, and repentance. In particular, this applies concerning sins committed against one's fellow man. One should ask their forgiveness at this time (on Erev Rosh Hashana), rather than wait until the day before Yom Kippur (3).

FOOTNOTES:

(1) If one feels even slightly ill, one should not fast (Oruch HaShulchan 581:11).

(2) The Midrash states: "On Erev Rosh Hashana, the leaders of the generation ("gedolei ha'dor") fast, and Hashem forgives ("mevater") one third of [the nation's] sins. From Rosh Hashana to Yom Kippur, individuals fast, and He forgives another third; then on Yom Kippur, everybody fasts, and Hashem says to the nation of Israel: 'what has happened in the past, is in the past; from now on, there will be a new accounting." (Ibid. 581:8).

(3) For sin's committed against one's fellow man, G-d will not fully forgive the perpetrator until the victim himself has forgiven him. Therefore, one must do one's best to obtain forgiveness from people one has hurt in some way. If after doing everything possible to obtain the victim's forgiveness, he still doesn't forgive, then the victim has sinned by not forgiving (See Rambam, Laws of Repentance 2:9-11).

 

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