Oops!

Parshas Vayikra

No one is beyond making a mistake, neither the king, the Cohen Godol, nor the private individual. Yet the mistakes for which a Cohen Godol brings a Korban, differs from the mistakes obligating the rest of the nation. How so?

If an individual errs, by performing a forbidden act, he atones with a Korban Chatos. In the case of a Cohen Godol, he would only bring a Korban Chatos, if his transgression was preceded by his “prior Halachic decision”. It is only after this preliminary decision that further mistaken actions obligate him in atonement. Therefore if a Cohen Godol is incompetent to render Halachic rulings, no Korban is brought.

Question

Why the difference? Why does the action of the Cohen Godol have to be preceded by a Halachic ruling, after all he is but an individual? Moreover he seems to suffer due to this law, for if he inadvertently sins without a “prior Halachic decision” he lacks the ability to gain atonement.

Answer

There is another area of  “mistakes” that is impacted by the Cohen Godol. If G-d forbid, one kills another Jew, he has to flee to a city of refuge. The tenure of his exile is linked to the lifespan of the High Priest. When the Cohen Godol dies the murderer is free to return home. Why is sentence computed according to the vitality of the Cohen Godol? How does the death of the Cohen Godol atone? The Talmud reveals that the High Priest is somewhat guilty. His sphere of influence spreads throughout the entire nation. The Cohen Godol should have prayed that no accidents should happen on his watch. His death atones for his own lack of prayer, and with his death the murderer is no longer exiled.

Accidents are avoidable.

The Cohen Godol is meant to epitomize a thought out human being who does not act without considering of the subsequent repercussions. He is a living demonstration of a deliberate individual. His prayer, both on behalf of himself and on behalf of his people is to act in a calculated manner. He therefore does not have the “privilege” of bringing a Chatos for an inadvertent action because that runs contrary to his position. The Torah still recognizes he is human and fallible, and he does have room for error. but that is only when his action based on an intellectual mistake. A transgression that develops from a prior erroneous judgement i.e. a transgression developing from his strength, the ability to calculate.

Lesson

(On a personal level.) We tend to think that accidents are excusable, they are, more importantly they are avoidable.

Story

Reb Aryeh Leib of Shpola (1725-1812), was affectionately referred to as the “Shpoler Zeide”. During the festive Shabbos meal one Friday night,  the Shpoler Zeide was ill at ease. His chassidim asked what was bothering him.

“I am afraid that I may have inadvertently lit a candle after Shabbos began,” the Zeide said. With one voice, the chassidim reassured him that this could not be so.

“In fact,” one particularly sure chossid incorrectly argued, “Hashem does not allow animals of tzaddikim to do anything wrong. Could it be that Hashem would care for the tzaddikim themselves any less?”

Still, the Zeide was unsatisfied and apprehensive. Then Reb Refael of Barshad spoke up in disagreement. “It is conceivable, that even the Zeide may accidentally err, and he must do teshuva.”

The Shpoler Zeide said to the gathered chassidim “Reb Refoel is the only wise one. If not for his words, I might never have repented and would die with this sin.”

Weekly Halachah

If one forgot to light Shabbos candles, untill nightfall one may instruct a Non-Jew to kindle them.

1 Comment

  1. Nice one! Thanks. Only G-d is perfect. Breslov philiospy emphasises the Tikun Olam. Growth is an outcome of reparation, which would not occur in a perfect world with us making perfect choices all the time! Strive for excellence (not perfection, which is an impossible destination anyway…).

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