Likkutei Sichos-Parshas Vayikra-The Asham Taloiy & Discovering your hidden evil



Parshas Vayikra

Knowing ones hidden evil  

Compiled from the following sources: Likkutei Sichos Vol. 3 p. 201

Parshas Vayikra is the first of a long set of Parshiyos which discuss the bringing of the sacrifices to the altar. There are various types of sacrifices that can be offered, such as the Olah, Shelamim, Chatas, Asham; Mincha, each carrying their detailed law. Some sacrifices are offered simply out of goodwill and gesture towards G-d. Others are offered as result of inadvertent sinful activity of which one carries some level of responsibility [i.e. Shogeg], known as a Karban Chatas. In this talk of the Rebbe analyzes a most strange and peculiar ruling in which we find that the sacrifice that needs to be offered for a questionable inadvertent sin costs the transgressor a considerable amount of more money than does the sacrifice that needs to be offered for one who transgresses a definite inadvertent sin. The lesson that is derived from this seeming strange discrepancy is the discovery of a possible new type of evil and hidden character flaw that is not readily apparent to a person. At times, an advertent sin [i.e. Meizid] can simply be the result of momentary impulse or mistake in decision-making that does not reflect any deeper issue with the person’s soul and personality, while an inadvertent sin can be the reflection of a deeper subconscious issue with the person’s very soul and personality that causes him to naturally do things that are against G-d’s will. This discovery then leads to an even deeper discovery of what is called “the hidden evil” and is the root behind the reason why the Torah treats a possible inadvertent sin even worse than a definite inadvertent sin, as will be explained in the Sicha. The Rebbe then connects these ideas with the Passover holiday, using them to explain a rather cryptic saying of the Arizal that one who is careful not to eat even the slightest crumb of Chametz on Pesach is guaranteed not to sin throughout the year. The lesson derived from this talk is one that is vital for all people who tend to have self-righteous perceptions and especially to people involved in public service who enjoy fame and public approval from their audience.


Explorations of the Sicha:

  1. What are the two aspects involved in every offering, and how does simply bringing an offering bring atonement?
  2. Why does the premeditated sinner not have to bring in offering?
  3. Why does the Torah treat a questionable inadvertent sin even worse than a definite inadvertent sin?
  4. What’s worse, doing a conscious transgression while being fully aware of one’s actions and its prohibitory state, or doing an inadvertent sin without realizing?
  5. How is a questionable transgression from a certain perspective even worse than a definite transgression?
  6. What is our hidden evil and how do we discover it?
  7. How can one guaranteed that he will not sin if he avoids eating Chametz on Pesach, when we clearly see that people still retain their freedom of choice to sin or not to sin?


The difference between a Chatas offering and a Asham Taluiy offering:

The Chatas is an offering that is brought for a definite inadvertent sin which would carry with it the penalty of excision [i.e. Kareis] if it was done consciously with prior knowledge of the sinful state of his actions. For example, if one had in front of him a piece of kosher fat and a piece of non-kosher fat known as Cheilev. He ate what he thought to be the kosher fat which in the end became revealed to have been the non-kosher fat. Such a person is liable to bring a Chatas offering. The Asham Taluiy, on the other hand, is an offering that is brought for a possible inadvertent sin. For example, if one had in front of him two pieces of what he thought to be Kosher fat and he ate one of them. It later became revealed that one of the pieces was in truth non-kosher fat, and it is unknown if the piece that he ate was the non-kosher fat or the kosher one. Such a person is liable to bring an Asham Taluiy offering.

