(Torah Portion Vayikra) Mistakes!

One good thing about changing the clock – just like jetlag – you can blame a mistake or an oversight for a few days on it.

The other morning it happened. It was a bit darker in the morning when I was getting dressed for Minyan – services. No one noticed it in Shul – or at least no one pointed it out to me. Only after I was sitting waiting for a prescription to be filled I noticed that I was wearing two different shoes! The saving grace was they were the same color. I was quick to dismiss it and blame it on the change of the clock, but that was also difficult, because…one was a slip on shoe and other a tie shoe.

Well, I got up and began walking around so that my pants would at least hang over the tops of the shoes and it would be less obvious. Happy with this arrangement, I went on my way to another store before I was able to get home and change. I have to say, no one except me stared at me or even noticed my mistake.

So what does my shoe snafu have to do with this week’s Parsha?

Our Parsha discusses the laws of animal, bird and meal offerings that were brought to the Temple. There were voluntary offerings as well as sin offerings. Interestingly, sin and atonement offerings were not offered in a situation when a person accidently did a sin or if he purposely committed a sin. A sin or atonement offering was only offered when someone mistakenly did a sin.

When someone commits a sin with full intent, his atonement is dependent only on his own personal repentance and reconciliation with G-d, similar to how we conduct ourselves on Yom Kippur.

When an accidental sin occurs it does not require atonement offerings because it was accidental, and one is not held responsible for an accident.

One is only responsible to bring offerings for a sin when one did something mistakenly, because a mistake is often dismissed or rationalized, or something or someone else is blamed. The Torah teaches us that as thinking and intellectual human beings we are accountable for whatever we do or don’t do and we should not live by playing the blame game.

Commentators explain that the reason an animal offering is offered to atone a sin that was done by mistake is to impress on us the elevated and heightened level a human being is endowed with. He is responsible to be aware of his moral and ethical standards and he is above the animal world which was not gifted with this aptitude. When a mistake occurs, one is prone to fault something or someone – and it is a defining moment if a person recons with it and realizes his uniqueness and human quality. By being aware of our responsibilities it prevents us from blaming others for our mistakes.

The story regarding my shoes typifies that inborn reaction of placing the blame on something else and not taking personal responsibility. This is important even when no one notices or even cares….other than your own knowing and consciousness.

This Shabbos is called Shabbos Zachor – The Shabbos of Remembrance. It is so called because of the special additional reading about the Mitzvah to remember what the wicked nation of Amalek did to us when they attacked the Jews almost immediately after they were freed from Egypt. The Torah tells us that there is a Mitzvah to wipe out Amalek’s existence. There were times in history that this opportunity presented itself.

One is recorded in the Haftorah we read, where King Saul was instructed by the Prophet Samuel to kill Agag, the king of Amalek, and all the males, females, children and animals. King Saul had compassion on the animals, and thus Amalek was able, through witchcraft, to disguise themselves like animals and many of them were saved. Shaul lost the opportunity of getting rid of our nemesis Amalek – whose wicked descendants include Haman, and in all probability, Hitler as well.

Shaul was chastised by Samuel for not obeying G-d’s command and lost the opportunity of having his kingship passed on to his children. Shaul was extremely repentant of his mistake of not listening to Samuel’s prophecy, but unfortunately, the damage was done and irreparable.

We read the Portion of Zachor on the Shabbos preceding Purim because Haman was a descendant of Agag and implemented a decree for the genocide of the Jews. The Megilla of Esther records that during the battle where the Jews defended themselves, the Jews killed over 75,000 people and all of them were from the Nation of Amalek.

Unfortunately, the same type of hatred towards us exists today. Our hope is that just as we were redeemed at the time of the Purim miracle, may G-d listen to our prayers and send salvation to us and peace shall reign throughout the world.

Have a most enjoyable, restful and peaceful Shabbos!
Rabbi Dovid Saks