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(5739) Rashi (Lev. 4:22): "If a leader of Israel sins"



1. It states in the verse (Lev. 4:22):

“If a leader (of Israel -Nasi) sins and unintentionally commits one of all the commandments of the L-rd, which may not be committed, incurring guilt”,

This means that one must bring a Sin-Offering, as it is explained in the Parsha.

Rashi cites the words,

“If the Nasi sins”: ( אִשֶׁר נָשִׂיא יֶחֱטָא)

and explains,

“that (אִשֶׁר ) is an expression reminiscent of (the dictum starting with the word) אַשְׁרֵי, “fortunate is…,” namely: “Fortunate is the generation whose leader (does not hold himself too high, but rather,) gives attention to bringing an atonement offering for his unintentional sins-and how much more will he experience remorse for the sins he has committed willfully!” –

The source of Rashi’s explanation is from the homily of the Sages (in Torat Kohanim, and in the Talmud).

Although Rashi‘s style is to just explain the simple meaning of the verse - he does, however, cite the homilies of the Sages which are necessary to explain the simple understanding of Scripture.

This is indeed in our case. Rashi must rely on the homilies of the Sages (as the Talmud explains the reason for the homily).

For since the verse states. “Asher” (אשר), which is changed from how it should plainly be stated, like the wording regarding the sin of the “anointed Kohen”, and from “the entire community of Yisroel” – where it states,

If (אם) the anointed kohen sins”, “If (אם) the entire community of Yisroel errs”,

from this it proves that here, it is not to be taken literally.

One must however, understand:

The commentators, in the style of Pshat, learn in the wording, “If a Nasi sins”, many explanations according to the style of Pshat:

  1. The Ibn Ezra translates that the verse, “If he who sins is a Nasi” comes in continuation to the previous section, “if the entire community of Yisroel errs”, and it means as if it should have stated “if the one who sins is a Nasi etc.”
  2. The Ramban learns, that the word “Asher” (אשר) here has the same translation as the word “when” (כאשר). For example, “When Yosef came to his brothers”, “When they finished eating” and so forth, which depicts the aspect of the time – When the Nasi will sin (“with the Kaf of cognizance missing”).

Even if one would allow (נניח), that according to Rashi’s view, these aforementioned explanations (and so forth) are not straightforward, which is why Rashi must also bring the explanation of the Sages according to homily. Nevertheless, Rashi should have (first) brought an explanation according to the simple meaning and afterward add, “and its Midrash states“ or “and our Rabbis interpret” and so forth.

(namely that “Asher” (אשר) is an expression of “Fortunate” etc.).

Why does he just state the explanation, “An expression of ‘fortunate is...’”. Moreover, he does not even preface that this is “its Midrash) and so forth?

2. Even if one would accept that the explanation,

“Asher is an expression meaning ‘fortunate’”

has a place in the simple meaning of the verse, it is still not understood:

  1. Why does Rashi add, “Fortunate is the generation” etc. Where is the proof that “Fortunate” means, here, that it is related (not to the Nasi that is expressly stated in the verse, but rather) to the generation?
  2. What comprises the Fortunateness, the happiness (גליק) for the generation when the Nasi, “gives attention to bringing an atonement offering for his unintentional sins etc.”?
  3. How is “Fortunate is the generation” related to the Pshat and theme of the section/Parsha of the “Sin-Offering of the Nasi”?
  4. In the aforementioned Midrashim of the Sages, after the explanation “Fortunate is the generation etc.” there is an explanation:

“And if his Nasi brings a sin-offering, how much more so is he (the common man) moved to bring a sin-offering (for his sin)!”

In other words, (the commentators learn that) this is a reason for “Fortunate is the generation”. For when the Nasi brings a Korban for a sin, the people of the generation (the laymen) learn a Kal v’Chomer from it - to do Teshuvah and bring a Korban for their sins.

According to this, it is entirely not understood:

Why does Rashi omit the conclusion of the homily of the Sages (“if his Nasi”) which specifically explains the aspect why “Fortunate is the generation”, that Rashi brings in his comment?

On the contrary – if a ten-year old Mishna student etc. must have an explanation, certainly a five-year old Scripture student must have one!

