Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

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15 Adar II 5760 - March 22, 2000 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Opinion & Comment
May We Find Favor and Good Sense

by L. Jungerman

"And he shall rest his hands upon the head of the burnt offering and it shall be accepted from him to atone for him."

This burnt offering does not only provide atonement; it also serves as ritzui, appeasement, so to speak. The person who brings this sacrifice becomes an accepted, desired person; he finds favor. No longer is he a sinner, a pariah.

"Said Rabba: the burnt offering is a gift, a tribute, for had the sinner not repented, his offering would be rejected, as it says, `The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination.' When a person commits a sinful offense and repents, he does not budge until he is forgiven. What is the meaning of a gift? Why does the sin offering (chattos) come before the olah?

"This can be likened to an advocate who entered [the court on behalf of his client] and successfully appeased [the judge]. Afterwards, he brought a gift" (Zevochim 7). Rashi comments: "After his repentance atoned for the offender, the olah came to appease, like a person who committed an offense against the king and appeased him through an emissary who represented him, bearing a tribute gift in hand."

The section dealing with the olah teaches us an additional aspect of sin and its atonement, which is in contrast to civil law, where there does not exist the concept of a close relationship between the citizen and those appointed over him. A citizen is expected to be law-abiding and not to incur any fines. But if he does break a law, is punished and the punishment is executed, or alternately, if he is tried and some compromise is arrived at, the case is shut and nothing more is said or expected. There is no added dimension of `finding favor' in the eyes of the authorities. There is no attempt to erase the impression left by the offense.

With regard to a person and his Creator, the matter is different. More is expected of him. Rabbenu Yonah writes: "The penitent must pray to Hashem to `wipe out, like an obliterating mist, his sins, and like a cloud, his violations,' to pray that Hashem will still want him and favor him, and will continue to heed his requests when he prays to Him, as if he had not sinned at all. For it is possible that the sin be forgiven and the sinner absolved of punishment, suffering or evil decree -- but the sinner still not be reinstated in Hashem's favor. He can be cast off . . . Therefore, we see that Dovid Hamelech prayed that `You uphold me with a generous spirit,' meaning, `Lo, I am puny due to my sins and if You have forgiven my sins, I am still unworthy to be loved and favored as I was before. [Nevertheless,] I pray You to support me with a generous spirit, for there is no limit to Your generosity and goodness" (Sha'arei Tshuva I:42).


Awesome thoughts. Atonement, alone, is not sufficient for a sin. Even after it is attained, it is still possible for a person to have forfeited Hashem's trust, affection, and attention towards him. He may be lost, without any hope of reinstatement in Hashem's good graces.

The sin may be forgiven and the sinner redeemed and spared of all punishment, all fine and good, with no suffering remaining to undergo and the evil decree against him abolished. And yet -- Hashem has cast him off and has no desire for him! Here -- take your reprieve and begone with you! Get out of My sight.

Let us imagine to ourselves the `deep affection' that we would feel towards a gross fellow who shamed us in public with beatings, curses and foul language -- and then asked our forgiveness. How would we greet him the next time we encountered him? Would we not make the greatest detour just to avoid coming into his proximity?

And the sinner, this sinner caused Hashem to be called `an insulted King,' `One Who suffers shame,' as is written in Tomer Dvora, for He continues to sustain the sinner with life and vigor at all times, notwithstanding. This man continues to use the vigor he receives at the very moment that he sins and rebels against his Creator! Is there greater insult than this? wonders the Ramak.

What pleasure or satisfaction can such a person provide for his Maker? What can be expected of such a person? True, he may ask forgiveness and Hashem, in His infinite goodness, may provide it. But to continue to find favor, affection and a pleasing attitude -- this is much too much to expect!

This is the purpose that the olah was expected to achieve. The Gra writes in his commentary on Shir Hashirim on the verse, "Behold, you are comely, my loved one, also pleasant . . . " that even after Hashem accepts a person's repentance, the sin itself is not erased. This was a great advantage in the times of the Beis Hamikdosh: the sacrifices had the power of completely wiping away sins so that no impression remained whatsoever! "This goodly mountain and the Levanon." Comment Chazal homiletically, "Levanon -- this refers to the Beis Hamikdash which whitens the sins of Israel." White: without a vestige of stain. No impression left in the least. How? Through the sacrifices.

The olah is like a tribute-gift with which one enters to pay homage, "Like a person who sinned and made amends through an advocate. When he came to show his face, he brought a gift in hand." Let us not forget that after all our pleading and requests, we must still come in person and bear a present. One must show face to receive full pardon. "Ezra Hasofer said before You: My G-d, I am ashamed and embarrassed to lift my face to You, my G-d."

The opportunity to show one's face, to present oneself in the presence of Hashem, is a separate act from that of repentance. When Chazal determine that there are four categories of people who cannot come in the presence of the Shechina (scoffers, liars, flatterers and tale- bearers), the Mabit comments in Beis Elokim that even after they repent [and their repentance is accepted], they may not come before the presence of the Shechina. They are undesirables. Castoffs. Disfavored and unwanted.


This message was a fundamental principle, ofttimes repeated in the teachings of the Mashgiach, R' Yechezkel Levinstein. Finding favor in the eyes of Hashem is a foundation, the very core of avodas Hashem. He would constantly review the words of Rabbenu Yonah: "The ultimate desire of tzaddikim is to succeed in pleasing Hashem and seeking His favor. And their wish -- life that is real and true, and the great illumination that embraces all pleasantness."

This does not say that tzaddikim desire to perform many good deeds and do mitzvos. Rather, their all- consuming desire, their will -- in order to succeed and earn the life of the spirit -- is, simply put: to curry Hashem's favor, to enjoy His good grace. It is very possible for a person to do good deeds and still not enter the category of being pleasing unto Hashem, being favored by Him. Rabbenu Yonah raises this question in the chapter, "Gateway of Remorse." "And of what use are all the acquisitions if they are bad in the eyes of their Master?" The soul has acquisitions but these may yet be evil in the eyes of the Master. A frightening thought.

The pages of Or Yechezkel overflow with a conclusion that this must be our striving in our G-dly worship: to find favor in Hashem's eyes, to know before Whom we are toiling, to try and see if we are truly treading the path that leads to this goal: of pleasing Hashem, causing Him nachas, gratification, satisfaction in us. We must instill as a fundament in our worship the need to shun those deeds that cause a person to be detested and rejected by Hashem, G-d forbid.

Suffice it for us a single example brought by Rabbenu Yonah: "Aside from the fact that pride leads to sin, the proud person is delivered into the power of his yetzer for Hashem ceases to help or support him, for [pride] is the abomination of Hashem." Tribute-gift -- and its antithesis.

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