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    After we pray for
    assistance to repent, we
    can now ask Hashem for
    forgiveness. It would
    be phony to petition
    for forgiveness before
    we show an attempt at
    repentance. Thus, we
    pray to Hashem, “Slach
    lonu Avinu, ki chatonu
    – Forgive us our Father,
    for we have sinned, M’chal lonu Makeinu, ki
    foshonu – Absolve us our King, for we have
    One of the challenges of proper prayer is to
    know the subtle differences in words that have
    very similar meanings. An example is the
    words slach and m’chal, which seem to convey
    the same idea. The Eitz Yosef, Iyun Tefila,
    and the Siddur M’foresh all say that selicha
    denotes complete forgiveness while mechila
    is only partial absolution which still leaves an
    impression of sin. However, in a footnote the
    Siddur M’foresh sites a differing opinion from
    the Pri Megadim, that selicha is only partial
    while mechila is complete. So too, the Artscroll
    sites the Avudrahan that selicha indicates that
    there will be no punishment while mechila
    promises that there won’t be even any harboring
    of resentment and ill will.
    It would seem to me that the word slach
    points to the former opinion-that it is a total

    forgiveness, since it is the same letters as the
    word chasal, which means to finish completely.
    Furthermore, since we say “Ki tov v’soleach
    Attah – For You absolve and forgive,” it would
    seem to indicate by the order that solei’ach is
    the finishing process. So too, the end of the
    bracha, “Chanun hamarbeh lislo’ach – The
    gracious One Who forgives many times,”
    would point to the fact that slicha is the more
    complete of the two.
    In the first stanza, we mention that Hashem is
    our Father while in the second stanza we refer
    to Him as our King. The Avudrahan explains
    ki chatonu means we made a mistake. That’s
    the attitude of a father who views everything as
    a mistake. Even if it was a willful act, in his
    love the father reasons that his child just doesn’t
    know better, while “M’chal lonu Malkeinu ki
    foshonu – Absolve us our King for we have
    rebelled,” to a king everything is viewed as
    rebellion. Even a mistake should not have
    happened when in the presence of majesty. The
    Yaros Devash says that when we do the same
    sin three times, it is then called a pasha. At
    that time, we lose the relationship of a father
    to a son, and we only have the relationship of a
    subject to a king.
    The Olas Tomid teaches the important
    objective that when we say slach lonu avinu ki
    chotonu, we should have in mind to fulfil the
    mitzvah d’Oriasa, the biblical precept of vidui,
    confession. And, at this point, we should think

    about any specific sin we might have performed
    since the last time we prayed. He advises that it
    would be good to remember the sage advice of
    the Orchos Chaim l’Harosh, “Uma tov livakeish
    selicha al amar ‘slach lonu’ b’lo kavanah – And
    how good it is to ask forgiveness for saying the
    prayer to ‘forgive us’ without thought.”
    The opening petition, “Slach lonu Avinu, ki
    chatonu – Forgive us our Father, because we
    sinned,” is a bit puzzling. Is it sensible that
    Hashem should forgive us because we sinned?
    Should he absolve us because we rebelled?
    Therefore, the Iyun Tefilla renders the word ki
    to mean af al pi, even though. Others define ki
    as ‘when.’ In a novel interpretation the Derech
    Miitvosecha explains, the word because as
    follows: we ask Hashem himself to forgive us
    who as unlimited mercy and not the pamalya
    shel maala, the Heavenly tribunal. For because
    we have sinned repeatedly, we need Hashem’s
    bountiful compassion.
    It’s interesting in the first stanza, since the word
    chatonu means mistake, we can understand that
    we are asking Hashem to forgive us because
    we made a mistake. The problem is with the
    second stanza, machal lonu ki foshonu. How
    can we say that Hashem should absolve us
    because we have rebelled? There is another
    definition of the word foshonu, which means
    ‘neglect,’ as in the word peshia, a word that’s
    common in the Gemora which means ‘neglect.’
    Then, this stanza would also fit for we are

    saying, ‘Absolve us because we were just
    being neglectful and not willful.’ However,
    then we would not be asking for absolution
    for severe crimes which would not be a likely
    interpretation of the blessing.
    The bracha concludes, “Boruch Attah Hashem,
    chanun hamarbeh lislo’ach – Blessed are you
    Hashem, the gracious One, Who forgives us
    many times.” We give heartfelt thanks to
    Hashem for forgiving us even though we are
    repeat offenders. Rav Avraham, the son of
    the Vilna Gaon, zt”l, zy”a, adds that we thank
    Hashem for forgiving us even though He knows
    that we will do it again.
    May we always merit Hashem’s forgiveness
    and be blessed with long life, good health and
    everything wonderful.