Numbers 4:21-7:89; Judges 13:2-25; Luke 1:11-20
It's never easy to apologize, but the Torah requires us to confess our sins and then make restitution when we have wronged another.
Confession, Repentance, Restitution
When we sin against another person, causing them some loss, we must confess the
sin, but we must also prove our repentance by making restitution. In most cases our
restitution should include a sincere confession and apology to the individual we have
wronged. A person must seek his neighbour’s forgiveness before seeking God’s.
And he shall make restitution in full for his wrong and add to it one-fifth of it, and
give it to him whom he has wronged. But if the man has no relative to whom
restitution may be made for the wrong, the restitution which is made for the wrong
must go to the LORD for the priest, besides the ram of atonement, by which
atonement is made for him. (Numbers 5:7-8)
In some cases, the victim has suffered no injury and remains unaware of the offense
committed against him or her. In such a case, the person might be unnecessarily
hurt to hear one’s confession. It may be best to spare the person the injury that would
be incurred by the confession and apology. For example, a husband probably should
not say to his wife, “I apologize for gazing on other women whom I find more
attractive than you.”
Sometimes the desire to confess a sin to a person who does not know about the sin
stems from a selfish desire to relieve one’s own feelings of guilt. The confessor is
unconcerned with how the apology will emotionally damage the victim. In such
situations, a person should employ common sense and a little empathy before
offering an apology.
In most cases, however, the clear and certain thing to do is to seek out the person you
have wronged and apologize. Along with the apology comes restitution. In matters
involving financial loss, the Torah prescribes a minimum of full repayment plus
one-fifth the value. If the sin also involved a matter of sacrilege, such as swearing
falsely, the sinner must also bring “the ram of atonement” as a guilt offering to the
If one’s victim has died or is no longer available, one must still pay the restitution.
The restitution should be made to the victim’s next of kin according to the order of
blood redemption outlined in Leviticus 25:25-31, i.e., brother, uncle, cousin. The
Torah says that the restitution must be given to the man’s kinsman kinsman-
redeemer: “But if the man has no redeemer to whom restitution may be made for
the wrong, the restitution which is made for the wrong must go to the LORD for the
priest” (Numbers 5:8).