Embarrassment and Atonement by Ahron Glazer



    In describing the laws relating to a Korban Chatas, the sin offering brought by an individual who committed a sin inadvertently, the Posuk says "וכפר עליו הכהן ונסלח לו,"  "and the Kohein shall make atonement for him and he shall be forgiven" (ויקרא ד':ל"א).  What exactly is it that provides this person with his atonement?  An earlier Posuk states that the animal brought for this Korban is a female goat (שם פסוק כ"ח), while a later Posuk states that one may bring a female lamb for this Korban as well (שם פסוק ל"ב).  Chazal tell us that when a person brings a female goat as a Korban, he causes himself embarrassment.  Everyone who sees this offering immediately realizes that the person is bringing it for having committed his sin, because there is no other Korban for which a female goat is brought.  This is unlike the lamb offering, for example, which can be offered for other reasons aside from as a Korban Chatas.
    Rabbi Naftali Tzvi Yehudah Berlin, known as the Netziv, in his Sefer Haamek Davar (לפסוק ל"א שם), notes that here, regarding the goat offering, the Torah's wording is "and he shall be forgiven," and the text doesn't include the phrase "for his sin" as it does later in reference to the lamb offering (שם פסוק ל"ה).  The reason for this, writes the Netziv, is that when a person brings a female goat as a Korban Chatas, he accepts upon himself embarrassment for his sin even though he has an alternative.  He could offer a lamb as a Korban Chatas, and people will not realize that he has sinned, but by bringing a goat, he causes himself embarrassment. The Netziv says that a person who sins and then feels embarrassment over his sin is forgiven for all of his sins.  Therefore, when referring to the case where the sinner feels embarrassment, the Torah states in general that "he shall be forgiven," meaning, he shall be forgiven for all his wrongs.
    When a person feels embarrassed about his sins, he can ultimately feel positive about these painful feelings.  Such feelings show that he has a strong sense of values and that he really wants to refrain from doing wrong.  Guilt feelings are problematic only if a person feels that it is inappropriate for him to feel guilty.  When, however, a person sees the positive aspects of his embarrassment, and understands that he must change his ways because of it, he still suffers, but it is a fruitful suffering, and one that can be coped with.  This embarrassment will motivate the person to keep away from similar wrong-doing in the future.  Because these feelings lead to improvement and elevation, a person will feel positive when he experiences this embarrassment, and this will help bring about his atonement.

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