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Parshat Vayikra: Leviticus 1:1-5:26; Deuteronomy 26:17-19; I Samuel 15:1-34. (Shabbat Zachor)

By Rabbi Hershel Finman

This week, the portion discusses the procedure for various sacrifices.

One such sacrifice was the sin offering. A person was obligated to bring a sin offering if he unintentionally transgressed a commandment whose intentional violation would be punished by death. There was a sliding scale for this sacrifice. A rich person brought an ox; middle class, goat or sheep; poor, two pigeons; destitute, flour and oil. The Rambam, Rabbi Moshe Maimonides, writes that if a rich person were to bring an offering of flour and oil, his obligation would not have been met. It did, however, suffice for a poor person to bring an ox.

The Alter Rebbe, first Lubavitcher Rebbe, writes in his Letters of Repentance, that in this time, when we can no longer bring sin offerings, a person should increase in his service to HaShem. If one learns one chapter daily, he should increase to two. If one gives one penny to charity, let him give two, etc.

Even in Temple times, the sacrifice did not provide a magical formula for sin removal. There has never been a quick fix for repentance. The main emphasis was and is on the person increasing in his Avodas HaShem, service of the Creator. By sinning, a person puts a blemish or dent in his soul. This blemish has a direct effect on his connection to God. By doing teshuva, repenting, one fills in those dents and fissures and repairs the attachment.

The Rebbe explains that poverty is only in knowledge. When we first start learning, we are poor. As we grow in Yiddishkeit, we attain wealth. A wealthy person, one who is well developed in Judaism, cannot suffice with doing simple things. A poor person, one who is not as knowledgeable, is commended for extending himself beyond what is expected.


• Do you have a “dent” in your soul from sinning? What is it?
• Have you repaired the “dent”? If not, how will you do so?

Rabbi Herschel Finman is co-director (with his wife Chana) of Jewish Ferndale and host of “The Jewish Hour” radio on WLQV 1500 AM – Sundays 11-noon; contact