by R' Yerachmiel Kram
Eating Lamb, Thinking It's Pork
Her husband has made them void and Hashem shall forgive her"
Eating Lamb, Thinking It's Pork
If her husband has made her vow void, why does she require
forgiveness from Hashem?
This question is asked in the gemora: "Our Sages
taught: `Her husband made them void and Hashem shall forgive
her.' Of what is the Torah speaking? Of a woman whose husband
made void her vow and she was unaware of it. She still
requires forgiveness and atonement (if she ate from what she
thought to be forbidden to her). Whenever R' Akiva
encountered this verse, he would weep: If one who intended to
eat pork and had the good fortune to eat lamb instead,
requires atonement and forgiveness, what of one who intended
to eat pork -- and did eat pork! How much more does he
require atonement and forgiveness!" (Nozir 23a).
Here is the case of a woman who ate food which she did not
know was permissible, nor did she know that her husband had
made void her vow and that what she was eating was
permissible. She maintains that she ate forbidden "pork" but
since her husband annulled her vow, she really ate lamb.
Nevertheless, she requires atonement since she intended to
sin and rebel against Hashem.
A sin of this sort also requires atonement and
"See If They Tell Stories Like These About You!"
The Chofetz Chaim was once required to give testimony in a
civil court which was about to pass a death sentence upon
Efraim Leibowitz, a student of Yeshivas Radin, for espionage
on behalf of the German army. This was at the height of World
War I, a period when every minor military court was empowered
to carry out an execution upon the slightest suspicion of
treason. This young man was in grave danger for his life,
because of a suspicious map which someone had maliciously
thrust into his pocket in order to incriminate him.
R' Yisroel Meir wept copious tears on behalf of this young
man and prayed that his life be spared. On the day he was
called upon to bear his testimony before the court, the
entire yeshiva fasted and prayed.
The Chofetz Chaim was asked by the judges to tell all he knew
about this particular student. In a calm voice, he told the
judges that the young man in question was a devoted student
who spent his whole time in study and that the entire episode
must have been framed in order to incriminate him. He was
willing, in fact, to take an oath that this student had not
been involved in any form of spying.
This was a character testimony upon which the Chofetz Chaim
pinned all of his hopes.
It was now the defense's turn to present before the judges a
character endorsement of the Chofetz Chaim himself, so that
they would appreciate the value of his word and his readiness
to vouch, and even swear, for his student. Thus, if the
Chofetz Chaim was truly called upon to give his oath, it
would bear the ultimate weight.
One of the young man's defenders asked for the right to
speak. He began,
"I would like to tell the honorable judges who is this Jewish
rabbi who just testified before you," he began. He proceeded
to tell about the time the Chofetz Chaim was once waiting in
the Warsaw train terminal when a thief snatched his valise
and ran away.
"Do you know what his reaction was?" he asked the judges
rhetorically. "The rabbi ardently declared that he was hereby
giving the valise as an outright gift to the thief. He
disclaimed all ownership to it and forgave the thief for
having stolen it!"
The judges looked at the attorney in disbelief. "And you
believe this tale?" one of them asked.
The attorney had apparently anticipated such a reaction and
said, "What difference does it make whether I can verify the
truth of this story or not? Tell me if such stories are told
of any of you, here!"
Forgiveness for Theft Declared Out Loud
Not everyone is capable of believing that this story is
authentic. Nor are we responsible for its veracity. There
are, however, many who do believe that it actually took place
and they add an interesting detail which the defense did not
present upon that occasion.
When the Chofetz Chaim forgave the thief his theft, he did
not suffice with a mere declaration. He expressed his
disclaimer and his forgiveness in full voice which the thief
was able to hear. "Why does the Rebbe have to shout?" his
traveling companion asked. "Why can't you just forgive the
thief in a normal tone, for your own sake?"
"I did not merely intend to save him from the sin of theft. I
also wanted to spare him the sin comparable to one who
intended to eat pork but ended up eating lamb," was his
(It should be noted here that the concept of mechiloh
does not avail for something that is physically present like
a valise. It only applies to abstract obligations, such as a
debt, as is explained in Choshen Mishpot 241:2).
This matter of a person intending to sin by eating pork, for
example, and really eating something permissible, applies to
many things in our daily lives. How often does a person open
up a newspaper which he knows to be improper and which he is
aware will contaminate his eyes through forbidden photos etc.
-- only to find dry facts which do not interest him in the
least? Can such a person be considered to have intended to
`eat pork,' as it were? He was fortunate enough not to have
stumbled and to have `eaten lamb,' that is, to have seen
innocuous news. But his intent was to read what was
unsuitable and forbidden!
Does it not happen that a person visits a place where the
kashrus is questionable and partakes of the refreshments
there without a minimal investigation of the source of that
food? It may turn out that the food was permissible and that
it did, in fact, bear a most reputable supervision. But the
guest had been prepared to eat `pork,' so to speak, even
though he had actually been spared that violation, and had
eaten permissible `lamb.'
When we pound our chests on Yom Kippur, let us bear this
matter well in mind.
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