8 Nissan 5783 – 30 maart 2023
“He shall bring an unblemished ram, from the sheep, of the proper value as a guilt offering to the Priest. The Priest will make atonement for him – for the error which he did unintentionally and he did not know, and he will be pardoned.” (Leviticus 5:18)
This sacrifice is called the “ashem talui” (guilt offering in case of doubt) and is brought when a person doesn’t know for sure if he or she actually violated a prohibition.
The Kotzker Rebbe asked about this sacrifice. In the case when a person certainly committed a sin – their offering was just a she-goat (Leviticus 4:28). But here, the person is not even sure they committed a sin – so why do they bring a ram, which is a more expensive animal?
The Kotzker suggested that it is precisely because this is a case of doubt that a more expensive animal is required. When a person knows that they have committed a sin, this knowledge causes discomfort and regret over their wrongdoing. This anguish itself will serve as a partial atonement for their sin.
But when an individual is not sure if they have sinned, this is a reflection of a lack of attention payed to their behavior. Such a person will likely experience less remorse and therefore must bring a more expensive offering.
By Rabbi Michael Skobac
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