One might think that the sin-offering, as important as it was for atonement, would not be that holy to God. It was brought for accidental violations of Negative Commandments, for which a person still bears some level of responsibility, since accidents are usually the result of some kind of carelessness.
For, as the Talmud says, everything is a function of Divine Providence (Chullin 7b). So, even though we may accidentally do something wrong, everything Heaven does is deliberate, and that includes allowing us to make such errors. If Heaven wanted to, it could save a person from such accidental mistakes, and even does on occasion.
So, then, why doesn’t Heaven do this all the time? For the same reason that Pirkei Avos—Ethics of our Fathers—which focuses on character refinement, is the section of Mishnah called Nezikin—Damages. It teaches us that we damage others when we become desensitized to how our actions can result in such damages, a process that Pirkei Avos was created to reverse.
This doesn’t mean that everything we do carelessly causes damage. But, it certainly can, and often does, especially when Heaven decides that it is time to re-sensitize a person. Hence, even an accidental sin is our responsibility, which is why we must bring a sacrifice to atone for it.
Therefore, the question remains: Why is it so holy, if what caused it was unholy behavior?
The answer has to do with what the Talmud states:
- Rebi Yehudah bar Rebi Eloi elucidated: The Holy One, Blessed is He, created two worlds, one with a Heh and one with a Yud. I do not know if the World-to-Come was created with a Yud and This World with a Heh, or if This World was with a Yud and the World-to-Come was with a Heh. But then it says, “These are the generations of Heaven and Earth in the creating of them—behibar-am . . .” (Bereishis 2:4); don’t read behibaram (i.e., in the creating of them), but b’Heh baram (i.e., with a Heh they were created). Thus we see that This World was created with a Heh and the World-to-Come was created with a Yud. (Menachos 29b)
This is obviously Kabbalistic, and therefore, quite deep. Nevertheless, the Talmud offers a simple explanation, albeit a conceptual one, as to why this world was created with the letter Heh:
[The letter Heh] resembles an achsadra (a house open on one side). Whoever wants to leave (i.e., sin) is able to do so. (Menachos 29b)
That is, the opening at the bottom of the Heh represents the opening through which a sinner can fall. The Talmud continues:
Why is there another opening above the left leg [of the letter]? It is an opening for those who will do teshuvah.
If the person merits to wake up to the reality of his sin, he can repent, but only by elevating himself to the level of the opening above the leg of the Heh, after which he can enter through that “window.” This prompts the Talmud to ask another question:
Why can’t he enter from the same opening he left from?
and then answers:
He will not be able to, as Reish Lakish taught: One who wants to purify himself needs God’s help . . .
Teshuvah is not an easy thing to do. To begin with, sins spiritually change a person, and the more intentional they are, the more they blemish the person. They break down a person’s spiritual resolve, necessitating Heavenly intervention to allow them to fulfill their desire to do teshuvah.
All of this is indicated by the letter Heh. However, as the Talmud points out, there is more to the letter Heh than meets the eye, unless one is looking at a Heh inside of a Sefer Torah. So, the Talmud further asks, and answers:
Why does the letter Heh have a crown? God will tie a crown to one who does teshuvah. (Menachos 29b)
Thus, as much as God hates sin, He loves teshuvah. He doesn’t promote sin, and warns against it. But, God certainly promotes teshuvah, and as the Talmud revealed, even founded Creation on it. So, even though a sin offering may be necessary for the wrong reasons, it is brought for the right reasons, for the sake of teshuvah.
The following also helps to increase one’s appreciation of the miracle of teshuvah.
The Midrash relates that after Kayin killed his brother Hevel, his father, Adam HaRishon, asked him, “What was your judgment?”
Kayin answered, “I did teshuvah, and the full impact of justice was not applied to me.”
“Such is the power of teshuvah?!” Adam exclaimed. “I did not realize that by doing teshuvah a person’s past misdeeds are erased so completely and considered by God as if they had never taken place!” (Bereishis Rabbah 22:28).
How could Adam HaRishon not have known about the full impact of teshuvah?
As Rav Hutner explains, teshuvah is not natural, but rather, the result of an elaborate process that includes much more than simply saying, “I’m sorry for having sinned,” and promising to do better next time (Pachad Yitzchak, Rosh Hashanah). In fact, the letter Heh refers to the second letter of God’s ineffable Four-Letter Name, which, in turn, corresponds to the sefirah of Binah, which means understanding.
Hence, teshuvah represents the transition to a higher level of understanding, one that is profound enough to transform a person and make him into a new person.
The gift, however, does not end here. According to Rav Tzadok HaKohen, Moshe Rabbeinu, as part of his farewell address to the Jewish people, told them, “You can accomplish something I could not accomplish in my lifetime, because . . .”
. . . Through teshuvah, which is the 50th gate [of understanding], you can cause the rectification [that I could not with all my pleading], since, “the completely righteous cannot stand in the place of Ba’alei Teshuvah” (Brochos 34b). (Pri Tzaddik, VaEschanan 3)
The rabbis teach us that there are two main times of year that promote teshuvah, during the period of time from Rosh Chodesh Elul until the end of Yom Kippur, and this time of year, from Pesach until Shavuos. The difference between the two is this: during the first period of time, it is fear of punishment that drives us to do teshuvah, but at this time of year, it is teshuvah from love.
It’s springtime and Pesach at the same time, both of which are times of love. It is the time of year when the dead of winter transitions into the life of spring, as the world is resurrected once again. As darkness gives way to light, who isn’t inspired to love, and to do teshuvah?
It is an important opportunity, at an important time of history. I don’t want to go into detail now, but the long and short of it is that we have an Israeli government, for the first time in a long time, without a Charedi party. For some that is cause for celebration, especially those who can’t wait to see yeshivah buchurim taken from the Bais Midrash to the barracks of the army. However, it is celebration that is likely to be short-lived, because it will probably lead to war; it usually does.
Obviously, people have their personal opinions about the matter, and most are not afraid to express them. Fine. I have mine too. However, what concerns me is the larger picture, the one that goes beyond all of our personal opinions; what worries me is what God feels about the situation, something we usually don’t know until after He has responded through His directing of history.
Like it or hate it, agree or dispute it, more than likely, having religious Jews in the government was probably a merit for the government, and therefore, for the Jewish people in general. They may not have always used their positions well, or acted in ways that brought respect to the Torah world, but still, they were a merit for the ruling party just by being there. This was especially true when being part of the government enhanced the learning of Torah and the performance of mitzvos.
The Leftists don’t get this because they don’t believe it is true; their belief system does not allow for such a possibility. In fact, even some Orthodox Jews have a tough time believing that God is still that actively involved in history, and would respond so dramatically and so quickly to the situation. This was predicted by some of the more Kabbalistic midrashim long ago.
We’re in for a somewhat of rude awakening, and even that may be an understatement. Therefore, we ought to do teshuvah now— from love, before we are forced to do it out of fear. For anyone interested in knowing more about the potential of the situation, and what to do about it, I have just finished writing a book called, “Survival Guide For The End of Days,” which you can order from my online store at www.thirtysix.org.
Given the direction of recent events, it is worth the read.
Copyright © by Rabbi Pinchas Winston and Project Genesis, Inc.
Rabbi Winston has authored many books on Jewish philosophy (Hashkofa). If you enjoy Rabbi Winston’s Perceptions on the Parsha, you may enjoy his books. Visit Rabbi Winston’s online book store for more details! www.thirtysix.org