The question-A contradiction in law regarding the Asham Taluiy offering:

We find the following contradiction in law regarding the Asham Taluiy offering:

One who offers the offering outside of the temple:[1] The law states that one who slaughters an offering outside of the temple is liable for the penalty of excision if done advertently and must bring a Chatas offering if done without prior knowledge of the prohibition. This prohibition is known as “Shechutei Chutz.” Now, the Tana’im debate as to what the law would be in the event that one slaughtered an Asham Taluiy offering outside of the temple. Rebbe Meir is of the opinion that such a person is liable being that although the offering is initially brought due to a mere questionable sin, nonetheless it is considered a definite offering. However, the sages are of the opinion that he is exempt, being that perhaps he did not sin at all and therefore perhaps the offering is not a real offering. Practically, we rule like the sages that the person is exempt.[2] The opinion of the sages and the final ruling which follows their opinion, is seemingly contradicted by the following second debate and arbitration in which the ruling of the sages, and likewise the final ruling in that debate, seemingly contradicts their opinion here.

The law if it became revealed that he definitely sinned:[3] In the event that it became revealed after one already separated an Asham Taluiy on behalf of his questionable sin, that indeed he did not sin at all or that he definitely sinned, such as they now have definitive information that the left over piece is the forbidden or the permitted piece, then the Asham Taluiy can no longer be offered to the temple as the sin is no longer questionable. Nonetheless, it is debated amongst the Tana’im as to what is to be done with the offering at this point. Rebbe Meir is of the opinion that the animal is to be set free to join the rest of the cattle and loses its offering status. However, the sages are of the opinion that the offering retains its offering status and therefore must graze until he gets a blemish and is redeemed. The reason offered for their ruling is because at the time that the person separated this offering, he had regret for his sin and decided to separate it as an offering with a full heart. Practically, we rule like the sages.[4]

The contradiction: There is a seeming contradiction between the two rulings of the sages and the final ruling, as if one rules, as in the first case, that one is not liable for slaughtering it outside of the temple being that it is not a definite offering, then why should it retain its offering status after the truth is discovered? And if one rules that it has the status of a definite offering being that one has separated it with a full heart as we rule in the second case, then why should one be exempt for slaughtering it outside the temple, as after all it was separated with a full heart and should have the status of a real offering.


The answer to the contradiction- The two aspects by an offering:

The answer to the seeming contradiction can be explained as follows: The holy status of a sacrifice can be split into two different categories, one being that relevant to man and one being that relevant to G-d. In the category relevant to man, there are laws that dictate how a person needs to treat a sacrificial offering, while in the category relevant to G-d, there is a perspective that G-d views one’s offering and the level of holiness that He truthfully knows that it contains. Accordingly, following the first aspect of an offering which relates to man, since the person indeed intended to sanctify this offering due to his possible sin it therefore retains holiness from his perspective, and is treated as a sacrifice regarding all matters of Jewish law that are dictated to man. However, in respect to the heavenly view of this offering, since in truth G-d knows whether the person did or did not sin, therefore, it is only viewed as an offering of atonement if the person in truth has sinned, although the person simply does not know for certain that this is the case. Thus, once the person discovers that in truth he did not sin, then it becomes revealed that in the eyes of heaven it was never a sacrifice to begin with. Furthermore, even if the person has sinned, it is only viewed as an offering of atonement so long as the person does not know for certain that he has sinned, however once he discovers that he has definitely sinned, then such an offering can no longer atone for his sin and therefore does not contain holiness in the eyes of G-d. Accordingly, in the first case the sages rule that the person is exempt if he offers the Asham Taluiy outside of the temple being that in truth in the eyes of G-d it is only considered a sacrifice if indeed the person has sinned, and thus since it is possible that he didn’t sin therefore we can’t make him liable for offering it outside of  the temple. However, in the second case which relates to how the person needs to treat the sacrifice we rule that since he decided to separate it as an offering with a complete heart, therefore it must be treated with holiness by him. This idea that the Asham Taluiy offering contains a definite status of holiness from the perspective of man, even though it is unclear that he truly sinned and it therefore may not contain any holiness in the eyes of G-d, is further emphasized from the following law:

The severity in law that we find by a Asham Taluiy versus a Chatas:[5]

Although the Chatas offering comes for a definite inadvertent sin while the Asham Taluiy offering comes for a questionable inadvertent sin, nonetheless we find regarding the minimal required price of the animal, that the Asham Taluiy offering is more severe than the Chatas offering. The law is that the animal which is brought for the Chatas offering must cost a minimum of a single Danka, while the minimum cost for the animal that is brought for the Asham Taluiy offering is two Selaim which is equal to 48 Dankas! Thus, we see that for a questionable inadvertent sin one must pay 48 times more for his atonement than for a definite inadvertent sin! A matter which is most puzzling and requires clarification.

