Suppose you do something wrong by accident. Say you’ve really caused harm to something. So you’re feeling guilty about that. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a way to make up for your mistake?
Well, that’s what this week’s parsha gives us.
If you’ve done something wrong in error you can offer a goat or a sheep as a sacrifice to make up for it. It’s called a hattat offering. If you can’t afford a goat or a sheep, you can offer a turtle dove. (Israelites used to raise doves for food.) And if you can’t afford the dove, you can offer some flour.
Now, if you do something wrong on purpose: if you witness a crime but don’t tell, or if you touch something not kosher, or if you swear rashly, you’re to bring a different offering: an asham or guilt offering of a female lamb or goat. (Or a dove or flour if you can’t afford the herd animal.)
After the priest sacrifices the animal or the flour, you can be granted pardon.
If you break one of the commandments, the sacrifice is a ram. Big time.
If you sin against another person by robbing him or her, or by not returning a lost object, you have to repay what you stole, plus 20% to the guy or gal you stole from. In addition, you’re supposed to sacrifice a ram. So this was a heavy offense, involving not just sacrifice but also repayment of what you took.
Food for Thought
Do you think these laws are reasonable?