Wednesday, February 24, 2016

a shogeg that's worse than meizid; "ain kaparah l'meisim;" Shamai winning is as bad as cheit ha'eigel!?

1) Chazal interpret the three different terms, “avon v’pesha v’chata’ah,” at the end of the 13 midos ha’rachamim mentioned in our parsha, as referring to three different types of sin. The gemara in Yoma (36) explains that “avon” (according to the view of the Chachamim) refers to meizid, deliberate sins; “pesha” is an act of rebellion; “chata’ah” is an unwitting shogeg sin. Given those definitions, asks the gemara, shouldn’t the order in the pasuk be reversed? Wouldn’t it make sense to first ask G-d to forgive shogeg, which is less severe, and only then ask for forgiveness for meizid and pesha, rebellion? Why do we put “chata’ah,” the shogeg sin, at the end?

The gemara answers by darshening the pasuk to mean that Moshe was asking for the sins of “avon v’pesha” to be considered, through teshuvah, “v’chata’ah,” as if they were inadvertent shogeg sins. “Chata’ah” is thus not a separate request for forgiveness, but is rather part of what we are asking for with respect to the sins of “avon” and “pesha.”

But what’s the pshat in the pasuk? The Netziv offers a tremendous answer. Sometimes a sin of shogeg can be worse than meizid. We’re all human and we have a yetzer ha’ra for kinah, ta’avah, and kavod. A person can be a perfectly respectable, upstanding frum Jew who knows right from wrong but have a lapse, fall prey to temptation, and intentionally do something b’meizid that they know is bad. The moment of temptation passes, and baruch Hashem the person snaps back to normal, continuing to be observant and frum, albeit in need of teshuvah. Contrast that, says the Netziv, with a person who, due to their misunderstanding of Torah, has a completely warped ideology, a person who confuses right and wrong. What they think is a mitzvah is in fact a sin, and what they think is an aveira may sometimes be the right thing to do.  Their misdeeds will be shogeg, since they are motivated by misunderstanding, not intent to sin, but this type of shogeg is far worse than a meizid.   It's not a moment of weakness or a lapse of judgment that leads them astray -- it's a fundamental error in the way they understand the world.   That’s the “chata’ah,” the shogeg that is most severe, that comes at the end of our pasuk.
Apply to the world around you as you see fit.

2) I seldom revisit what I wrote in the past, but in this case I’m going to make a little exception since I was talking to my son about the din of chatas shebe’aleha meisah last week and by coincidence, it ties to
something I wrote about on this parsha a few years ago. I always had assumed that the reason chatas she’meisah be’aleha is pasul is because the halacha l’Moshe m’Sinai tells us that a chatas needs an owner, and without one the korban cannot be brought. Tosfos in Temunah (15b), however, says a different hesber.  A korban chatas by definition is brought to be mechapeir.   According to Tosfos, a chatas who owner died is pasul because a dead person cannot get a kaparah -– ain kaparah l’meisim. 

I once posted the Ya’avetz in Megillah (25) who writes that when the parsha of the eigel is read, it causes embarrassment to those who participated in the worship of the golden calf, and through suffering that embarrassment they get a kaparah. This Tosfos in Temurah was not on my mind then to ask the question, but better late than never: what does the Ya’avetz do with this sevara of “ain kaprah l’meisim?”
I thought I had an original question, but after thinking about it during the day I figured you could answer by being mechaleik between kaparah in the metaphysical sense and the din kaparah as is relates to the chiyuv korban.  Then I came home from my day job, looked up the Ya'avetz again, and see that after he says the reading of the eigel is a kaparah, he adds "af al gav d'ain kaparah b'korban."  Now I feel like a dummy -- I discovered a Tosfos that I should have known about the first time around, thought of a question the Ya'avetz asks on himself, and came up with the same answer I must have read 2 years ago without realizing the import of the words.  Again, I guess better late than never.  Just to make myself feel better, I'll end off with a point I still am stuck on: Horiyos 6 uses the sevara of  "ain kaparah l'meisim" in discussing the pasuk, "kapeir l'amcha Yisrael asher padisa," which has nothing to do with the din kaparah of a korban.  The gemara seems to comflate both types of kaparah together.  Maybe in  another 2 years I'll have worked this part out too ; )
3) The gemara (Shabbos 17) writes that the day that Shamai gained the upper hand over Hillel in the yeshiva was as tragic a day as the day on which the eigel was made.

I don’t know how you interpret such an expression except to say that it’s a guzma, an exaggeration, as dibru chachamim lashon havai. That being said, here’s a suggestion I had:

The famous machlokes of tanur shel achani pitted R’ Eliezer the Shamuti, the talmid of Shamai, who refused to accept that lo ba’shamayim hi, against the rest of the chachamim (see R’ Yosef Engel in Beis haOtzar). We see that the school of Shamai allowed less room for interpretative license.

The whole error that led to the cheit ha’eigel is because Moshe added an extra day of his own volition to the 40 days he was supposed to be at Sinai, and was therefore not back yet when Klal Yisrael expected him. It was Moshe’s understanding through torah she’ba’al peh of how to count the 40 days that threw people off.

Derech derush, maybe that’s the idea behind this expression in Chazal. When the literalists, the school of Shamai have the upper hand, when interpretive license in minimized and lo ba'shamayim downplayed, it is a return to the thinking that precipitated cheit ha’eigel in not taking the koach haderush Moshe employed into account.


  1. note please that the three machloksim between Shammai and Hillel were about gzeiros, and that Shammai "won" by threatening Hillel with even greater stringencies. Nothing about drashot or mesorah.

    Hillel submitted to Shammai in order to prevent a greater loss for klal Yisroel, much as Aharon made the Egel to prevent a greater sin by klal Yisroel. He was indeed mitalmidov shel Aharon - and I am not certain if the Gemora agrees with his decision or not.

    I have been agonizing over this gemorah for decades, and still am. When Rav Belsky zt"l was niftar, a great talmid chochom and ba'al sechel mourned, "there goes one of the last gedolim to stand up to the machmirim."

  2. In Maseches Sofrim it refers to the day that the Torah was translated for Talmai Hamelech as a day that was as difficult as the day on which the eigel was made. I believe Reb Tzadok explains that it refers to the breaking of the Luchos. Any loss in the perfection of Torah resembles the Shviras Haluchos.

    1. Nice pshat for the Maseches Sofrim, but does it make sense to say that following shitas Shamai is a loss of perfection of the Torah?
      (from Chaim)