This D’var Torah is in Z’chus L’Ilui Nishmas my sister Kayla Rus Bas Bunim Tuvia A”H & my grandfather Dovid Tzvi Ben Yosef Yochanan A”H & in Z’chus L’Refuah Shileimah for:
-My father Bunim Tuvia Ben Channa Freidel
-My grandmothers Channah Freidel Bas Sarah, and Shulamis Bas Etta, and my great aunt Rivkah Bas Etta
-Miriam Liba Bas Devora
-Yechiel Baruch HaLevi Ben Liba Gittel
-Aharon Ben Fruma
-And all of the Cholei Yisrael
-It should also be a Z’chus for an Aliyah of the holy Neshamah of Dovid Avraham Ben Chiya Kehas—R’ Dovid Winiarz ZT”L as well as the Neshamos of those whose lives were taken in terror attacks (Hashem Yikom Damam), and a Z’chus for success for Tzaha”l as well as the rest of Am Yisrael, in Eretz Yisrael and in the Galus.
וַיִּקְרָא ~ VAYIKRA
With Sefer Vayikra, the Torah begins the discussion of the laws of the Korbanos, all of the different offerings that are to be brought before Hashem in the form of the Avodah B’Mikdash (Temple service). Korbanos come in many shapes and sizes, varying according to the occasion and the given circumstances. Some Korbanos are brought for happier occasions, for example, the Korban Todah which is a form of Shelamim, a Peace offering, demonstrating “thanksgiving,” while other Korbanos are brought for less fortunate occasions, such as the Korban Chattas, the Sin offering which is brought as a form of restitution for one’s misdeeds.
One such less fortunate Korban is that of the Korban Asham, the Guilt offering, which one is obligated to offer in response to various Aveiros (transgressions) listed in the Sidrah. The question is what exactly the meaning of this “Guilt offering” is. As was mentioned, there already exists such a concept of a Korban that is brought in response to sin, namely the Chattas or Sin offering, so, what exactly makes this Korban Asham fundamentally different?
In order to begin answering this question, we have to first consider which kinds of Aveiros each of these two Korbanos are actually brought in response to.
The Chattas is a much broader Korban as many Aveiros warrant the bringing of a Korban Chattas. As a rule though, the Chattas is brought in response to most unintentional sins. Intentional sins are typically addressed in more severe ways, such as with lashes, spiritual excision, or in certain extreme circumstances, even death.
So, what warrants a Korban Asham? If one looks in text of our Sidrah, there are a whole collection of laws that require the offering of a Korban Asham. But, the category of Asham triggering transgressions that perhaps sticks out most is the one at the end of the Sidrah where the Torah writes the following: “Nefesh Ki Secheta U’Ma’alah Ma’al BaHashem V’Chicheish BaAmiso B’Fikadon O V’Sesumes Yad O V’Gazeil O Ashak Es Amiso; O Matza AveidahV’Chichesh BahV’Nishba Al Sha-ker Al Achas MiKol Mitzvos Asher Ya’aseh HaAdam LaChato VaHeinah”-“An individual who sins and commits an offense against Hashem, and he is [either] deceitful against his neighbor with a pledge [collateral], or about the placing of the hand [in usage of the pledge], or with robbery, or he withheld [wages of] his neighbor; or he found a lost object and denied it and he swore falsely regarding anything which a man does to sin by them” [Vayikra 5:21-22].
The common denominator of all of these sins is that they are all “Bein Adam LaChaveiro,” between man and his friend. They’re societal, involving financial offenses, lawsuits, and the like. Thus, in such circumstances as the one listed above, one would be obligated to offer this particular Korban Asham.
Now, at first glance, it seems odd that we have a Korban for societal, business related transgressions. After all, a Korban is an object of Avodah, a sacred ritual presumably revolving around one’s relationship with Hashem. It is a service “Bein Adam LaMakom,” between man and the Omnipresent. Why, then, should one require a Korban for sins that are exclusively societal?
