This week’s Thoughts have more Scripture quoted than usual because I believe the subject is well covered in the Scriptures and does not need a large amount of exegetical commentary. With that said, a few weeks ago, I came across the following quotation on Heimish Humor, a page that I follow on Facebook.
I like how Judaism has six different guilt offerings, one of which is an “I’m not sure if I am guilty, but I’m probably guilty, so I’ll bring a sacrifice just in case I’m guilty” offering.
Some, like me, may find this as humorous, while others may be tilting their head and saying, “huh?”. Humorous or not, the condition of being guilty is mentioned at least eleven times in this week’s parasha, Vayikra, Leviticus 1:1 – 5:26.1 Two verses stood out as I read through the passage,
When anyone of the common people [in other words, that’s all of us] sins unwittingly by doing one of ADONAI’s mitzvot that are not to be done, then he is guilty. (Leviticus 4:27)
Now if anyone sins and [does] one of ADONAI’s commandments that are not to be done, though he did not know it, still he is guilty and will bear his iniquity. (Leviticus 5:17)
So maybe the quotation is not as humorous as it first seems. And before one thinks that this is only a “Jewish” condition, Sha’ul (Paul) expands the scope of this situation when he wrote to the Yeshua believers in Rome,
But now God’s righteousness apart from the Torah has been revealed, to which the Torah and the Prophets bear witness—namely, the righteousness of God through putting trust in Messiah Yeshua, to all who keep on trusting. For there is no distinction, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:21-23)
Whether one looks at the Torah or the Apostolic Writings does not matter, both address sin. Sha’ul emphatically states that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
In commenting on Leviticus 5:26, Rabbi Twerskiz”l seems to agree with Sha’ul that sin separates one from HaShem, but forgiveness brings one closer. “The guilt of sin causes a person to keep his distance from God. If sin is forgiven, one can come closer to God, and the closer one draws to God, the greater is one’s awareness that his actions were improper.”2 Furthermore, the prophet Isaiah reminds us all that it was not HaShem that moved and caused the separation, instead it was each of us,
Behold, ADONAI’s hand is not too short to save, nor His ear too dull to hear. Rather, your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God. Your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He does not hear. (Isaiah 59:1-2)
In the Apostolic Writings, the author of 1 John writes a further affirmation, while extending an offer of hope,
If we say we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:8-9)
And even though the psalmist penned these words in the ancient past, he agrees with 1 John,
Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is pardoned. Blessed is the one whose guilt ADONAIdoes not count, and in whose spirit there is no deceit. … Then I acknowledged my sin to You and did not hide my iniquity. I said: “I confess my transgressions to ADONAI,” and You forgave the guilt of my sin. (Psalm 32:1-2, and 5)
The end of the parasha explains, “The kohen shall make atonement for him before ADONAI, and he will be forgiven concerning whatever he may have done to become guilty” (Leviticus 5:26). The author of Hebrews agrees with the need for atonement but disagrees with the efficaciousness of the kohen’s activity.
And nearly everything is purified in blood according to the Torah, and apart from the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. (Hebrews 9:22) … But in these sacrifices is a reminder of sins year after year—for it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. (Hebrews 10:3-4)
But the author did not leave us in limbo,
He (Messiah, Yeshua) has been revealed once and for all at the close of the ages—to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. And just as it is appointed for men to die once, and after this judgment, so also Messiah, was offered once to bear the sins of many. (Hebrews 10:26b-28a)
The finished work of Yeshua has brought about the assurance of the forgiveness of sin and the freedom from resulting guilt. And remember, it was not the Jewish religious leaders nor even the Roman authorities that brought about Yeshua’s death; he chose to lay it down,
For this reason, the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life, so that I may take it up again. No one takes it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own. I have the authority to lay it down, and I have the authority to take it up again. This command I received from My Father. (John 10:17-18)
The righteousness of Hashem and his requirements for humankind are clear,
So now, O Israel, what does ADONAI your God require of you, but to fear ADONAI your God, to walk in all His ways and love Him, and to serve ADONAI your God with all your heart and with all your soul, to keep the mitzvotof ADONAI and His statutes that I am commanding you today, for your own good? (Deuteronomy 10:12-13)
He has told you, humanity, what is good, and what ADONAI is seeking from you: only to practice justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8)
Serving HaShem and walking humbly with him begins by accepting the provision he offers through the sacrifice of his Son, Yeshua, to remove our sin and guilt that causes our separation from the Father. The choice, as always, is ours to make.
1 All Scripture references are from the Tree of Life (TLV) Translation of the Bible. Copyright © 2015 by The Messianic Jewish Family Bible Society.
2 Abraham J. Twerski. Twerski on Chumash. Brooklyn, Shaar Press, 2003, p 198.