Rabbi Ross. I’m a 14-year-old boy with a bad secret. I’ve betrayed my parent’s trust over the past year, and they don’t know about it. Yom Kippur is fast approaching and I’m wondering what I should do. If I apologize to them, they’re going to want to know what I did wrong. I don’t want to tell them. Should I just Daven that they should forgive me? Name Redacted – Baysawater
You are bringing up an interesting question. I heard a story about a man who approached a certain Gadol asking forgiveness. When the Gadol asked what for, he said he was too embarrassed to say. The Gadol replied, “Without knowing what you did, I can’t forgive you.
True Teshuva has four main parts according to the Rambam. Understanding what you did wrong, having genuine regret, apologizing sincerely, and not doing the sin again. You mentioned that you betrayed their trust, which means you understand what you did was wrong and you regret doing it. I’m hoping that you won’t do this Aveira again. The only part you’re missing is the apology.
You might be correct in assuming your parents would want to know what you did wrong. It might even be important that they should know, since they can help you make sure that you don’t do it again. I know it seems to kids that parents are always telling them what they shouldn’t do, but that’s because they love you and want to protect you.
In your case, I agree that you have a difficult decision to make. I would suggest that you speak to either your Rav or any other adult that you and your parents trust. Tell them what you did and ask them if they think you need to tell your parents or not. It sounds like you are worried about this, and it’s not good for a boy your age to shoulder this burden alone.
Another thing I would suggest, is to really be on your best behavior for the next few weeks. Help out at home as much as possible, and make sure you’re doing your school work properly. I’m sure that after a few weeks of this, your parents will be very impressed with you. If you haven’t discussed it with them yet, this would be a great time to unburden yourself.
You can tell them that you made a mistake a while back and you’re not comfortable discussing it. Tell them you regret what you did and won’t make this mistake again. At this time, you can ask forgiveness for betraying their trust. And remember, although Yom Kippur is a day of atonement, you can ask forgiveness any day of the year.
Wishing you Hatzlacha and the strength to make the right decisions.
Have an easy fast.
Rabbi Yitzie Ross is a Rebbe and has been working with parents and kids for many years. You can read more about him in the "about" section.