(c) 2000 Dr Hendel; 1st appeared in Torah Forum (c) Project Genesis

Date: Sun, 9 Jan 2000 22:05:39 -0500 (EST)
From: Russell Hendel <  rhendel@mcs.drexel.edu>
Subject: Re: Sacrifices and Forgiveness

QUESTION: What is the relation between Sacrifices and forgiveness?

ANSWER: It is commonly believed that we can substitute charity for

Point 1)Actually as Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch points out, charity and sacrifices
are COMPLEMENTS to sacrifices. Indeed, as Rav Hirsch cites gemarrahs
(Talmud), even
in the times of the Temple they still had prayer and sacrifices. Thus we
see that prayer  ALWAYS complemented (not substituted) for

Point 2) Just what do sacrifices atone for?

Missionaries frequently ask me about my 'sinner status' and how I will
achieve atonement. I explain to them that the word "sin" when used in
conjunction with sacrifices refers to ACCIDENTAL performance of a sin of
the type that carries the punishment of Karet if that Sin is performed with
full intent.  The
Talmud gives the following chilling example: A person lives in abject
poverty with his wife and sister. He comes home at night in a house without
lights and decides to have relations with his wife without waking her
up---then in the morning he finds that he has accidentally slept with his
sister (instead of his wife)

It is for a person like this that sacrifices atone. Sacrifices do not atone
for willful sins that we regret. They also do not atone for accidental sins
that are not major (like forgetting to say YAALEH VYAVOH on Rosh Chodesh).
Thus Sacrifices are really a special privelege that G-d gave to people who
are extremely low down (like the poor person mentioned above).

Point 3) What does substitute for sacrifices?

As mentioned prayer, confession (repentance) and charity do NOT substitute
for sacrifices. Rather they must always accompany them. There is an obscure
rule in the Talmud that LEARNING SACRIFICES substitutes for them. So if a
person accidentally desecrated the sabbath (eg he drove to shule and forgot
it was shabbos) then he is rabbinically obligated to study the laws of the
individual sin offering to atone for his sin. Using the methods of Rabbi
Samson Raphael Hirsch we see that since sacrifices are symbolic therefore
learning them can literally act as a substitute for their rich symbolic

I hope this helps in understanding this sometimes touchy topic

Russell Jay Hendel; Math; Phd ASA; RHendel@Towson.Edu