To note, there are commentators who explain the reason why it states, “Fortunate is the generation”:

Since the Nasi (the king) has remorse for “his unintentional sin”,

and “he is not ashamed to say ‘I have sinned’” - and he does not say “I am great, and I am important, therefore how can I say ‘I have sinned’”,

this shows the he is humble and modest (עניו ושפל). Therefore, “Fortunate is the generation”, that they have a Nasi who is not “lordly and arrogant”. Because of this, his sovereignty will endure – “his kingdom will stand”.

However, according to above Pshat – the words “Fortunate is the generation”, are not then understood:

3. One must also understand:

  1. In the statements of the Sages, the wording is:

“Fortunate is the generation that its Nasi brings a Sin-Offering for his unintentional sin” –

However, Rashi changes and elaborates in his wording,

that the Nasi gives attention to bringing an atonement offering for his unintentional sins etc.”

  1. Why does Rashi cite (in the heading of his comment) from Scripture, just the words,

“If the leader Nasi sins”: ( אִשֶׁר נָשִׂיא יֶחֱטָא) “?

The happiness is because he brings an “atonement for his unintentional sins”. Therefore, Rashi should have brought the continuation of the second verse (where it speaks regarding the Korban which he must bring). Or at least allude to its continuation with the words v’Gomer (etc.).

4. The explanation of this is:

Regarding the explanation,

“Fortunate is the generation whose leader gives attention to bringing an atonement offering for his unintentional sin”,

Rashi does not need to preface that this is “its Midrash“, and so forth. For he already explained – in the same aspect

(of the connection of the entire people with the sinner)

by the verse (v 4:3)

“If the anointed kohen sins, bringing guilt to the people”.

There Rashi explains:

“And its plain meaning according to the Aggadah: When the Kohen Gadol sins, it is the fault of the people, for they are dependent on him to atone for them and pray for them--- and (now) he has become impaired”.

Therefore, Rashi does not need to also repeat here, that this is “its plain meaning according to the Aggadah”.

Moreover – due to Rashi‘s (previous) explanation, he proves that the happiness here (“Fortunate is the generation”) does not mean like the aforementioned (conclusion and) explanation (Par. 2) – that when the Nasi brings a Korban “for his unintentional sin”, that the men of the generation (the common folk) also learn from his conduct.

For according to this, there is a question:

One must also learn the conduct to bring a Korban for an atonement, from the anointed Kohen. Therefore, indeed, why is the “happiness” specifically explained regarding the Nasi and not previously regarding the anointed Kohen? Moreover – regarding the anointed Kohen, the opposite is emphasized –he is “bringing guilt to the people”.

Although one could answer that the conduct of a Nasi is more liable to effect that people learn from him – For if (מה־דאך) a Nasi, whose “heart is not bowed”, he stands in a condition that is reflected in the very name of “authority, supremacy and haughtiness” (התנשאות הרמה והגבהה) (and especially over the men of his generation). Yet nevertheless, repents (חוזר בתשובה) and bring a Korban for his unintentional sin - Certainly, how much more so (עאכו״כ), must the conduct of the rest of the people – the common folk – be, who do not possess this motion of authority.

However, on the other hand, there is an advantage to the Kal v’Chomer with regard to the anointed Kohen, the Kohen Gadol:

Since he is separate from the people due to his great holiness, and also due to his constant Avodah in the Mikdash. Moreover, he is the one who effects atonement for everything and for Klal Yisroel. Yet nevertheless brings a Korban his unintentional sin – and particularly, since he brings a Korban in a manner as the Torah states:

“He shall take out the entire bull to a clean place outside the camp”

Which means outside the three camps (of the encampment of Israel: The camp of the Shechinah, the Levite camp, and the general Israelite camp.).

That all three camps see how he brings a Korban for an inadvertent sin. How much more so, is this for all Yidden, who are far from this level – that they learn that they should not be ashamed from bringing a Korban for a sin.

From all this, it is proof that the explanation of “Fortunate is the generation” regarding a Nasi does not mean that it is an example from which the generation will learn from (by a Kal v’Chomer etc.). Rather it is another aspect (which does not exist by the anointed Kohen) – which Rashi derives from the verse, which will be explained.

5. In the verse “If a Nasi sins”, there are two questions:

  1. The word “Asher/that/when etc.” (in its plain meaning, which etc.) depicts, in general, that one is occupied with an aspect, that the following aspect comes in continuation to that which states previously.

Therefore, it is not understood:

What relation does the aspect of “If a Nasi sins” have to do with the previous aspect of “It is a sin offering for the congregation”?

