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Shabbat Parashat Vayikra| 5763
It Takes Two Steps to Get AtonementHarav Yosef Carmel
Our parasha finishes off with the korban (sacrifice)known as asham g’zeilot (guilt offering for theft). A look at some laws and descriptions of this korban will shed some new light on the way we approach the different categories of sin.
The Torah describes the sin as, “Should a soul sin and commit a breach against Hashem and lie to his friend about an entrusted object…” (Vayikra 5:21). It is fascinating to note that the sin of theft, in its different forms, a classic example of בין אדם לחבירו, a sin between man and man, is described first and foremost as a breach against Hashem.
Yet the Torah does not just allow a person to bring a korban and “appease” Hashem. Rather, before he can bring the korban, he must first right the wrong to his fellow man. Therefore, the Torah places the requirement of, “He shall return the theft which he stole…” followed by, “he shall bring his guilt offering to Hashem” (ibid.: 23,25). If the korban was brought before the theft was returned, the thief did not fulfill his requirement regarding the korban (Bava Kamma 110a).
We also find that that he who withheld his friend’s property and swore falsely about it must go as far as necessary in order to track down the victim and return that which is coming to him. This is in keeping with the absolute requirement to “return the theft” without exceptions or, as the gemara (Bava Metzia 55a) says: “Someone who stole a peruta worth and swore falsely about it, has to bring it to his friend even to Madai, if necessary.”
Another stringency is the need for the sinner to personally return the object to the victim. He may not send it with a shaliach (agent) or to the other’s shaliach. This is in the line with the Torah’s instructions, “to whom it belongs he should return it (ibid.:24; see Sifra, Vayikra 13).
Keeping the above in mind, let us revisit the famous statement of R. Elazar ben Azarya. “’From all your sins before Hashem shall you be purified’- on sins between man and G-d, Yom Kippur brings atonement; on sins between man and man, Yom Kippur does not atone until one appeases his friend” (Yoma 8:9). The appeasement of the friend is needed to receive atonement on the בין אדם לחבירו element of the sin. Then Yom Kippur can deal with the בין אדם למקום element.
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