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Shabbat Parashat Shemot 5778

Ein Ayah: The Teshuva of a Non-Sinner

(condensed from Ein Ayah, Shabbat 5:81)

Gemara: R. Yonatan said: Whoever says that Yoshiyahu sinned is making a mistake, as the pasuk says: “He did that which was straight in the eyes of Hashem, and he went in all the ways of his father David” (Melachim II, 22:2). So how do we explain: “There was no one like him before him, a king who returned to Hashem” (ibid. 23:25), [which implies that he previously sinned]? It means that every ruling he made from the time he was 8 until he was 18 he returned [to the litigant who lost]. Maybe he took from one and gave to the other? It says that he did it “b’chol me’odo,” which implies that he gave his own.   


Ein Ayah: The good inclination of a proper spirit will often lead a person to the straight path even in matters that he did not learn how to do properly. Such a person will not be able to be truly exact in his actions, which can only be accomplished when instructed by the Torah. However, he will not stray by much, and even the mistakes, since they come from a pure spirit due to lack of study, will have a moral value. Thus, there is a difference between someone with good moral powers for goodness and sanctity but who is only missing the light of Torah and one who innately is deep in evil powers, which lead him away from goodness.

When the two types of people improve their actions due to the light of the Torah and become new people, there will be a difference between them. For one whose whole life was corrupt at its core, when he sees the light, his main purpose is to erase the past. If his activity was very broad, as a king’s would be, he will try to uproot the influences of his actions from the dark period and plant new ones that will straighten all that was corrupt.

This is different from one who was always sincere and who was guided by morality, even though he was missing the light of Torah and therefore walked in darkness in his own life and his impact on others. He should not try to erase the past but to improve and enlighten it. He should expand and develop what he did based on the depth of the divine light of the Torah of truth.

We are told about Yoshiyahu that his path was always like that of his father David, a great spirit crowned with grandeur. Hashem was always before him, even before he learned the detailed blueprint for proper life. Even his mistakes, although they needed to be fixed, left a positive imprint because they contained elements of light and general justice.

This is what R. Yonatan meant when saying Yoshiyahu had not sinned, as he had not sinned in a broad moral sense. Therefore, he did not have to uproot that which he built or totally change his approach, which was a good one. Rather, he took noble steps to fix the mistakes with kindness and greatness without undoing the past. That is why he did not return the money from one litigant to the other, which would undo the whole previous ruling that had been based on a pursuit of justice. He just needed to fix the blemishes that affected individuals. The word of a king is dominion (see Kohelet 8:4). Rather he gave money on an individual basis from kol me’odo, his own resources, which he used to reimburse those who lost due to his mistakes.

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