“And He called to Moses.” (1:1)
The word “called” is written with a small letter aleph. There are many commentators who explained the reason for this.
One of the reasons that is brought by our sages is that the word “called” [in Hebrew, “vayikra”] is an expression that connotes love and this is how Hashem addresses his righteous ones. However, the word “and He chanced upon” [in Hebrew, “vayikar”] (an expression of a coincidental occurrence) is an expression that Hashem sets aside to be used with the wicked, since He appears to them by chance. This is similar to what we find regarding Balaam, “And Hashem chanced upon Balaam” (Numbers 23:4).
Out of his great humility, Moses did not want to write the expression of “called” in the Torah, since it shows that Hashem referred to him with an expression of love. This is because then, perhaps, he would appear arrogant, having written an expression that demonstrates Hashem’s love regarding himself. On the other hand, it is forbidden to leave out even one letter from the Torah. What did he do? He wrote a small letter aleph [which is the letter that differentiates between the words “called” and “chanced upon”] that is not so blatant. This way, if one desires, he can read it as “chanced upon” instead of “called,” as it really took place.
Previously, it said in the verse (Exodus 34:29), “And it was when Moses descended Mount Sinai and the two tablets of testimony were in the hands of Moses … and Moses did not know that the skin of his face was shining when he spoke with him.” The sages said (Shemot Rabbah 47:6), “From where did Moses receive these rays of splendor? … Rabbi Yehudah bar Nachman said in the name of Rabbi Shimon ben Levi, ‘When Moses wrote the Torah a little bit of the ink was left in the quill. He passed it over his head and rays of splendor formed for him.’” Why did Moses do this? It was not because he wanted the skin on this face to shine. Rather, it was in order to preserve the holiness of the ink. In order for it not to be wasted away, he spread it on his forehead.
However, this is still hard to understand. How can it be possible that there was ink left in the quill? Isn’t everything that Hashem does configured with an exact accounting? If so, Hashem must have certainly calculated the number of letters in the Torah and He must have poured the ink into the quill. How, then, was ink remaining there?
According to what was mentioned above from the Midrash, this can be answered satisfactorily. Since Moses was a very humble person, he wrote the word “called” with a small letter aleph, so that it will not be so obvious that there was this expression of love. A drop of ink was left in the quill from that letter aleph and Moses spread that on his face, causing the skin of his face to shine.
We see, then, that, certainly, it does not mean that Moses thought that the ink had a special power. Rather, he did this out of his great humility and, as a result, he merited that his face shone. Regarding this, the sages who had great wisdom in matters of ethics said, “Whoever runs away from honor, honor chases after him.” A person’s humility is apparent on his face. Even though his face does not shine like that of Moses, however, he merits having a certain facial radiance.
There is a known incident about a man who came to the rabbi and asked him, “Honorable Rabbi, you always say in your speeches that ‘Whoever runs away from honor, honor chases after him.’ I run away from honor, but I do not see it running after me.”
The rabbi answered him, “Foolish man! Your problem is that once in a while you look behind you to see if, indeed, honor is at your heels. When the honor sees this, he immediately runs away!”
True humility is recognizable on a person’s face!
(Rabbi Yitzchak Peretz, Rabbi of Raanana, Israel)
“And He called to Moses.” (1:1)
“Hashem loved Balaam more than He loved Moses,” a gentile once told Rabbi Elazar with a mocking tone of voice.
“Hashem loved Balaam more than Moses?!” Rabbi Elazar said in surprise upon hearing the gentile’s words. “On what do you base what you said?”
The gentile had an answer ready, “It is written explicitly in your Torah. When Hashem wanted to speak with Moses, He called him to come to the tabernacle. However, when He wanted to speak with Balaam, it says, ‘And Hashem came to Balaam.’ He did not call him to come in order not to bother Balaam. Doesn’t this prove that He loved Balaam more?”
“If you hear the parable that I will say, then you will understand this matter. As a result, you will change your mind,” Rabbi Elazar told him.
“Alright, I will listen to the parable,” the gentile agreed.
Rabbi Elazar began his parable, “A leper came to the palace of the king. He found the gate of the palace locked and he began to knock on it.
‘Open up for me! I want to come inside!’ he called out while striking the gate.
The sound of the blows reached the ears of the king in his internal chamber. ‘Who is knocking on the gate?’ he asked.
‘Some leper is there who wants to come into the palace,’ his servants answered him.
‘Come into the palace?’ the king responded. ‘Such a thing can not happen! How can we send him away from here? If I will send a messenger to him who will instruct him to leave, then this will encourage him and he will break in here by force. Then, he may infect my children, G-d forbid, with leprosy. What should I do then?’
An idea came to the mind of the king. ‘It is better for me to leave my throne and approach the entrance of the palace. From there, I will threaten him not to come inside and he will surely be afraid of me…’
The king got up from his place and came to the gates of the palace. He saw the leper banging wildly on the door and he heard him saying, ‘Open up for me! Open up for me!’
The king raised his voice and called out to the leper, ‘Leave from here! Do not dare to show yourself here again, lest you infect my children. If you do not listen to me, you will end up with a bad and bitter lot!’ Upon hearing the words of the king, the leper’s face became pale and he quickly ran away from that place.
On the contrary, when the king’s friend arrives at the palace and knocks on the gate, he will also want to know who is knocking. When they tell him that his close friend is standing outside and knocking on the palace gates, from inside the palace, the king will call to his friend who is outside, ‘Enter, my friend. Come into my palace.’ Love is heard in the voice of the king and he absolutely does not want that one of his servants should go and call his beloved friend. Only he himself, in his honor, invites his friend to come inside.”
“Now, you certainly will also want to hear the comparison,” Rabbi Elazar turned to the attentive gentile.
The gentile nodded his head and Rabbi Elazar continued, “Understandably, the comparison involves Moses and Balaam. Balaam is like that leper who was knocking on the gates of the palace and wanting to come inside. What did Hashem say about this? ‘I will go Myself to the gates of the palace in order to prevent him from coming inside. This is because if he would come inside, he would make My palace impure.’ Therefore, Hashem Himself came in His honor to speak with Balaam.”
“Contrary to this, Moses is like the friend of the king. When the King of the World heard the voice of His friend, He called him to come inside to the Tent of Meeting, which is like the palace of the king, since He loved to be in the presence of His beloved. Therefore, it is written in our holy Torah, ‘And He called to Moses and Hashem spoke to him from the Tent of Meeting.’ Only to His beloved friend did the King of the World call by name and invite him to enter His palace!”
“Now,” concluded Rabbi Elazar, “you can no longer claim that Hashem loved Balaam more than He loved Moses.”
(Zohar HaKadosh, Parashat Balak)
“And He called to Moses.” (1:1)
If a person would think and contemplate thoroughly that when he brings a sacrifice what is being done to the animal is fitting to be done to him, he will certainly be aroused to repent completely and subdue his stubborn heart before his Creator. This would be to the extent of reaching the level of “A heart, broken and humbled, Hashem, You will not despise” (Psalms 51:19).
By writing the word “called” with a small letter aleph, the Torah hinted to us that the first rule about bringing sacrifices is that one must feel lowly and be humble to acquire the characteristic of humility.
Is it possible for there to be a man who is clean from the quality of arrogance?
The sages who taught ethics have said that even a street sweeper is arrogant over the fact that his broom is better than the broom of his fellow.
This is similar to a parable about two poor men who were walking on their way. One of them was tall, broad, healthy and strong. The second one was weak, thin, hunched over and sick. The strong one would pride himself over the weak one, mock him, oppress him and cause him pain. The weak one said to him, “Why aren’t you afraid of Hashem? He the one who lowers the arrogant and raises the lowly ones”
The strong one laughed at him and mocked his words. He continued to oppress him without mercy. Both of them reached the capital city.
On that day, two men were brought before the king. One presented himself as a mighty and strong fighter and he asked to be accepted into the king’s forces. The second one presented himself as an expert doctor and he asked to be accepted as the doctor for the king’s court.
The king said, “With what will your words be tested and proved to be true?”
The strong man said, “On the contrary, let a healthy strong, tough and mighty man be brought before me. I will strike him with one of my hands and there will be no recovery on his part.”
The doctor said, “Bring before me a weak man with a definite illness and in one day I will cure him from all of his illnesses and diseases!”
The king sent his servants to bring two men before him – one should be strong and tough and the other should be weak and ill. The servants went and they came across the two poor men. They immediately brought them before the king.
The strong man approached the tough poor man and with one hand, he knocked him down to the ground. The doctor took the ill poor man and healed him from all of his illnesses.
It came out that the strength of the bad poor man was to his disadvantage and the weakness of the sick man and all of his illnesses were for his benefit…
Regarding the matter of arrogance, Rabbeinu Yonah wrote in his book “Shaarei Teshuva” (Shaar Rishon, 27), “Every haughty man is an abomination before Hashem. The arrogant man is given over to the hands of his evil inclination because the assistance of Hashem is not with him, since he is an abomination before Hashem.”
We see that one who is arrogant is stripped of divine assistance. He is given over into the hands of his evil inclination and is vulnerable to stumbling with obstacles and sin. Therefore, when a person becomes close with Hashem and wants his blunders to be forgiven, he must humble himself and acquire the quality of humility. This way, he will remove from himself the control of the evil inclination and he will merit atonement and divine assistance.
At the time of the deed, when the evil inclination comes and seduces the person to sin, it appears to the person that if he will listen to the evil inclination and accept its advice, it will be pleasant for him. However, this is the exact problem. He is likened to someone who stretches himself out on a mound of warm tar on a rainy winter day. It feels pleasant for him at the moment that he is lying on the tar, since his body becomes warm and it feels good. However, at the moment that he wants to get up from where he is laying, it will be obvious that he is ensnared in a trap. His entire body is stuck to the tar and he is unable to move where he would like.
This is the situation of the person who has desires. At the time that he fulfills his desires and thereby becomes the captive of his will, it is good and comfortable for him. However, after the deed is done, his situation is really terrible! Deterioration has control over him and in his entirety, he is clinging to the bad.
Rabbi Chaim of Brisk would compare this to the Cossack soldiers that were present in his time. They would ride on horses and each one had his own personal horse that was given to him by the army.
It was the soldier’s obligation to watch, clean, care and preserve the welfare and health of his horse. It was forbidden to him to sell the horse that was put to his disposal. Rabbi Chaim said about this, “It is not correct to say that the Cossack has a horse. Rather, it should be said that the horse has a Cossack that serves it…” Desires are just like this. It is not that the desires serve the person. Rather, the person becomes a slave to his desires.
“When a person will bring an offering.” (1:2)
The sages explained (Yevamot 61A), “You [the Jewish people] are called ‘man’ and the idolaters are not called ‘man.’” This requires explanation. It says “you” in plural, which is referring to the entire Jewish nation together. However, they are really like one person in the sense that when one limb hurts, all of the body hurts. Accordingly, even though the Jewish people are spread out to the four corners of the earth, when one Jewish person is in pain, the entire Jewish nation joins him in his distress. However, it is not so with the other nations of the world. Even with gentiles who are members of the same nation, they do not feel the pain of another.
It is accurately said in the name of Rabbi M. Shapira that if a Jew sins through any transgression, immediately, Hashem’s anger is released upon all of the Jewish people. They are all blamed, since they are all prone to the same thing. However, when one gentile does a sin, it would not occur to anyone to “hang the collar” on the neck of all of the gentiles. Therefore, the sages said, “You [the Jewish people] are called ‘man’” because the Jewish nation is like one person and the nations of the world are not.
“When a person will bring an offering from among you to Hashem.” (1:2)
The concepts of the sacrifices are deep and lofty and our intellect is not capable of understanding them. Even so, our sages have taught us many reasons and different hints that can be learned from the sacrifices and their concepts.
Nachmanides wrote that Hashem commanded the sinner to offer a sacrifice so that by bringing up the sacrifice on the altar, the sinner will think and contemplate that due to his multitude of sins, it is really fitting that his blood should be shed and his body should be burned. However, as a result of Hashem’s kindness, the possibility was given to a person to exchange his body for that of an animal. This sacrifice is in place of his life.
Very often, in the verses that discuss the matters of the sacrifices, we find the expression, “a pleasing fragrance, a fire-offering to Hashem.” According to the explanation of the sages, we should not think that the verse means to say that Hashem takes pleasure in the smell that rises up from the sacrifices. Rather, the pleasure that is mentioned here is referring to the fact that Hashem, as it were, takes pleasure from His children who were commanded about this and fulfill His will. Therefore, there is also no difference between the important and honorable sacrifice of a wealthy man and the small and poor mincha offering of a poor man. This is because, as it says, the principle issue is the intent of the heart, which is to do the will of our Father in Heaven.
In our times, unfortunately, we have not yet merited having the Holy Temple and the sacrifices. Thus, the sages have taught us about matters that are important and equal in some ways to the sacrifices.
It says in the Talmud (Brachot 26A), “Prayer is in the place of sacrifices” and it is even more important than the sacrifices. Regarding this concept, the Midrash brings a nice parable.
A wise man had a son who would bring his father two meals every day, one in the morning and one in the evening. As time went by, the son became poor and he could not afford to serve his father these meals as he was accustomed. The wise man saw this and said to his son, “My dear son, I know that you are no longer capable of giving me the pleasure of two meals. Therefore, I request of you to come to the house of study and hear me speak words of Torah twice a day when I give a speech, in the morning and in the evening. Your listening will be as pleasurable to me as those two meals that you were accustomed to giving me.”
The comparison is as follows. Hashem said to the Jewish nation, “In the past, you would bring two tamid sacrifices every day. It is revealed and known before Me that in the future, the Holy Temple will be destroyed. From then on, I only ask of you to recite the Shema prayer in the morning and in the evening, which is more pleasant to Me than all of the sacrifices.”
It also says in the Talmud that if a person engages in Torah study, it is as if he brought a burnt, mincha, sin and guilt offering. The sages said that this especially applies when one learns and engages in the study of the matters of the sacrifices. This is like what is brought in the Talmud that Abraham said to Hashem, “At the time that the Holy Temple will be in existence, the sacrifices will atone for their sins. When the Holy Temple will no longer be in existence, then what will happen with them?”
Hashem said to Abraham, “I have already composed for them what to recite about the sacrifices [in their prayers]. When they recite it before Me and engage in its study, I will consider it as if they offered them before Me and I will forgive them for all of their sins.”
[Imagine] a person who has a great deal of money and lives a life of luxury and pleasure in a big and spacious house with many rooms that are decorated in splendor. There are cooks and chefs who prepare excellent food for him. There are even servants who stand around him to fulfill whatever request comes out of his mouth. When a wealthy man, as this one, needs to travel far away, he is not worried at all about what he will do during the trip, where he can find nice and comfortable quarters to live in, where to find good food and where to find servants to tend to him. He does not worry, since he knows very well that for all of these things, he only needs to do one thing, which is to bring with him a great deal of money. In exchange for money, he will have nice rooms in good hotels, he will attain excellent food in restaurants and even servants who will be ready to serve and wait on him.
For everything like this, the principle is money.
It is also similar with us. At the time that the Holy Temple was in existence and the House of Hashem stood firmly, we had a place where we could aspire to acquire all of our requests. A person would come and offer a sacrifice and be atoned for all of his sins. Or, he would offer a shlamim sacrifice and ask that Hashem should send blessings upon his endeavors. Hashem would always be available for our requests, since the power of the sacrifices in the Holy Temple was so great.
However, now that we are wandering in the streets, in the ways of exile, we at least need that little bit of cash that we still have with us, meaning, the Torah and prayer, as it says (Hosea 14:3), “Let our lips substitute bulls.” The Torah and prayers that leave a person’s lips are as if he brought a sacrifice. This is the purse of money through which even a person traveling on his way can attain all that he desires. Even though he is not living in his house, in any case, his money allows him to acquire whatever he wants.
(Mishlei HaChafetz Chaim)
“From the domestic animals, from the cattle and from the sheep you shall bring your offering.” (1:2)
We see that it was necessary to bring sacrifices of domestic animals and not of wild animals.
What is the explanation of this?
We find three reasons for this from our sages:
A) It is because the wild animals are not found near civilization and Hashem did not want to burden a person to search for them in the forests and deserts in order to bring a wild animal. Only domestic animals are found in civilized areas.
B) In Ecclesiastes (3:15) it says, “Hashem will seek out the chased one.” Domestic animals are always being chased by the wild animals that run after them. Therefore, Hashem did not choose wild animals.
C) It is because wild animals possess a certain element of haughtiness, which is not so with the domestic animals. Therefore, specifically, the domestic animals were chosen.
The commentators wrote that, even though there are three reasons, the third reason is the most significant one. The proof for this is that it says in the verse that in the ultimate future [in the times of the Messiah] “The wolf will live with the sheep, etc. and a calf, a lion and a sheep will be together and a young child will lead them. A cow and a bear will graze together and their offspring will lie down together. A lion, like cattle, will eat hay” (Isaiah 11:6-7). This means to say that on the day that these animals will be found in civilization and, similarly, they will not be pursuing each other, they still will not be chosen for sacrifices. Only species of domestic animals will serve that purpose.
According to this, they have explained the following verse from Psalms (51:19-20) in an alluding manner, “A heart, broken and humbled, Hashem, You will not despise.” Hashem loves the people who are lowly and the proof for this is “May it be Your will to bestow good upon Zion, You shall build the walls of Jerusalem.” In the ultimate future [in the times of the Messiah], when Hashem will build up Zion and Jerusalem, the wild animals will be present and they will not pursue each other. Even so, “Then You will desire the offerings of righteousness, burnt offering and whole offering. Then bulls will go up upon Your altar.” It is stated, specifically, about bulls, which are domestic animals that Hashem will desire to receive as offerings and not wild animals, since they have an element of the characteristic of haughtiness in them.
“And he shall sever its head and cause it to go up in smoke on the altar.” (1:15)
Why, for the burnt offerings of the birds, is the head separated from the body? However, for the chatat offerings [that were to atone for sin], it was the opposite – “He should not separate.”
It is necessary to explain this in an ethical manner. The sages said (Vayikra Rabbah 7:3), “A burnt offering is only brought because of thoughts of the heart.” One must be particular here. In reality, thoughts are in the brain. Why, then, did the sages use the expression “thoughts of the heart?” Similarly, we find this expression in the Torah, “Every product of the thoughts of his heart was only bad all day” (Genesis 6:5). Why does it say “thoughts of the heart” and not “thoughts of the brain?”
The truth of the matter is that a person’s brain and his thoughts are not completely under the person’s control. This is because the nature of thoughts is that they pass in a marathon-like manner through his brain and a person does not have the capability to completely prevent an improper thought from passing through him. This is like what the sages said that one of the things that a person is not saved from every day is thoughts of sin.
Hashem does not tend to come with complaints about this to His creations, since the principle criticism against a person is when the person does not eliminate the evil thoughts and continues to hold on to them until they settle in his heart. For this, atonement and repenting is surely necessary, since this matter is under his control. Therefore, the sages said that the burnt offering comes as an atonement for “the thoughts of the heart” and not for the thoughts of the brain.
This matter is alluded to in the fact that for the burnt offering, which atones for thoughts of the heart, the priest separates the head from the body that contains the heart. This is to teach that the main blemish and criticism against a person is that he carries the thought of his brain on into his heart that is in his body and he does not separate between them. However, the “sin offering of a bird” comes [to atone] for sins done by mistake and these mistakes are actions that were done with the person’s body without the acknowledgement of his intellect, which resides in his brain. Accordingly, regarding atonement, it is the opposite, since his deeds were carried out as a result of being separated from his thoughts in his head.
Even though the act was done in error, in any case, this is the overall rule regarding mistaken sins. When a person does a deed without the direction of the brain, his sin is considered mistaken. Therefore, we do not sever [the head] for the sin offering of a bird.
The way to distance and separate oneself from the sin of the evil thoughts of the heart is different than the way one distances himself from other sins. For all other sins it is suggested to remember the sin’s evil and its destructiveness, which is an aspect of “My sin is always opposite me.” However, with this sin, it is the opposite.
Rabbi Chaim of Shash clarified this with a story. Once, a wise man went out to the fields, which were outside of the city during the harvesting season in order to harvest some guarded wheat that would be used to bake matzot for Passover. An officer passed by riding on a horse. When he saw the rabbi, he approached him and said, “Tomorrow I must stand before the king, since I was called upon to offer an accounting of an incident. I would like you to write a mystical amulet for me so that I should succeed.”
The rabbi understood that if the officer was asking him for a mystical amulet, it is a sign that he has what to be afraid of … He declined and said that he does not know how to deal with mysticism. However, the officer took his sword out of its sheath and declared that if he does not receive the mystical amulet immediately, he would kill the rabbi. If he would receive the amulet and it would not serve its function, then he will not be still or rest until he would take his revenge out upon the rabbi.
The rabbi saw that he could not escape from him. He took out a piece of paper and spread out many mixed up letters on it and said to him, “You should hang this amulet around your neck during the meeting and it is guaranteed that you will be saved from his hands and no bad will happen to you. But,” he added, “this is only on condition that you will not think about a cat.”
“I should not think about what?” the officer was surprised.
“About a cat,” the rabbi said. “You should not think about a cat during the meeting because that will damage the power of the mystical amulet.”
“Of course I will not think about a cat,” promised the officer. “What a bizarre condition! Who would ever think about a cat! A cat… what an idea…”
In reality, who ever thinks about a cat? The officer folded up the mystical amulet and hung it around his neck and he went confidently up to the palace, reminding himself that he is safe from all evil as long as he does not think about a … but, no, it is forbidden for him to think about it. It is forbidden to think about it, so, therefore, it is forbidden to think that it is forbidden to think about a cat. A cat, how strange. No, no, it is forbidden to think about it. However, unfortunately, during the whole meeting, the cat did not leave his thoughts. He was not surprised that the mystical amulet did not serve its function and he was punished with all of the severity of the judgment and he lost his position.
We have here that the efforts not to think about something is what causes one to think about it and contemplate it. If so, how can one be saved from the thoughts of the heart?
Maimonides taught us (at the end of Hilchot Asurei Biah), “One should accustom himself to be distanced from mockery and drunkenness and he should turn himself and his thoughts to matters of Torah and widen his intellect with wisdom. Thoughts of impurity can only overpower him when the heart is empty of wisdom!” The “do good” brings about the “turn away from bad!”
“When a person will sin.” (4:2)
Rabbi Yosef of Shash asked as follows. A person who sinned made his soul ugly, darkened the [spiritual] light and cut off his soul from its roots. This is as the Or HaChaim wrote, regarding the verse “When a person will sin,” that the soul of a wicked person is lacking as a result of his bad deeds. For this reason, a wicked man is called a dead person during his lifetime, since [it is as if] he does not have a soul! If so, how can the tribulations of his body atone for the soul, return the light to him and make his soul desirable to his Creator?
He answered this with a story that he saw in a book.
One of the officers of the sultan had an only son, who was pampered and immature and was very interested in clothing. He sewed beautiful clothing, suits and cloaks from different materials. He was not at peace until he traveled by boat to the capital city Paris and bought a roll of excellent fabric of which there was no other in terms of beauty and delicateness. He brought it to the designer of the sultan’s reign and he sewed a set of beautiful clothing out of it. They were gorgeous and made everyone amazed.
Once of the sultan’s officers invited his friends and acquaintances to a feast in honor of his son’s wedding. This was a fitting opportunity to beautify himself in the expensive clothing. The officer’s son dressed himself and went to the feast. As expected, looks of appreciation and jealousy were aimed in his direction. One of the counselors approached him and felt the garment with his hands. His amazement overpowered him and he said, “This garment is fitting for the sultan!”
The youth’s heart swelled and he replied arrogantly, “I am more important than the sultan!”
All those who were envious of him were diligent in spreading evil speech about him and his response [to the counselor] passed from one mouth to the other’s ear until it reached the sultan. He imprisoned him and brought him to court for disgracing the royalty. There was only one punishment fitting for this guilt: to cut off his head by sword so that everyone should hear and see and not commit this sin!
They brought the decree before the sultan for approval.
The sultan knew that this was just an outburst of foolishness and the officer’s son did not intend to rebel against him. The sultan remembered the loyalty and services of the devoted officer, the father of the youth who was glorifying himself. What did he do? He instructed that sharp scissors should be brought before him and the youth should also be brought. The sultan held the scissors and the lad was brought forward. The sultan ordered that the beautiful garment be brought before him that the youth had prided himself with so much. The sultan took the garment and started to cut it into pieces with scissors, tear it into strips, thereby, destroying it completely. The youth was looking on with yearning eyes while trembling, shaking and whispering, “Please, my master, the King, have pity on the cloak. Please do not destroy the coat. Please have mercy on my expensive clothing.” The sultan continued to tear and cut without mercy and the youth was shocked and fainted…
The king instructed that he should be revived and said, “He has already received his punishment. He already learned the lesson, so let him keep his life.” They parted in peace.
We find, then, that in the merit of tribulations to the body, the soul is exempt from punishment and becomes desirable before its Creator.
“And he shall confess about his sin.” (5:5)
Rabbi Yosef Berabi wrote that this was written about one who confesses with his mouth and says “I sinned” without meaning it with his heart, which is still stuffed and sealed, as it says that “With his mouth and his lips he honored Me and his heart is far from Me” (Isaiah 29:13). What is one who does this likened to? He gave a parable and said as follows.
Once there was a king who wanted to do a kindness with one of his officers. He heaped much goodness upon him and raised him above all of his officers and servants. The officer became arrogant until he was even haughty towards the king himself. They came and told the king that the officer spoke about him mockingly and disgracefully. Others came and told that the officer nullified some of the king’s appointments and he appointed his own people. Other people came and told that due to his arrogance, he degraded the commands of the king and transgressed his laws.
“With justice, a king sets the land straight.” The king appointed an investigating judge, who conducted a good number of testimonies and the matter was correct and true.
The king became very angry with him and said, “I raised him from the garbage dumps and I showered a great deal of goodness upon him! First of all, I will take my gifts away from him and we will see what he will still be proud of!”
He instructed the royal scribe to write that the palace of the officer should return to being the king’s property and that his gold and silver should return to the treasury of the king, his chariot should be confiscated…
When no one was looking, one of the people present, who was loyal to this officer from the king’s court, slipped away. He hurried to inform his master about what had taken place – about the accusations that were brought up and about the punishment he was going to receive. The officer was afraid, since he saw that his bad luck was coming upon him from the king.
His advisor told him, “The only advice for you is to come before the king and ask for his forgiveness. Perhaps, he will have mercy and pity and he will allow you to remain in your position.”
He saw that the officer was hesitant to lower his honor into the dust. He pressed him and said, “Hurry, the king is about to seal the command and then everything will be lost. This is because it is written that what is written in the name of the king and sealed by the king’s ring can not be retracted!”
The officer understood that there was no other way. Immediately, he called for his agent, told him what to say and sent him to the king.
In the meantime, the royal scribe had finished writing the document of confiscation and he brought it before the king. Then, whispering passed among those who were present. They made room for the agent of the officer’s household, who stood before the king’s throne and said, “I am being sent as a loyal subject of his highness, my master, head of the royal officers. He commanded me to tell the king, who is high in his splendor, that, indeed, he did sin and acted without thinking. He requests that he should be forgiven for his deeds and that you should forgive his error.”
With every word that he said, the king’s face became darker with anger and a purple blush covered his face.
“Have you finished speaking?” the king finally asked angrily.
“Yes, indeed,” the messenger said.
“Are you going to return to your master?” the king continued to ask.
“Indeed,” the messenger confirmed.
The king took the letter of confiscation and stamped his seal on it and said, “Give this to him!” With great anger he added, “Such brazenness! He knows that his life is hanging by a thin thread and that all of his wealth and his position are in danger. He knows that he has exaggerated badly and that his deeds that were discovered have aroused anger and wrath. He knows that the only option left is to come before me, to prostrate before my feet, to cry with tears and to cry out with pleas. However, his arrogance does not allow this, even when he is in great danger! He sends me his messenger who is his servant, his agent. Just for this, he is worthy of being punished with all of the severity of judgment!”
The comparison is as follows. The king is the King of all Kings, the Holy One, Blessed be He. The officer who the king raised and gave everything to him is the heart of a person. This is like what the sages said that “Hashem desires the heart” (Sanhedrin 106). Hashem wants that our hearts should be devoted to Him. However, one’s heart is arrogant, has desires and rebels against its King and then the King becomes angry.
The heart then knows that its bad luck is coming upon it and that the only option is to confess and subdue itself. What does it do? It sends a messenger, which is the mouth, to confess…
The only thing that this confession can do is arouse the King’s anger sevenfold when the mouth and lips honor Him, but the heart remains hidden in its dark and sealed palace, elevating and priding itself.
Who is that faithful friend who will hurry to the heart and give it an advice, “Come out of your sealed exterior! Get up and call out to your G-d! Perhaps, He will heed to your pleas when you pour out your heart in front of Him!”?
(Ben Porat Yosef)