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Hard Wired for Error D'var Torah for Vayikra

03/08/2022 07:55:02 PM


Rabbi Moshe Rudin


A goodly portion of the third book of the Torah is devoted to the ritual aspects of basically saying, "Sorry, I screwed up.  Let me make amends and let me try to restore your trust and fix our relationship."  That is virtually the entirety of all of the laws of sacrifices, offerings, libations and sacred bread sharing.  All ritualized ways of saying, "I'm sorry."

Why the focus on mistakes?  

The answer to that question I believe points to the Torah's essential focus and the secret energy source of the Jewish people. 

Teddy Roosevelt famously said: "The only man who doesn't make mistakes is the man who doesn't do anything."  Applying this to Jewish civilization, by hard-wiring ways to own and fix mistakes right into the center of public life, by holding up the figure not of the perfect, flawless hero but of the Ba'al Teshuva- the self-aware individual who is able to admit to and to correct mistakes- as the ideal Jewish leader, the Torah's point is clear.  Better to act despite the possibility of error then to hesitate and to let the window of opportunity for action close. 

Let no mistake be made: the Torah-inspired leader reflects, plans, studies, considers deeply before acting.  But Judaism slants towards action.  Action inevitably results in mistakes.  But mistakes, properly processed, can lead to better action.  In fact, nothing else can.  

Sat, May 25 2024 17 Iyyar 5784