When one is not even sure if he sinned, his remorse is likewise naturally compromised:

Rabbeinu Yonah answers the above anomaly as follows:[6] The atonement that is received through bringing a sacrifice is dependent on the level of repentance that the person has upon bringing it. Now, when one knows for certain that he has sinned, it is natural that he will have instinctive regret and remorse in his heart. However, one who does not know for certain that he has sinned naturally does not tend to have solid feelings of remorse for something that he perhaps did not transgress, which can compromise on his atonement which is dependent on his level of remorse. Accordingly, the Torah requires one to do actions that will arouse a true and deep-seated remorse even by a questionable sin and therefore requires him to pay 48 times more for the sacrifice. This concept is likewise ruled in the Shulchan Aruch regarding the laws of repentance relevant to the 10 days of repentance, that one must have greater remorse for a questionable sin than for a definite sin, being that naturally one does not have much remorse for a sin that is only a question if it was transgressed, and without proper remorse one’s Teshuvah cannot be accepted.[7]

Digging deeper into the answer: While the above can be accepted as an answer to the question, it does not do full justice to it, as the atonement received upon bringing an offering is not only dependent on the level of repentance and remorse but also on the actual sacrifice itself, and hence we see that G-d prescribed different types of offerings for different purposes, as not all offerings are the same and accomplish the same matter. Accordingly, it is imperative to say that in addition to the reason mentioned above to help arouse greater remorse in the heart of the questionable sinner there is also an intrinsic aspect of the questionable sin which is so severe that it requires an offering which is 48 times the price of a definite sin offering in order to bring atonement. This however is a most puzzling statement, as why on earth would a questionable sin require greater atonement than a definite sin! The answer to this is that a questionable sin reveals and expresses a much deeper and essential problem within the soul of the person than does even a definite sin that was done advertently. To understand this matter we must first introduce why the Torah prescribed an offering to be brought only for the inadvertent transgressor.

The inadvertent transgressor from a certain perspective needs greater atonement than the premeditated sinner:

As is known, the Torah only prescribes sin offerings for those who sin inadvertently, without having prior knowledge at the time of their action that their action involves a transgression. The question that is raised is as to why the Torah does not also prescribe sin offerings for the advertent transgressor who is seemingly in greater need of atonement than the inadvertent sinner. Does the Torah not believe in giving such a person the possibility of atonement, heaven forbid? This certainly cannot be the answer, as we know that G-d is merciful and the gates of repentance are never close even for the premeditated transgressor of the most severe sins. Hence, we must conclude that from a certain perspective the inadvertent transgressor requires greater atonement than the premeditated sinner.

The inadvertent sinner reveals a natural instinct towards doing things against G-d’s will:

The explanation to the above is as follows: King Solomon states in Proverbs[8] that G-d protects a righteous man from sinning. This means as follows: One who is truly righteous cleanses his animal soul to the point that he does not have a natural instinct and inclination for sin, although retains freedom of choice to choose to do a sin if he wishes. Such a person will not transgress a sin inadvertently, as he does not have a natural instinct to do so. However, one who is not righteous and has yet to do repentance for previous sins contains a blemished soul which has a natural inclination towards sin, and it is for this reason that it is possible for him to transgress a sin inadvertently. The inadvertent sin expresses and reveals that his natural instincts are found within the pleasures of the world as opposed to G-dliness. It is for this reason that the Talmud uses the example of eating forbidden fats in its case of transgression of the inadvertent sinner, as it is hinting to this natural instinct towards the pleasures of the world that the inadvertent sinner contains. Accordingly, from a certain perspective, the inadvertent sin reveals a much more severe issue with the person’s soul than does a premeditated sin that one chose to perform and is not the result of a natural instinct. It is for this reason that only the inadvertent sinner is required to bring a sin offering in addition to his repentance, while the premeditated sinner can suffice with repentance alone without any need to bring an offering.

