Vidui – Aviti, Pashati, Chatati

Yoma (3:8) | Yisrael Bankier | 5 years ago

During the week, we continued learning about the order of the day –the avodah on Yom Kippur. We also learnt about the first of the viduiim (confessions) performed by the kohen gadol (3:8). During the confession, the kohen lists three types of sins. He declares "aviti, pashati, chatati" and he ask for forgiveness for each of these.

The Gemara explains the meaning of each of these terms. The first, avonot, refers to deliberate sins. Peshaim refers to sins one commits with rebellious intent (unlike the first that may have been motivated to sate one's desires or lusts). The final class, chataim, refer to inadvertent sins. The Gemara cites a Beraita the records a debate regarding the order, with each side citing pesukim in support of their position. The order in our Mishnah appears to express the opinion of R' Meir. The Chachamim however argue that the order does not make sense. Having already received forgiveness for deliberate and brazen sins, it appears difficult or even unnecessary (see Rashi) to then follow with a request for forgiveness for inadvertent ones. Consequently, the Chachamim maintain that the order should be in increasing levels of severity – chatati, aviti, pashati.

The Sefat Emet explains the Chachamim's position in two ways. First is that one first asks for small things and when granted, progresses to greater requests. The Sefat Emet however presents a different explanation, where the sins are not to be understood in isolation. The order is meant to be understood as a natural progression. Initially one may inadvertently sin. However, as the frequency increases and the sin goes unchecked, they advance to deliberate sins and then, chas ve'shalom, rebellious violations. Consequently, vidui is ordered in historical order – the natural order that they were violated.

The Bartenura explains that the halacha follows the position of the Chachamim. He adds that the pasuk cited by R' Meir in support of his position is in fact meant to be understood in a different context. The Torah states, "no'se (forgive) avon, va'pesha ve'chata" which places the sins in the same order as our Mishnah. The Gemara explains that Moshe is not performing vidui at that time, but rather praying that Hashem view the deliberate and brazen sins as inadvertent violations.

How do we understand the position of R' Meir? What is the underlying logic of the order presented in our Mishnah? The Maharsha explains that R' Meir is more interested in frequency and conscious knowledge than severity. He maintains that the deliberate sins, driven by desire or the most common. Next, those motivated by a rebellious mindset, are less frequent. Finally, the inadvertent sins, are the least known about. R' Meir is less bothered about asking for forgiveness for lesser sins after the severe ones are forgiven since they alone could stand to incriminate him and prevent forgiveness from the serve sins.

The Sefat Emet however explains that R' Meir has an equally rational position. It seems strange that one would confront someone and ask forgiveness for minor infractions, when they have wronged them in major ways. Consequently, according to R' Meir, one needs to ask Hashem for forgiveness for the brazen violations to not be considered a rasha and only then ask for request to cleanse him from the damage created by the inadvertent sins.

Based on the above, one might ask, confessing to the deliberate or rebellious sins before Hashem, at best, seems bold if not outrageous. How can one stand before Hashem and state outright that he rebelled against Him without seeming heretical? The Shoshanim LeDavid (3:8) explains that it is for this very reason that part of the vidui of the kohen gadol is his quoting the pasuk: "for on this day he shall provide atonement for you to cleanse you; from all your sins before Hashem you shall be cleansed." (Vayikra 16:30) In other words, part of the vidui is citing the source where Hashem made it possible for us to achieve atonement for every form of sin.

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