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Steven Zvi Gleiberman

​Should We Calculate Unintended Consequences?

The reason for offering animal sacrifices is an intergenerational subject of debate and curiosity. Rashi finds the phrase “a pleasant aroma for Hashem” complex, implying that Hashem can smell and find animal offerings pleasing. However, Rashi’s observations deepen our curiosity, and our understanding of animal sacrifices is ever evolving over time.

That being said, the Torah states that one sacrifices an animal when one sins, as a means of atonement and while the precise reasoning behind this practice is an ongoing topic of discussion and contemplation, the Torah does prescribe animal sacrifice as a means of atoning for one’s unintentional sins. But why? Why should someone sacrifice an animal when they sin? What is the connection between sacrificing an animal and sinning?

While I don’t fully understand the connection as to why sacrificing an animal can help in one’s atonement of one’s sins, I think there may be a possible connection between the two that we can learn a lesson from; i.e. the fact that the animal has nothing to do with the sin.

Let me explain…

When one sins, and they think that the only person they wronged is themselves, they are completely wrong. Every single decision that one takes and every single sin that one commits has an impact, even if it’s not visible or understandable at the moment.

Take for example, lying to someone; we think it’s only the person who we lied to, is the only one impacted. That’s incorrect. The Torah (Vayikra 5.21) states; “If a person sins, betraying Hashem by falsely denying to his fellow concerning a deposit”, what does betraying Hashem have to do within the equation of lying to a person? The answer is that when one lies and wrongs any person, Hashem is very much in the equation. Yet does one factor that in, when deciding whether to wrong someone or not?

Per Newtons 3rd Law; “for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” Newton is referring to intended consequences, such as since Object A exerts a force on Object B, Object B exerts an equal and opposite force on Object A. To take this to the next level, there are often ripple effects within reactions, that we call unintended consequences, and these need to be factored in as well. The fact that an animal, which had nothing to do with one’s sin is sacrificed, may serve to demonstrate that sinning may have completely unrelated consequences that we are not aware of at the moment, and that we recognizing that, should do everything within our power to not sin.

In a globalized world, which seems to get smaller by the day, due to increased technology and connectivity, in that when one sneezes in Paris, the Canadians are answering; “Bless You” [gesundheit], we must be careful about the decisions we make, because now more than ever, our actions, both positive and negative, and whether intentional or accidental, have a huuuuge impact.

Shabbat Shalom!

About the Author
StevenZvi grew up in Brooklyn and in his professional life worked in the healthcare industry in New York City. Wishing to create additional meaning and purpose in his life, he moved to Jerusalem in November 2020, where he lives with his wife, works in the Medical Technology space and volunteers for Hatzalah. He uses his writing capabilities as a healthy outlet not to receive money, recognition or fame. It’s his hope that his articles will have some positive impact on the Jewish nation and humanity worldwide. He may not live forever, but his contributions to society might.
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