The Arizal’s guarantee that one who avoids even a crumb of Chametz during Pesach will not sin throughout the year:

Based on the above explanation, we can also understand a most cryptic statement of the Arizal which guarantees a person who avoids eating even a crumb of Chametz during Pesach that he will not sin throughout the year.[9] At first glance, this statement is most puzzling, as does this mean that the person’s freedom of choice is removed from him and he no longer has the ability to sin? And being that we all know that there are sins that we need to repent for on Yom Kippur which we transgressed that very year, does that G-d forbid mean that we also transgressed eating Chametz on Pesach and therefore must repent for that as well, as otherwise we would not have sinned? Rather, based on the above we can explain very simply that the intent of the Arizal was never to state that one’s freedom of choice is removed from him, but rather that the avoidance of eating even a crumb of Chametz on Pesach helps refine one’s animal soul to the point that he will no longer have a natural instinct to sin, and is thus viewed similar to the righteous person.

A questionable sin expresses deeper problems of the soul:

Based on the above understanding that the inadvertent sinner expresses a greater and deeper rooted problem than the premeditated sinner we can also understand why a person who has only questionably inadvertently sinned requires greater atonement than one who has definitely inadvertently sinned. When a person has inadvertently definitely sinned, at the very least he now knows of his problem and that he has a natural instinct towards the pleasures of the world and not towards G-d. However, when it is only questionable if he has inadvertently sinned and he will thus naturally show little remorse for his sin, then it shows that his spiritual problem is so deeply rooted in his soul that he is not even aware of it. Knowledge of an illness is the beginning of its cure and thus one who does not even know that he is ill has not even begun the cure. Accordingly, the inadvertent definite transgressor who has a natural instinct of remorse towards his sin at the very least expresses a spiritually healthy conscience that is inclined towards G-d and is more deeply rooted in his soul than his natural instinct for the physical pleasures of the world which caused him to sin. However, one who does not even know if he has inadvertently sinned, and thus does not feel remorse, shows that his sin is the result of such a deep evil within his soul that it has washed away even the aspect of the soul that expresses remorse for sin. It is for this reason that the questionable inadvertent sinner must bring a sin offering that is 48 times the price of the offering of the definite inadvertent sinner, being that he has a much greater blemish and requires a much greater atonement than the definite inadvertent sinner.

The atonement is required even if in truth the person did not sin:

Based on the above, we can more deeply understand why the sages rule that the sacrifice of the questionable sinner retains a holy status even after the discovery that in truth he did not sin, as the mere fact that he questionably sinned reveals a deep-seated blemish of his soul irrelevant of whether he actually sinned or not. Now, since prior to the discovery he was in need of this atonement and therefore truly dedicated the animal for the sake of the sacrificial offering, therefore it retains this holiness even after discovering that in truth he did not sin. However, from the perspective of G-d, since He knows the truth that he did not sin therefore he does not deserve to be punished for a sin that he did not do, and therefore the sages rule that if he slaughters the animal outside the temple he is not liable for a punishment, as it is possible that he did not sin at all and is undeserving of punishment.


Lessons of the Sicha & Article:

The above talk of the Rebbe uncovers not just an interesting answer to a seeming Talmudic paradox, but reveals the possibility of the existence of hidden evil within the soul, and that one must be aware of this possibility and actively search for this hidden evil.

