Kenneth Cohen

People Make Mistakes

Parshat Vayikra deals with the various types of sacrifices offered on different occasions and in different situations.

After enumerating these sacrifices, the Torah goes on to discuss the reality that people do make mistakes and are capable of sinning against Hashem.

There is even the very real possibility that individuals in high positions, will sim inadvertently. The Torah begins with the transgression of the anointed Kohein, an error made by the Sanhedrin, the highest court, and the Nassi, a head of one of the tribes.

In each instance, there is a special sacrifice offered to atone for this unfortunate error. However, the language regarding the Nassi, is quite telling. The wording is, אשר נשיא יחטא, “When the Nassi will sin.” If we notice that the first letter of each of these three words, is אני, which is a hint to selfishness, or, “It’s all about me.”

The Torah is making a subtle warning that “power corrupts.” And when people are in positions of power, they get carried away into believing that they have a strong sense of entitlement. This will ultimately, get them into trouble.

It has been said that one of the proofs of the truth of Judaism, as opposed to other religions, is that Judaism acknowledges the fallibility of its leaders, while other religions, do not. Moshe Rabbeinu and King David sinned, and still achieved greatness. Perfection belongs to G-d, not man.

Because “messing up” and making bad decisions, happens to everyone, the Torah offers remedies, to atone for such transgressions. It is also a reminder that no matter how far we may have sunk, there is always room for repentance.

About the Author
Rabbi Cohen has been a Torah instructor at Machon Meir, Jerusalem, for over twenty years while also teaching a Talmud class in the Shtieblach of Old Katamon. Before coming to Israel, he was the founding rabbi of Young Israel of Century City, Los Angeles. He recently published a series of Hebrew language-learning apps, which are available at