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The articles in this column are transcriptions and adaptations of shiurim by Rav Joseph Ber Soloveitchik, zt”l. The Rav’s unique perspective on Chumash permeated many of the shiurim and lectures he presented at various venues over a 40-plus-year period. His words add an important perspective that makes the Chumash in particular, and our tradition in general, vibrant and relevant to our generation.

Rambam notes there is a positive obligation for an individual to repent and confess the sins he committed (Viduy). He specifies (Teshuva 1:1) the confession format as Ana Hashem Chatati (unintentional sin), Aviti (intentional) Pashati (rebellious) before You and I did such and such and I regret and am shamed by my actions and I commit never to return to my wanton ways. This format mirrors the High Priest on Yom Kippur who atoned for all the sins of Bnay Yisrael, including the three types of sins specified. Why does Rambam present this formula, including all three forms of sin, for the individual? After all, a person who recalls his transgressions should simply specify Chatati for unintentional sins, Aviti for intentional sins or Pashati for his rebellious acts.

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There are certain cases where halacha limits scope while others are characterized by universal inclusion. For example, we have the concept of Gilgul Shvua, one who is obligated to swear for one reason can be forced to swear on multiple things simultaneously. From another perspective, when we say praise Hashem, Shevach, we thank Him not only for the immediate favor, but we include all the good things He did. For example, when we say Modim in the Amidah, we include all miracles Hashem performs daily on our behalf. We include in Hallel thanks for taking us out of Egypt, and the other things Hashem does for us. Nishmat Kol Chai contains a litany of miracles and good that Hashem does for us on a regular basis. Just as an opening allows or requires additional similar thins (praise or oaths), the obligation to recite Viduy for one transgression opens the door to adding additional transgressions of various types that we must repent and admit guilt. Hence we group all 3 forms together. The person must admit that he has been a sinner by accident, on purpose and through rebellion all his life and that he has done the following specific acts.

Whereas one bringing a korban classifies it according to the sin committed, the repentant sinner has no right to classify his own sins as Shogeg (accidental), Mayzid (purposely) and Mered (rebellion). Regarding confession, Rambam says we cannot compare different sins or classify them nor can we evaluate their impact on us; only Hashem can. Sometimes the person thinks he is Shogeg but is really Mayzid. A father consulted the Rav if he should send his daughter to a dormitory in an Ivy League college and the Rav advised absolutely not. He did not listen and two years later he returned bitterly lamenting how his daughter was ready to intermarry and he was about to disinherit her. This individual was a zealot in his private life yet here he let his child go. Was he Shogeg or Mayzid? Who can tell? On the other hand there may be sins a person thinks he violated Mayzid yet in the eyes of Hashem he is considered Shogeg. Perhaps his transgressions were due to improper influence of friends, family and educators. Nowadays the overwhelming majority of Jews are completely ignorant of Judaism. Yet we cannot dismiss 95 % of the Jewish people. Perhaps they are Tinokot Shenishbu, uneducated child captives, hence they cannot violate Shabbat B’Mayzid. Rambam says that the children of the Sadducees should be considered as Tinokot Shenishbu and they should be brought close to Judaism. Torah promises at the end of days Bnay Yisrael will repent.

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Rabbi Joshua Rapps attended the Rav's shiur at RIETS from 1977 through 1981 and is a musmach of Yeshivas Rabbeinu Yitzchak Elchanan. He and his wife Tzipporah live in Edison, N.J. Rabbi Rapps can be contacted at ravtorah1@gmail.com.