“When a person will sin unintentionally … “ (Vayikra 4:2)
The Talmud (Shabbos 12b) tells of an incident where a sin was done unintentionally. Our sages taught that one may not read on Shabbos by the light of the candle lest he adjust it. R’ Yishmael ben Elisha said: I will read and I will not adjust. However, once he read and did adjust the wick. He then said: How great are the words of the sages who said that one may not read by candlelight, as even a person like me adjusted the wick. Afterward he wrote in his notebook: I, Yishmael ben Elisha read and adjusted the candle on Shabbos. When the Temple will be rebuilt, I will bring a fat sin-offering as an atonement for my sin.
The question is asked: What did R’ Yishmael ben Elisha mean when he said he would bring a “fat sin-offering”? Although one must bring a sin-offering for chillul Shabbos (desecrating the Shabbos), the Torah does not stipulate that the sacrificial animal must be either fat or lean.
The Chasam Sofer cites his Rebbi, R’ Nosson Adler, who says that R’ Yishmael ben Elisha actually transgressed two aveiros. He adjusted the wick of the candle on Shabbos, which is a Torah prohibition and he violated a rabbinic injunction against reading by the light of a candle on Shabbos. Indeed, one must bring a sin-offering for the transgression of a Torah prohibition, but one does not bring a sacrifice for the violation of a rabbinic prohibition. Nevertheless, R’ Yishmael ben Elisha wanted to atone for his secondary transgression. He therefore chose to bring a large animal to symbolically indicate his desire for atonement.
The Vilna Gaon highlights a correlation to R’ Yishmael’s statement, “How great are the words of the sages who said…” in Sanhedrin (21b), where R’ Yitzchak asks why the rationales of the Torah commandments were not revealed. In response, the Talmud cites two examples where such a revelation was counterproductive. The Torah states (Devarim 17:16), “The king shall not accumulate many horses for himself so that he will not return the people to Egypt in order to increase horses.” Shlomo HaMelech said, “I will accumulate many horses, but I will not return.” We learn later (Melachim I, 10:29), “A chariot was brought out of Egypt for six hundred pieces of silver and horses for a hundred and fifty …”
The Talmud tells us (ibid.) that Shlomo HaMelech had 40,000 large stables, and each one had in it 4,000 stalls for horses.
It also says (Devarim 17:17), “The king shall not add many wives for himself so that his heart should not turn away.” Shlomo HaMelech said: I will add many but I will not turn away,” yet we learn later (Melachim I, 11:4), “… when Shlomo was old his wives turned away his heart …” The Talmud tells us that one of Shlomo’s wives was the daughter of Pharaoh. When he married her, says the Yad Rama, King Shlomo lost some of his wealth. The Talmud (Shabbos 56b) relates that Pharaoh’s daughter brought him a thousand musical instruments which had been used for idolatry, and Shlomo did not protest. Also, the Angel Gavriel put a pole in the sea when Shlomo married the daughter of Pharaoh. A sandbar grew around it, growing larger each year and creating new, dry land, upon which the great city of Rome was built. It was the Romans who were instrumental in the destruction of the Temple.
The fact that Shlomo HaMelech was provided with a rationale for the Torah prohibitions actually contributed to his undoing.
It is brought down in the Shulchan Aruch that during the days before Pesach it is important to engage in the mitzvah of ma’os chitim. This is in order to ensure that everyone who is in need has the necessary provisions to celebrate the Yom Tov of Pesach properly with food, matzah and wine.
I was recently approached for Pesach funds on behalf of a widow with young children. She had never needed to be at the receiving end of assistance, but she was now in a position where she needed money simply to feed her family for Pesach. Her dire circumstances were overwhelming for her, and I was asked to offer the young widow divrei chizuk. I readily agreed to the request and awaited the woman’s call.
When the widow called, she was practically in tears. I explained to her that she was, in fact, doing more for us – by giving us the opportunity to dispense tzedakah and provide for Hashem’s children – than we were doing for her. The Medrash Vayikra Rabbah tells us that more than the wealthy person does for the poor, the poor man does for the wealthy. Moreover, I said gently, the money one gives to tzedakah not only serves as an eternal merit in this world and the next, but it also has the power to atone for our sins and to be a source of increased parnassah. It would be my greatest simcha, I told her, to meet her children and give them a bracha. She expressed a strong desire and interest in this offer, but said she was just too embarrassed to come over with them in person. Nevertheless, I suggested that she keep my number in the event that she changed her mind.
To my surprise, she called a few days later and asked if she could take me up on my offer. The children were well-behaved and respectful and definitely excited to get a bracha. As I gave each one a candy with a small prize, the mother stood by with tears in her eyes, as the children jumped with delight.
I invite all our loyal readers of the Jewish Press and friends of Klal Yisroel to share in this great mitzvah and give chizuk to families, individuals, and children in need. In the zechus of your contribution, may you merit blessing and success, a year of good health, nachas, happiness and prosperity.
Please send your contribution to Khal Bnei Yitzchok Yom Tov Fund, c/o Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser, 1336 E. 21 Street, Brooklyn, NY 11210. If you wish, you can Zelle your payment to 718-954-4343. If you would like any special tefillos to be offered for a shidduch, shalom bayis, parnassah, or a refuah, please include the person’s name and the mother’s name.