Every Jew essentially desires to be righteous in the eyes of G-d and be considered a good person, however, for most of us this is easier said than done as we all experience the lusts of our evil inclination, and are aware of our occasional succumbing to sin, and therefore do not view ourselves as righteous at all. While certainly the sin itself is something that requires fixing and repentance, at the very least the person can rejoice in the fact that he knows of his problem, has natural remorse towards it, and knows that he has to fix it. However, one who is unaware of his transgressions, either due to his lack of care to gain knowledge of what is defined as a transgression, or due to his self-love which covers up and blinds him from seeing his errors and flawed ways, and therefore views himself as righteous, is on a certain level on a far worse spiritual scale than the person who is aware of his sins. This applies even if in truth the self-righteous man contains far fewer sins than the person who is aware of his shortcomings, as the mere fact that the self-righteous man is unaware of his sinful behavior is an expression and revelation of a much greater and deep-seated evil than that of the person who sins a lot more but is aware of his sins.

The above can teach is a very important lesson in the service of G-d: It is possible for a Jew to completely immerse himself in the spiritual service of Torah learning, performance of Mitzvos, and service of prayer in a most assiduous and meticulous manner, but still maintain and perhaps even nurture a hidden evil. The constant immersion in spiritual activity can lead the individual to falsely believe that he is a righteous man, and he will thus become self-righteous in his eyes. It is very possible and likely however, that his total immersion in the above spiritual service has blinded him from seeing and being aware of certain natural bad habits and character traits that he contains, and he will thus live with this hidden evil forever and bring it with him to the world to come, being that he is unaware of its existence due to his false self-righteous perception. Accordingly, ironically, a person who is not immersed in spiritual service and is aware of his sins, is on a certain level on better spiritual grounds than the above self-righteous man who is immersed all day in spiritual service, as at the very least he is aware of his spiritual issues and the need for him to repent and fix them. Furthermore, since he is already involved in repentance for his known sins, he will be naturally inclined to do a searching of the soul to discover any hidden evil that he may contain. However, the self-righteous man who does not see a need to repent sins being that he is unaware of them, will not naturally be inclined to do a true searching on the soul to discover the hidden evil.

So what then is the solution for the self-righteous man who is totally immersed in spiritual service so he too can discover and fix his hidden evil? The answer is that he should stop being self-righteous, and understand that the fact that he uses all of his time to be immersed in spiritual service does not by any means reveal that he has perfected his soul, and in truth he may contain hidden spiritual defects that are far worse than even the severe sins of a premeditated transgressor. Thus, in the words of the Braisa on Nida, as explained by the Alter Rebbe in Tanya, one should never view himself as a Tzadik even if he appears to be a Tzadik in the eyes of others due to his immersion in spiritual service. Rather, explains the Alter Rebbe, that one should always view himself as a Beinoni, and that he retains natural spiritual defects within his soul that require self-control and introspection for finding ways of taming and fixing them.

Accordingly, all those who are involved in constant service of G-d, such as yeshiva and Kolel students and Rabbis, Mashpi’im, teachers and Torah scholars who learn assiduously and occupy themselves constantly with service of G-d, must not fool themselves to become self-righteous in their eyes due to their blinding service of G-d, and must be especially careful to occasionally set time for true and deep spiritual introspection into their character to help them uncover any hidden evils that may exist.

The above can perhaps help lend some understanding to the psyche of famous people who have been publicized to use their position of power to succumb to the most depraved of sins. Fame and enjoyment of a public audience who applauds one’s actions, can naturally dangerously become a drug which pumps up one’s ego and feeling of self-righteousness to the point that he fails to be able to see anything wrong with himself. Accordingly, those things which to a normal person are viewed as sinful and immoral and to which one contains a natural conscience to not succumb to transgress, may become invisible to the self-righteous famous man who due to his great public approval views himself as invincible and forgiving of any transgression. This is similar to the conscience of one who has transgressed a sin three times on which the Talmud states that from the perspective of his conscience it becomes to him like a mitzvah. Meaning, that he fails to feel remorse or a realistic conscious understanding of that what he is doing is wrong. Thus, all those who enjoy fame and a public audience, whether it be a Mashpia, Rosh Yeshiva, Rav, Maggid Shiur, community leader, politician, wealthy business man, must all be especially aware of this dangerous natural side effect of the drug called fame which they are receiving, and must therefore be especially careful to avoid becoming self-righteous and to be constantly involved in self introspection.

