145/929 Celebrating Sin. Bamidbar 28

Oy. Can’t we Jews ever just have fun? Why is it that on every holiday, with every celebration, along with all of the festive sacrifices, a sin offering is brought? These sin offerings even have a faint echo nowadays in the series of fasts known as Beha”b, fasts on the Monday, Thursday, and Monday following a festival, to atone for any impropriety that may have come along with all the merriment.

But rather than see this recognition of sin in a negative light, it can be seen as a healthy acknowledgment that sin is a part of life. It shouldn’t be ignored- a time and place should be dedicated to atonement, but it needn’t be obsessed over, or feared. Perhaps it can even be celebrated.

After all, God asks that we bring a sin offering for him as well.

Picking up on the unique formulation used for the sin offering of Rosh Chodesh, “a sin offering for God”, Resh Lakish boldly suggests that God is asking the Jewish people to atone for His sin of lessening the light of the moon at the dawn (sorry, moon) of creation.

What’s interesting about Resh Lakish’s drasha is not only that God is apologizing, but that God is apologizing for something we see positively. Being small has its advantages. The Midrash points out that the moon’s diminution allows it to be present during the day as well as the night, and this is taken as a symbol for the Jewish people, who will exist in this world and the world to come, despite their diminutive stature compared to the nations. When we bless the moon when it is at its smallest, we focus on its ability to renew itself. The moon represents the possibility of growth, and so the Jewish people are a moon people, aspiring to continual growth and renewal.

Which explains why God is apologizing for something positive. He is simply modeling the gift He has given the Jewish people. What allows for the waxing of the moon is its waning, and what allows for growth is the ability to make mistakes, and to apologize for them. Every holiday, we are invited to emulate God, to celebrate our sins, and the opportunity to atone for them.

About the Author
Avidan Freedman is the rabbi of the Shalom Hartman Institute's Hevruta program, an educator Hartman Boys High School in Jerusalem, and an activist against Israeli weapons sales to human rights violators.
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