Latest update: July 30th, 2014
One of the factors that affects the balance between mercy and justice is prayer. When we daven, a big part of what we request is for Hashem to show mercy, meaning Hashem should shift the balance from justice to mercy. Without abdicating responsibility for my actions, I ask Hashem to judge me with a greater measure of mercy, taking into account all the extenuating factors that lessen the severity of the judgment. If, in fact, my prayers are effective in changing the balance, then the same act that might otherwise have been severely punished may now be overlooked. Judged by a different standard, it isn’t as egregious.
This seems to be the answer to the question. As great as the kohen gadol might be, if he were judged with complete din, even he would not survive. At some point in his life he must have done something wrong. If that action would now be judged with strict din, he would die.
When the shogeg killer davens, he is asking Hashem to have mercy on him and let him go home. The only way this can happen is if the kohen gadol dies. But according to the current system of judgment, the kohen gadol is an innocent man and deserves to live. The prayers of the shogeg killer change the system of judgment that is used. With more din in force, even the kohen gadol becomes guilty. Under those exacting standards, he deserves to die. For that reason, the mother of the kohen gadol would do everything in her power to prevent the shogeg killer from davening. She was aware of the power of prayer.
This concept is very relevant to our lives. Often we may find ourselves thinking, “How much of a difference can my davening make? If I am destined to get this, then Hashem will give it to me. If I am worthy of it, Hashem will provide it for me. What difference do my tefillahs make?”
The answer is that they make a huge difference. Not with regard to me, and not with regard to whether I merit that which I am asking for, but with regard to the system of judgment that is applied to me under the circumstances. Judged with favor, I might merit great things. Judged with strict justice, I might merit very little. We daven to Hashem to change the system; He should use mercy and not justice.
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