  1. Since one is saying that, with this, the Torah wishes to emphasize the aspect that, “Fortunate is the generation”, which its Nasi bring a Korban his unintentional sin. The Torah should have alluded to this

                    (not with the words “If a Nasi sins” which speaks regarding the sin of the Nasi, but rather) 

in the following verse, where it speaks regarding his atonement (Teshuvah etc.) –

“if his sin that he has committed is made known to him, then he shall bring his offering etc.”

When mentioning the aspect of the sin, it is seemingly not fitting to say, “Fortunate”!

Because of these two questions, Rashi learns, that the “happiness” regarding the Nasi is indeed not related to his actual (פועל־ממש׳דיקן) bringing a Korban for his unintentional sin. Rather, it is related to an aspect which is connected with sin,

(And this is pointed out (דייטעט) by Rashi through his changing from the wording of the Sages and stating, “gives attention to bringing an atonement offering for his unintentional sins”)

as will be explained.

6. In the previous Parsha, it states:

“And if the entire community of Israel errs because a matter was hidden from the eyes of the congregation, and they commit etc.”

This means that the Sanhedrin

“erred in a decision regarding any matter in the Torah that incurs the penalty of excision, by declaring that matter permissible” and “the community acted upon their instruction”.

Nevertheless, (the verse continues), “It is a sin offering for the congregation”.

It is self–understood, that when a Yid brings a Sin-Offering, that for him there is (and there must be) here the feeling of remorse and Teshuva (החרטה והתשובה). The same is in our case. Since the verse emphasizes, “It is a sin offering for the congregation”- that this is a Sin-Offering that is brought from the entire community, one must say that the feeling of remorse and Teshuva is within the entire community.

Therefore, how is it possible that the entire community should have remorse and Teshuva for a “sin” for which they are entirely not guilty, even inadvertently! They did what was demanded from them, according to Torah – to obey the Sanhedrin!

Therefore, Rashi explains that this is why it states in the verse, “Asher/if a Nasi sins”. Rashi does not need to translate that which is self-understood, namely that this means “If a Nasi sins”. Rashi just needs to write his innovation, that since the verse states the wording “Asher”, which depicts that this comes in continuation to the previous (aspects) – that one learns out from this that the “plain explanation” (pshuto) is “according to the Aggadah” - that this is (also) the wording “Fortunate”:

Since the Nasi, when he falters in an inadvertent sin, is not only concerned to fulfill the Torah‘s command, and he “brings a Sin-Offering for his unintentional sin”, but additionally, he also feels and discerns (מרגיש און דערהערט) the deficiency and the severity (חסרון און חומר) of the sin itself. Which is why he (not only actually brings a Korban, but)

gives attention to bringing an atonement offering for his unintentional sins, how much more will he experience remorse for the sins he has committed willfully!

Therefore, it is “Fortunate is the generation” – he forewarns through this and awakens (in a straightforward manner) the people of his generation regarding the severity of the aspect of the sin, and how much one must be careful not to also falter in an unintentional sin.

This is the continuation of the “If a Nasi sins” with the previous words, “It is a sin offering for the congregation”:

Since the Nasi strongly feels the severity of even an unintentional sin, it is understood that even when the entire community transgresses a sin (even though, they are entirely not guilty of this) – the Nasi – through his conduct, effects within the entire community, the feeling which is evoked by those who bring the Sin-Offering – remorse and Teshuva.

7. According to the aforementioned, it is also understood why, regarding the anointed Kohen, the Torah states, “bringing guilt to the people”, and does not mention, at all, the aspect of “Fortunate is the generation” which is stated by “If a Nasi sins”:

Fortunate is the generation etc.” (refers mainly) to a generation which, from the very onset, is careful (אויסגעהיט) from doing a sin, even a sin that is unintentional. It does not, so much, refer to those that falter in a sin and afterward do Teshuva and bring a Korban.

This represents the difference between the anointed Kohen and a Nasi:

The role of the anointed Kohen is “to atone for them and pray for them”, offering Korbanot and atoning for Klal Yisroel. Therefore, even when the people of his generation see that he brings a Korban for an unintentional sin, it also mainly evokes within them

(not so much the carefulness (אויסגעהיטנקייט) of doing a sin, at the outset, but rather)

the feeling that after one has done a sin, that he should also not be ashamed to bring a Korban, even “for his unintentional sin”.

