CLERGY CORNER: Can G-d forgive men’s sins

Posted on 01 November 2017 by LeslieM

Like a shepherd examining his flock, causing his sheep to pass under his staff”

(Ancient Jewish Prayer)

Why is this parable used to describe the experience of G-d judging us?

In Jewish law, we tithe our sheep, allowing each to pass through a narrow door, and every tenth one is dedicated for a sacred cause for an offering to G-d.

What happens if the animal has a blemish and is not worthy to be used as an offering? The animal still becomes sacred, yet exchanges it for money, conferring its holiness on the money with which we will purchase a complete one for an offering.

The only way that the animal can be disqualified is if the animal would have died within 12 months on its own due to an illness. Such an animal is not only not good for G-d on the altar, but cannot be eaten by kosher observant Jews even if slaughtered correctly. If the tenth animal happens to be disqualified, then it never becomes holy.

Why doesn’t the blemished animal get off the hook, but the ill one does?

Because the blemished animal is still kosher to eat if slaughtered correctly; however, it is only forbidden to be brought as a sacrifice on the altar. But an animal that is ill and forbidden even from Jews to eat, that can’t become holy.

This is a profound message. If I have a blemish and I can’t be brought as an offering to the Holy Temple, I am still holy and G-d forgives our blemishes. But if I am ill, if I can’t be taken even by people, if people hate me, then G-d can’t forgive me. I need to apologize to the people.

On this unique concept of clemency, in a show of unrestrained compassion, G-d forgives any sin He can, but He does not forgive those he “cannot.” How can G-d forgive a sin which I have committed against Mr. Goldberg? G-d is not Goldberg; for a sin I committed against G-d, G-d can forgive me. For a sin I commit against Goldberg — Goldberg has to forgive me!

Only those who were wronged can right. Only he who has suffered and only he against whom a crime has been committed is entitled to forgive, if he so desires.

The story is told of the rabbi of Brisk who was once unassumingly traveling home on the train. He shared company with a group of callous Jews playing cards. Bothered by his aloof attitude, one of them demanded that he join the game or leave the car. When the rabbi didn’t comply, the fellow physically removed him from the train car.

When the train arrived at Brisk, also the stop of the offender, he was shocked to see the throngs of people who stood there waiting to greet their rabbi. Mortified, he ran over to ask forgiveness but was denied. The rabbi would not forgive his abuser. Not able to be calmed, he tried again and again. Finally, he made contact with the rabbi’s son and begged him to find a way for him to be absolved.

The boy, surprised at his father’s uncharacteristic behavior, agreed to do whatever possible. He visited his father and began discussing the laws of forgiveness. Their discussion touched upon the law that a person must not turn away someone asking his forgiveness more than three times. Taking his cue, the boy asked his father, “What about So-and-So; he’s asked you to forgive him numerous times; yet, you deny him forgiveness?”

He replied, “Him? I cannot forgive him for he didn’t offend me, the rabbi of Brisk; he offended the simpleton he took me to be. If he would have known who I was, he would have never behaved this way; he assumed I was a simpleton and hence he can violate my dignity. I cannot forgive him, because it was not me who he shamed. Let him ask forgiveness from a simpleton.”

Rabbi Tzvi Dechter is the director of Chabad of North Broward Beaches, located in the Venetian Isle Shopping Center at 2025 E. Sample Rd. in Lighthouse Point. For all upcoming events, please visit

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