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Shabbat Parashat Beha'alotcha 5776

Ein Ayah: The Time to Identify Sins

(condensed from Ein Ayah, Shabbat 2:205)

Gemara: One who is sick and is approaching death is told to admit [his sins], for all those who are put to death, admit their sins.


Ein Ayah: Man’s soul was created straight, and therefore yearns for goodness and justice. The problem is that the confusion in concepts due to the strength of his desires removes a person from the straight path, until he does not recognize the true path that is naturally engrained in his spirit. However, when his body is weakened to the point that he is on the verge of death, then his internal life awakens and his feelings of true moral correctness are strengthened.

For this reason, before death is the most auspicious time to admit sins. The rays of light that shine at that time in the inner home of the soul will enable him to find every type of sin that occurred throughout his life. The strengthening of the moral side of the spirit comes from its natural, healthy element of the spirit, which is rejuvenated when the blindness of coarse desires subsides. For this reason, the appropriateness of admitting sin at this time is true for all people, explaining why we apply the rule that all who are put to death admit their sin.

General strengths are always built on natural foundations that have a specific purpose. In this case, it is the goal of turning to Hashem to repent for sin. Indeed, even a short interval of repentance in this world is very special (Avot 4:17), for it prepares the foundation of a person’s life for eternity. Throughout a person’s life, his spirit is full of fluidity, changing its perception and strengths and not remaining static. The most all-encompassing power of the spirit is certainly will-power, and it impacts other parts of the spirit, both those that are revealed and those that are concealed. All other powers in life impact will-power and are impacted by it. Therefore, desires are the true insignia of a person’s spirit.

When a person is about to complete his life’s spiritual work and have it remain permanent, he needs to sum up all of its different elements in a way that is connected to all that he did in his life. Generally a person uses his body as a vessel that is involved a little at a time in different activities and situations. It is a powerful thing to admit one’s sins and thereby beam a light of truth and correctness into his spirit so that his desires at that point are in line with how Hashem created his spirit. He does this by casting off his desire for any type of sin. That explains the natural tendency for admitting sins at that time, which Hashem imbued each person.

A person should set healthy activities as his physical lifestyle, and those who think they can get away without such healthy living make a grave mistake. So too those who do not listen to the natural spiritual callings destroy their spirit. The Torah and fear of Hashem bolster the correct tendency to want to repent, as the pasuk says: “His heart will understand and he will return and be healed” (Yeshaya 6:10).

A person should understand that just as being executed by beit din is a sign that he has a sin that needs addressing, so too any upcoming death is a sign that there is some characteristic that deteriorated. After all, if everyone was on the perfect level, death would not exist in the world, as we pray for the time when our nation will be healed and Hashem will remove death forever (ibid. 25:8). If there are imperfect characteristics, there must also be sins that contributed to that situation. Therefore, natural death also needs to stand as a proof of the need for repentance, similar to the repentance done by one who is executed for an obvious sin.

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