A lesson from a veteran Mashpia, Rosh Yeshiva, and Chabad Chassid:

The following, is a live example of an individual who while at the same time enjoyed great fame and public approval, being the head of one of the most prestige Yeshiva’s around today and a known Mashpia and public speaker, did not allow this to get to his head and certainly did not view himself as self-righteous. The individual, whose name will not be mentioned, is a greatly respected Gaon and Rav and is one of the elderly Chassidim alive today, and through his actions he taught me a lesson that a thousand Chassidic gatherings could not have taught. The incident was as follows and occurred many years ago with me the compiler of this Sicha:

In my local synagogue, I was accustomed to giving a weekly Friday night class after prayers in which I would discuss a certain topic on the subject of the redemption bringing all the different sources on the matter. This specific Shabbos was a very special date in the Chabad calendar, Gimel Tamuz, and the community thus invited the above elderly Rav and Rosh Yeshiva to Farbreng with the community on Shabbos. It happened to be, that the subject I chose for that Friday night was a sensitive subject amongst all those who are involved in service of G-d in Avodas Hatefila and remains under great controversy amongst Mashpi’im today. The above-mentioned Rav attended my class as did many in the community and I guess I must’ve said something that was not to his approval even though I tried to give over all sides of the argument, and he respectfully made public mention of his disapproval with what was said, focusing on the proper perspective that one should have. Naturally, I was glad to hear his perspective and did not feel offended at all by his comment which contained nothing personal and focused solely on the content given over. The Hasidic gathering that Shabbos was one that I would never forget, with him engaging us for many hours in speaking of the need for following the deep traditional Chabad philosophy of Avoda, spiced together with first-hand stories of famous Hasidim of the previous generation whom he merited to know.

That Motzei Shabbos at what must’ve been close to 12 o’clock when I myself was getting ready for bed my phone rings. To my utter surprise, who’s on the phone? The above mentioned Rav! Why is he calling me at all, and especially at 12 o’clock at night, and how did he get my number, were the first questions that entered my mind. It did not take long for me to understand the purpose of the phone call. He asked me for forgiveness if he had offended me in any way when he made that public comment the previous night during my speech. He apologized for the late hour, but explained to me that he was in the midst of doing his nightly Cheshbon Nefesh during Kerias Shema Sheal Hamita, and realized that he may have offended me with what he said, and that he could not go to sleep until he made sure to ask for my forgiveness and therefore made a few phone calls to people in the community that he knew until he got my number.

The above incident left within me, aside for a great and deep respect for the above individual, a real-life example of a true Chabad Chassid! He ignores his fame, self approval, self-righteousness, elderly and respected status, and makes sure to do a nightly accounting of his actions to see if he hurt any individual Jew, and if discovered to make immediate amends with that individual irrelevant of the difference of age, knowledge, and occupation.

Indeed, I can confidently claim that the lesson taught through that small incident is worth more than a thousand Farbrengens, and it is a lesson for us to strive to follow each on their level.

[1] See Kerisus 18a

[2] Rambam Maaseh Hakarbanos 18:10

[3] Kerisus 23b

[4] Rambam Pesulei Hamukdashin 4:19

[5] Zevachim 48a

[6] Brachos 1b; Rama 603:1; Admur 603

[7] Admur ibid “A questionable sin requires greater Teshuvah than a definite sin. The reason for this is because by a definite sin a person has total regret with all of his heart. However, by a questionable sin one tells himself that perhaps he did not sin at all and he thus does not regret it with all of his heart which causes its punishment to remain upon him. It is for this reason that the Karban Asham which came for a questionable sin cost more than the Karban Chatas which came as a result of a definite sin.”; Rama ibid

[8] 12:21

[9] Mishnas Chassidim Nissan 3:4; Brought in Beir Heiytiv 467:1; Shaalos and Teshuvos of Admur 6

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