Chodesh tov! With the dawn of the month of Nissan we begin a new book of the Torah, Vaykira. Although traditionally this is the book of the Torah which is more focused on practice and worship of God rather than stories, it contains nuggets of insight and inspiration. This week we will examine the following passage:
יג וְאִ֨ם כָּל־עֲדַ֤ת יִשְׂרָאֵל֙ יִשְׁגּ֔וּ וְנֶעְלַ֣ם דָּבָ֔ר מֵֽעֵינֵ֖י הַקָּהָ֑ל וְ֠עָשׂ֠וּ אַחַ֨ת מִכָּל־מִצְוֹ֧ת יְהֹוָ֛ה אֲשֶׁ֥ר לֹא־תֵֽעָשֶׂ֖ינָה וְאָשֵֽׁמוּ:
And if the entire community of Israel errs because a matter was hidden from the eyes of the congregation (they didn't know), and they commit one of all the commandments of the Lord, which may not be committed, incurring guilt
The situation in this verse is that for some reason, the community acted in a way that, unbeknownst to them, was counter to some law or commandment of God.
It might be strange to think that the community did not yet know the laws, but as we will soon discover we do this all the time.
The following are a list of 4 Australian laws, 3 are correct and one is false:
1. Wearing hot pink pants is illegal after midday on a Sunday
2.In Melbourne, vacuuming your house between 10pm and 7am during weekdays and 10pm and 9am during the weekends is against the law
3. Walking on the right-hand side of the road in Australia is illegal, even if you are walking on a footpath
4. Policemen are allowed to bite a dog if they think it will calm the dog down.
We, like all people, are surrounded by hundreds of laws which remain unknown to us.
What remains unique to the case in this week's parsha is the way in which we, as a people who have sinned, are able to repent for our sins. Usually when an individual sins in the time of the Mishkan (Tabernacle) they brought an individual sacrifice to atone for their sins. In the case of a congregation-wide side, a single offering is brought to God on behalf of all of the people. What we can see is that there is no direct correlation between the "amount" of sin and the corresponding atonement process. It is clear that in the case of the community sin that it is a nominal sacrifice that is brought, designed to educate the people to ensure that in the future such confusions are avoided. And so, rather than dwelling on the sin, the focus of any transgression is the future, and future improvement.
We remain imperfect and so we must remember that when we make mistakes, either as an individual or as a community that we must not dwell on our actions but rather, through the process of atonement, learn from our mistakes and try and better ourselves.
I wish you all a shabbat shalom and a chodesh tov.