Shabbat schedule - Friday - Shabbat, March 18 - 19, 2016

Halachic Times
Earliest Tefillin (latest of the week): 6:13 AM
Latest Shma (earliest of the week): 9:54 AM

Torah Reading: Vayikra (Leviticus 1:1 - 5:26)
Haftorah (special for Zachor): I Samuel 15:2 - 34

Shabbat Candle Lighting: 6:48 PM
Shabbat ends: 7:48 PM

Shabbat Zachor

Torah for the Times
By Rabbi Heschel Greenberg


VAYIKRA – 5776


Doubtful Transgressions

The Torah, in this week’s parsha, speaks of one who must atone in the event he may have committed a transgression but is not sure. He must bring an asham­-a guilt offering. Although there was neither intention nor malice, nevertheless the Torah demands that he make atonement for the mere possibility that he had transgressed.

Rashi quotes Rabbi Yose the Galilean:

“Here, Scripture punishes someone who did not [even] know [whether he had sinned or not]; how much more so will Scripture punish someone who does indeed know [that he has sinned]!”

Rashi goes on to cite another Rabbi Yose whose words seem to have no bearing on the subject of the possible transgression:

Rabbi Yose says: “If you wish to know the reward of the righteous, go forth and learn it from Adam, the first man. He was given only one negative commandment, and he transgressed it. Look how many deaths were decreed upon him and his descendants! Now, which measure is greater-the bestowing of goodness, or the meting out of punishment? One must say that the measure of goodness is greater. So if, through the measure of punishment, which is less than that of goodness, look how many deaths were decreed upon himself and his descendants, through the measure of goodness, which is greater, if someone refrains from eating [forbidden foods, like, for instance] piggul [a sacrifice rendered invalid because the Kohain, while making the offering, intended to partake of the offering beyond its prescribed time] or nosar [a portion of a sacrifice left over after its prescribed time], or if he fasts on Yom Kippur, then how much more so will he earn merit for himself, for his descendants, and for his descendants’ descendants, until the very end of all generations?!”

We can easily understand the relevance of Rabbi Yose the Galilean’s point. His comments relate to the text that speaks of one who is unsure whether he committed a sin. But what does the comment of the other Rabbi Yose have to do with the offering for a doubtful transgression? Rabbi Yose simply extols the virtue of one who resists transgressing by partaking of forbidden foods. What does that have to do with the case of doubtful transgressions?

Another question can be raised, why does Rabbi Yose cite these three transgressions (piggul, nosar and eating on Yom Kippur) in particular?


To answer these questions we must reflect on the name of the offering for doubtful transgressions. It is called an asham-guilt offering as opposed to the offering for definite transgression, which is called a chatas-sin offering.

The question has been raised, which is worse?

When we compare the two, definite versus doubtful transgression, we realize that from one perspective a definite transgression is worse, but from another vantage point a doubtful one is more destructive.

Upon deeper reflection we will see that the two Rabbi Yoses’ comments reflect the two opposite ways we view the doubtful versus the definite transgression.

The first comment of Rabbi Yose the Galilean focuses on how a definite sin is worse than a doubtful one because it is possible that the person who is unsure might truly not have done anything wrong. Thus, Rabbi Yose’s argument: if even the doubtful sinner has to atone, how much more so, the one who indeed knows that he has sinned!

On the other hand, there is an aspect of a doubtful sin that is worse than a definite one.


The Rebbe (Likkutei Sichos volume 3) explains that the problem with a person who is in doubt whether or not he transgressed is that there is usually no adequate feeling of guilt. The person may think that there is a possibility that he had not sinned; so why feel guilt?

The problem is that without guilt there can be no real atonement. Guilt is as to the soul as pain is to the body. When a person feels physical pain it alerts him to the existence of a problem that demands medical attention. If a person is ill but does not feel the pain, that individual’s condition will deteriorate, perhaps to the point of being incurable.

Similarly, when one’s soul is desensitized to the point that he does not feel guilt, i.e., spiritual pain, he will not be able to reverse the damage to his soul caused by the sin. The doubtful sinner’s condition may even degenerate to the point of no return, G‑d forbid!

We may suggest that this thought, which is predicated on the sensitivity of the soul, was captured by the second Rabbi Yose’s comment: When one desists from transgressing, one earns merit for himself and for generations of descendants to come. As we will see, this comment relates to the power of resisting transgression to protect the soul’s sensitivity.

The question can be asked, why would one deserve such merit for oneself and for subsequent generations by merely desisting from committing a transgression? Is it heroic for one to refrain from eating either pigul, nosar or to fast on Yom Kippur?

