External Blemishes

Bechorot (6) | Yehuda Gottlieb | 16 years ago

The sixth perek of Masechet Bechorot discusses the various blemishes that would render a bechor fit for slaughtering. The perek begins by discussing those blemishes that occur in the ear, then moves on to those in the eye and only then begins discussing those blemishes which are found in the nose and the mouth. Following on from the theme of blemishes the seventh perek focuses on the various blemishes that render a Kohen unfit for service in the Beit Ha’Mikdash.

This period of time in the Jewish calendar is specifically designated for Man to undertake a cheshbon hanefesh and rid himself of any “blemishes” that may be tainting him. One of the essential requirements of doing Teshuva is undertaking vidui (confession). In the nusach of our Tefillot this process is done by striking our heart and mentioning the passages beginning with “Al Chet SheChatanu Lefanecha.”

R’ Moshe Rosenshtein, quoted in the sefer Darchei Mussar proposes an interesting idea. He explains that the ikar of our vidui is that we mention that we have sinned in front of G-d (Lefanecha). The only reason why we are able to enumerate all our sins in detail is due to this fact that we find ourselves in a position of having accepted upon ourselves the concept of serving G-d. In our vidui we are admitting that we wish to come close to G-d for that is what we were created for, however, due to our shortcomings, we have slipped along the way. It is through this vidui that we are able to come closer to Hashem. This is the idea of mentioning the sins that we have done “lefanacha” – in front of G-d. For if we were distant from Hakodesh Baruch Hu - then there would be no advantage of mentioning any details as we would only be guilty of one general sin – that of being distant from Hashem!

This idea can be compared to that of a soldier who is serving in the army of the king. All the while that he is in the king’s service he must be careful to wear his full uniform. If he is missing even a button or his shoes are not shined, he will be punished. However, if he flees from the army and takes off the uniform – he will not be penalised for this minor detail. This is because in this instance he will be punished for the more serious charge of abandoning the army – the details of his minor charges are insignificant in the face of his main transgression. This parable mirrors the relationship between man and G-d. If he understands and feels that he is standing before Hashem and accepts the yoke of heaven upon himself then there is reason for him to list his sins in detail. However, if he is distant from Hashem there is no purpose to him detailing his sins because he is guilty of the far greater sin of abandonment.

In his vidui, Rabbeinu Nissim Gaon states:

Ribbono shel Olam, if I were to stand here and enumerate my sins, the time would run out, however my sins would not run out.

How could Rabbeinu Nissim have so many sins? According to this understanding in the Darchei Mussar, the fact that Rabbeinu Nissim was constantly involved in the service of Hashem and was so close to Him, was the exact reason why he could go into such detail about his sins. However, for those people who are not on that level must first get to the point where they feel “lefanacha” –in front’ of Hashem. This means that first a person must feel that they are close to Hashem, only afterward can they go into the details of their sins. This is the effect of Yom Kippur. On Yom Kippur we are on the level of Malachim, and since we have come close to Hashem, it is only fitting that we then begin to mention our sins in detail and with the nusachal chet shechatanu lefanecha.

Gmar chatima tova.


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