Contemporary Lessons from the Torah Portion
Topic: Forgiveness & Reconciliation
Text: Vayikra: Leviticus 5:20-26
20 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying:
21 When a person sins and commits a trespass against the LORD by dealing deceitfully* with his fellow in the matter of a deposit, or of a pledge, or through robbery*, or by defrauding* his neighbor;
22 or by finding something lost and lying about it; if he swears falsely regarding any one of the various things that one may do and thus
23 when one has sinned in this way and, realizing his guilt, he must restore that which he got through robbery or fraud, or the deposit that was entrusted to him, or the lost thing that he found
24 or anything else about which he has sworn falsely, he shall repay the principal amount and add a fifth part to it. He shall pay it to its owner when he realizes his guilt.
25 Then he shall bring to the priest, as his penalty to the LORD, a ram without blemish from the flock, or the equivalent, as a reparation offering.
26 The priest shall make atonement on his behalf before the LORD, and he shall be forgiven for whatever he may have done to draw blame thereby.
*Robbery – taking what belongs to another
*Defrauding – fraud, i.e. withholding from another something that is owed
What are examples of intentional offenses?
People who deliberately misappropriate property or funds entrusted to their safekeeping, or defraud another, or fail to restore lost property they had located.
2. What happens when the defendant is sued and then lies under oath and claims no responsibility? How is this type of deceit complicated because there are likely no witnesses?
Without witnesses, the aggrieved party had no further recourse and sustained a great loss.
3. What if the accused later admits to having lied under oath – thus assuming liability for the unrecovered property?
They are given the opportunity to clear themselves by:
* making restitution and paying a fine of 20% to the aggrieved party
Other repercussions for lying under oath:
The accused has also offended God and is obligated to offer a guilt offering to make amends.
*To sin against God by dealing deceitfully(5:21) – To cheat another person is to sin against God as well as that person. “It is worse to rob a human being than to steal from God.” (BT BB 88b).
Akiva taught that whenever two people enter into an agreement, each is relying on the divine dimension of the other, the part of the person this is the image of God and knows what is right and what is wrong, making God a witness to every transaction. To betray that trust is to deny the Divine image in our selves, and to deny God’s participation in our activities.
4. How is the issue of compensation addressed?
Once the guilty party has made financial compensation, s/he is still required to go to the priest to make an offering – Why this additional form of amends?
5. Why does the text state that following the sacrifice, the guilty part is forgiven by The Holy One?
5:26 *And he shall be forgiven – “The gates of repentance are open for anyone who does wrong and then realizes it and seeks to make amends.” (Hasidic wisdom)
What does this text teach about forgiveness and reconciliation?
RESOURCE: Etz Hayim Torah and Commentary (RA-USCJ), pp.604-605
Nina J. Mizrahi, Community Rabbi