Moreover, if one returns to the passage containing this list of societal laws that warrant an Asham, it also specifies [5:23-24], “V’Hayah Ki Yecheta V’Asheim V’Heishiv Es HaGezeilah Asher Gazal O Es HaOshek Asher Ashak O Es HaPikadon Asher Hafkad Ito O Es HaAveidah Asher Matza; O MiKol Asher Yishava Alav LaSheker V’Shilam Oso B’Rosho VaChamishisav Yoseif Alav LaAsheir Hu Lo Yitnenu B’Yom Ashmaso”-“And when we will have sinned and become guilty, then he will return the stolen object that he stole, or the withholding that he withheld, or the pledge that was left with him, or the lost object which he found; or from all that which he swore falsely, and he shall pay it by its head [principle price] and add its fifth onto it; for the one to whom it belongs, he shall give it on the day of his guilt.”
This segment of the passage tells us that before anything else, one is required to repay what he owes. That is his restitution, the primary response and penalty for the sin he has committed. And indeed, that is exactly what we would expect. You deprive someone of money, you pay him back, and in certain circumstances, you even pay a fine. But if that’s the case, why would one also need a special Korban called a Guilt offering? Are the compensatory payments and fines not enough? Is the balance not yet restored? Yet, the Torah says [5:25], “V’Es Ashamo Yavi LaHashem…”-“And his Guilt [offering], he shall bring to Hashem…”
In order to understand the fundamental difference between the Chattas and the Asham, and why the Asham is necessary even in social circumstances, despite all financial dues being paid, we have to return to the beginning of the Asham passage. We argued that the Aveiros that warrant the Asham even include “Bein Adam LaChaveiro,” but if one looks back at the verses themselves, the Torah prefaces with “U’Ma’alah Ma’al BaHashem”-“and he commits an offense against Hashem.” This expression, based on everything we have been saying, should be troubling, because, one might argue, “What does a civil crime have to do with G-d? This is between me and the other guy.” Yet, the Torah informs us that regardless of the other person—whether he is compensated or not, whether one has paid the price or not—one has committed an offense against Hashem. That is because in every act that is Bein Adam LaChaveiro, there is an additional effect Bein Adam LaMakom. In a similar vein, Rashi conveys that, in fact, when one lies, for example, about holding one’s collateral, even if there are no witnesses or any documentation, Hashem still knows the truth, and the blatant denial of the truth demonstrates a denial of G-d as well [based on Toras Kohanim 22:4]. Thus, when one has committed an additional offense against Hashem, one has obligated himself to an additional sentence that cannot merely be satisfied by the principle financial restitution, or even a fine.
And this would explain the difference between the Chattas and the Asham. The sins that warrant a Chattas, for one thing, are primarily Bein Adam LaMakom. Moreover, they were committed unintentionally. In such circumstances, the offering itself is the humble confession of one’s faults and the acknowledgement that it was G-d Whom he wronged. But, when it comes to wronging fellowman amidst apparent denial of G-d, he has sinned against two parties that must be appeased. Paying back the plaintiff is the easy first step. But one is not finished! He is still lacking in his atonement, because he has yet to acknowledge the “Divine Third Party” involved in the crime. How does one finally acknowledge Hashem?
That feeling that one is supposed to have after doing the wrong thing, whether he was caught or not, whether he was penalized or not, is called guilt. The culprit has to bear the guilt of the crime. And indeed, he should feel guilty. That is the essence of the Korban Asham! Yes, primarily you have to repay what you owe, of course! But that’s true even when, under all of the legal circumstances, one simply borrowed money from his friend! That has nothing to do with the guilt that one is supposed to feel when he has committed a crime and illegally took financial advantage of another person or swore falsely against another person in G-d’s Presence. When one has done that, he has also sinned before G-d, and thus, the Torah informs us additionally, “V’Es Ashamo Yavi LaHashem…”-“And his Guilt [offering], he shall bring to Hashem…”—“I want you to feel bad for what you have done.” And only then will the balance truly be restored. Only then, the Torah tells us [5:26], “V’Chiper Alav HaKohein Lifnei Hashem V’Nislach Lo…”-“And the Kohein shall atone for him before Hashem and he shall be forgiven…”
May we all be Zocheh to realize the effects of all our actions on our relationship with Hashem, whether Bein Adam LaMakom or LaChaveiro, be sensitive to that relationship, and thereby restore the balance in all of our relationships so that Hashem could atone us entirely with the Geulah and the coming of Moshiach, Bimheirah Biyomeinu! Have a Great Shabbos!
-Josh, Yehoshua Shmuel Eisenberg 🙂