‘S’lach li’ are the polite words you say to someone before asking a question or requesting something. This is the way you speak to a man. Unlike in English, where any request or command (the imperative form we discussed yesterday) is identical to all pronouns, in Hebrew each request or command changes according to the person(s) you are talking to. For ‘excuse me’, ‘forgive me’ or ‘pardon me’ said to a man you say: s’lach li; to a woman: sil•chi li; and to plural (more than one person, either males, females, or a mixed group) you say: sil•choo li.
As an imperative ‘s’lach’ is rare in the Bible and only appears as a request for God’s forgiveness. The biblical expression, ‘s’lach na,’ is actually begging for forgiveness. You don’t want to use this form when you speak with people.
“The Lord is long suffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generation. ‘Pardon, I beseech you, the iniquity of this people according to the greatness of your mercy, and as you have forgiven this people, from Egypt until now’”
This verb is derived from the noun s’li•cha, which means forgiveness or repentance. The word s’li•cha is both requesting forgiveness and the actual act of forgiving. This word appears only twice in the Old Testament:
“But there is forgiveness with you, that you may be feared”
“To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against him”
As a verb and imperative, it appears 50 more times.
Being a major canon of Christianity, se•li•cha receives a good representation in the New Testament, though the word translates in many similar ways such as ‘remission,’ and ‘reconciliation.’ All in all, the word is mentioned 58 times in the New Testament, most of which is in various verb forms.
“…in whom we have our redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace”
When said in plural the word is se•li•chot and is a reference to a collection of biblical verses, prayers and poetic writings focused on requesting forgiveness, mourning over the destruction of the Temple, and a prayer for redemption that is read during the Ten Days of Repentance (the ten days between Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement).