Vayikra

Hidden within the laws of sin-offerings are some surprising possibilities. We find cases where mistakes are made by a priest, or by a prince, or by the whole people. “If all of Israel err, and anything is hidden from the eyes of the community…” Can an entire people be mistaken? Only if their judges and lawmakers fail them. In each case, the various leaders must publicly admit their mistake, press their hands on a guilt-sacrifice, and offer it to God. Mistakes happen and forgiveness is possible, we need to know that. But they don’t pass in silence. Crimes – even mistaken ones – occur when things are “hidden from the eye”. Bringing them to light re-establishes the bond between community and leaders.

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[Inspired by: Leviticus 4 and commentaries on 4:13; Mishnah Horayot, chapter 1; Maimonides’ Guide to the Perplexed III 41:14; and Richard Westall’s Sword of Damocles.]

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