A very “shallow” person had just totaled their car in a horrific accident. Miraculously, they managed to pry themselves from the wreckage without a scratch and was combing their disheveled hair when the state trooper arrived.
“My G-d!” the trooper gasped. “Your car looks like an accordion that was stomped on by an elephant. Are you OK?”
“Yes, officer, I’m just fine” the person chirped.
“Well, how in the world did this happen?” the officer asked as he surveyed the wrecked car.
“Officer, it was the strangest thing! I was driving along this road when from out of nowhere this TREE pops up in front of me. So I swerved to the right, and there was another tree! I swerved to the left and there was ANOTHER tree! I served to the right and there was another tree! I swerved to the left and there was ....”
The officer said, cutting the person off, “There isn’t a tree on this road for 30 miles. That was your air freshener swinging back and forth!”
We learn in the Torah portion of Vayikra, a korban chatat (sin offering) must be brought for a sin which is committed unintentionally. A korban asham taluy (trespass offering for doubtful guilt) is brought if the person is not sure that he has committed a sin.
For example: A person was presented with two portions of meat that look alike. After eating one of them he learns that only one portion was kosher, the other was treife, and he is not sure which one he ate. In this instance he is required to bring an asham taluy (a doubtful guilt offering) for there is no way to determine if a sin was committed.
Interestingly, the doubtful guilt offering is a more expensive offering than a standard sin offering. To explain why:
The purpose of an offering is to arouse a Jew to return to G-d in repentance. If a person is sure that he has sinned, he feels a genuine regret and repents completely. If, however, there is doubt in his mind (as the possibility exists that no sin was really committed), it is much more difficult for him to experience regret and return to G-d with a whole heart. Accordingly, the offering he must bring is more costly than the one he would be required to offer if his sin were a known fact.
At first glance it may not make sense that a person should not be held accountable for an involuntary, unintentional action. Nonetheless, we see that there is an obligated to bring an offering, as his soul needs to undergo refinement.
The very fact that a person has come to sin - even unintentionally, without forethought - is proof that his spiritual standing is not what it should be. Those things a person does “accidentally,” without plan and without intention, are indicative of his essential nature. The actions we perform automatically, without thinking, reflect our true leanings and tendencies. They indicate those areas toward which we are most inclined.
A tzadik (righteous person) naturally performs actions that are good and holy. If, G-d forbid, a person commits a sin, even by “chance”, it shows that the negative side still wields some degree of influence and control. Thus a person is required to bring an offering for any sin he commits, even those that are committed without his volition.
The deeper we dig, the more we uncover. Our negative character is not something to ignore. G-d gives each of us the strength, ability and opportunity for correction, redirection and transformation. It can be a costly offering, but the cost of ignoring it much greater. Have a good Shabbos.
Rabbi Shraga Sherman
Based on the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Likutei Sichot, Vol. 3, lchaimweekly.org