Undamaged Genetic code

To understand the message contained in these three prohibitions we must refer to the common punishment the Torah prescribes for intentional violation of these transgressions, which is kares. Kares is translated as “cut off.” The sin causes one’s soul to be severed from its Divine source. Although those who are guilty of these crimes could continue to live, their existence derives from the forces of impurity that G‑d allows to exist to provide us with free choice. We are free to choose whether we want to get our sustenance from a pure source or from a tainted source.

Thus, when we desist from these transgressions we protect and insulate our souls and guarantee that they will not be sullied. A pure soul is spiritually akin to an undamaged genetic code that gets transmitted to future generations.

We can now understand the connection of Rabbi Yose’s statement to the doubtful transgression. The reason a person does not feel guilt when he possibly transgressed is due to the tarnished nature of that person’s soul. A sensitive soul will not be placed in a position where it is likely to commit an unintentional sin. Moreover, the person with a sensitive soul will not have doubts about his transgression because sensitive souls will feel themselves becoming contaminated. And if they “slip up” they will feel guilt and seek to cleanse their souls.

When a person fails this sensitivity test it is time to search for where they may have allowed their souls to be cut off.

Three Areas of Insensitivity

In searching for the cause of our insensitivity we must look at three areas symbolized by the transgressions of pigul, nosarand eating on Yom Kippur.

Pigul, as mentioned above, is caused by the Kohain thinking or declaring that he intends to eat the sacrifice after the Torah’s deadline for eating.

Underlying this transgression is the thought that one may have when one offers a sacrifice. The distorted mindset of theKohain may be: “This is my offering; my initiative. I have the right to offer it whichever way I feel is warranted.” This approach, that we can make up the rules on how we should serve G‑d as long as we are still doing it for G‑d’s sake, is deeply flawed and renders that sacrifice pigul-“rejected” or “disgusting.” We must not make up our own rules of G‑d’s service. When we do, we sully our souls because our souls properly respond only to G‑d’s unadulterated will. As soon as we pervert His will, even if with the best of intentions, the soul recoils and hide in horror and thus begins our desensitization.

The next message is conveyed by the second transgression mentioned by Rabbi Yose: nosar. Nosar refers specifically to a sacrifice that has been allowed to remain beyond its Biblical deadline but it also conveys a more general message that relates to our sensitivity.

The classic work, Sefer Hachinuch, (in discussing this commandment as it pertains to the Paschal lamb), explains that a sacrifice is an invitation to partake of G‑d’s feast as members of His royal family. Royalty does not need to keep leftovers. To keep the sacrifice beyond its deadline is disrespectful to the royal nature of our souls. Furthermore, the word nosar can also be rendered as “superfluous.” When we believe ourselves to be dispensable and superfluous, thereby demeaning our importance, we cut off our souls from G‑d’s feast and thus cause their desensitization.

Just as it is wrong to overrate our importance and decide how we want to serve G‑d (the piggul metaphor), so too, conversely, we must not undervalue our royal significance.

The third area where we can cut ourselves off from G‑d and desensitize our souls is represented by the metaphor of eating on Yom Kippur. The great Chassidic Master Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev once commented, “On the two fast days Tisha B’av and Yom Kippur there is no need for a commandment not to eat. On Tisha B’av who could eat and on Yom Kippur who wants to eat?” On Yom Kippur our souls are uplifted to the highest of realms and we experience the most acute sensitivity to the spiritual. Desisting from eating on Yom Kippur is a sign of the most powerful sensitivity of the soul.

Geulah = Sensitivity

Redemption from exile is, first and foremost, liberation from the elements that cloud our soul’s sensitivity and their receptivity to G‑d. Galus can be likened to piggul-rejection because in Galus our egos dictate how we will serve G‑d even if it is in a way that is inconsistent with G‑d’s will. Galus gives us a superiority complex, where we think we are free to override G‑d’s will.

And conversely, Galus is also likened to nosar because, like in the superfluous nature of nosar, we lose our self-respect; we forget our royal heritage. Galus gives us both inferiority and superiority complexes at the same time.

The ultimate sign of Galus’ damage is to be impervious even to the spiritual energy of Yom Kippur; the day the Yechidah-essence, the spark of Moshiach of our soul, is revealed.

Our road to Geulah is paved with our efforts to eschew piggul and nosar aspects of our personality and to get in touch with our Yom Kippur, or for that matter with Purim, which, according to the Zohar is equivalent to and even superior to Yom Kippur.

Moshiach Matters:

In the Talmud (Pesachim 119b) our Sages described the Redemption as a feast. To echo this analogy, the table has already been set, everything has been served, and we are sitting at the table together with Moshiach. All we need to do is open our eyes.