(And even when the anointed Kohen awakens the Yidden regarding the severity of the sin - since, however, his role is to atone for the Yidden, therefore, his awakening does not have the sufficient effect (ווירקונג) to influence them to be careful of sinning, but rather primarily (הויפטזעכלעך) to evoke the rectification and atonement of the sin – in conjunction with his role).

Whereas, regarding the Nasi, whose aspect is to lead his generation, and to conduct the aspect of the kingdom and the country etc. Yet notwithstanding this, he “gives attention to bringing an atonement offering for his unintentional sin”- he “feels” and therefore awakens regarding the severity of the aspect of the sin. This effects that one is, from the outset, careful not to sin, and therefore it is “Fortunate is the generation”.

8. From the homiletic style of Torah in Rashi's commentary (Yayina shel Torah) one could say:

Here, “Nasi” means (not the leader of a tribe, but rather)

“This is a king, as it is states: ‘of all the Mitzvot of the L-rd his G-d’, who has only the L-rd his G-d over him”.

(and as is understood from the statement itself “Fortunate is the generation”)

The difference between a Kohen Gadol and a king is their influence and effect on the Yidden.

  • The Kohen Gadol draws down love of G-d – great love (Ahava Rabba/אהבה רבה) to the Yidden.
  • Through the king, Bitul and fear of G-d is drawn down to them.

Love is the root of all the two-hundred and forty-eight Positive Mitzvot, whereas fear is the root of the three-hundred and sixty-five Negative Mitzvot.

According to this, it comes out that due to the achievement (אויפטו) of the Kohen Gadol – the drawing down of love of G-d – influences (הערט זיך אן) that one must do – fulfill G-d’s command, including bringing a Korban.

Due to fear of G-d, one discerns the severity of the sin, that he is “afraid to rebel against the Supreme King of Kings, the Holy One, blessed be He”.

9. On a deeper level:

A Sin-Offering comes for an unintentional sin, which is done without one’s knowledge. However, this itself, that the person could falter in an unintentional sin, depicts that he is not, completely, as he should be. It comes from the “overpowering of the Animal Soul that is from Nogah “.

This is the reason why regarding “If the anointed kohen sins”, it states, “bringing guilt to the people”. Whereas, regarding the Nasi, it states, “Fortunate is the generation”:

From the perspective of the Avodah of love of G-d (which comes through the Kohen Gadol), since love (even the loftiest levels) is in a level of expanse and being (התפשטות ומציאות) – there is “one that he loves”. For the expression (תנועה) of love is connected with the entity of the person. From this, there can ensue from this (ארויסקומען בהשתלשלות)

(in the level of “nation”)

(Note: The word עם (“nation”) is related etymologically to the word עוממות (“dimmed, extinguished”).In terms of the relationship of a king and his subjects, the word עם thus signifies those whose relationship with the king is not readily apparent, for the subjects who comprise a nation — are separate entities, distinct and distant from the level of the king)

At the very least, an unintentional sin, due to the overpowering of his being (מציאות).

However, due to fear of G-d, which is drawn down to Yidden through the king,

(who is nullified to the Kingdom of Heaven and from whom is drawn down Bitul to the people)

the Yidden are completely nullified (בטל) to G-d. Therefore, there is no place, that there should come, even in devolvement (בהשתלשלות), a motion of being and entity (ישות ומציאות), and therefore, also not any aspect of unintentional sin.

10. The lesson from Rashi‘s explanation in Avodat HaAdam:

The world is called a macrocosm (גוף גדול) and man is called a microcosm (עולם קטן). Just as there is a leader of the generation (Nasi HaDor, the king. So too, in a person’s body, is there the king within it, which is the head and brain, which rules over the entire body.

(and which is alluded to in the Roshei Teivot (acronym) of the word Melech/king (מלך) – mind, heart, liver (מוח, לב, ככד) – the three rulers in a person’s body. The first letter (the main letter and) head of the word (Rosh Teivah) (of the entire word) is a Mem – signifying the mind of the person’s body).

On this is the lesson, “Fortunate is the generation”:

When is the conduct of the generation of the person – befitting? So much so, that it is in a manner of happiness (אושר) -this is when

“its Nasi gives heart”, (הנשיא שלו נותן לב)

when his “mind rules over the heart”.


“Every person is able, with the will in his brain, to restrain himself and control the drive of his heart’s lust, not to fulfill his heart’s desire, in deed, word and thought, etc.”

Then he is protected not to falter in a sin.

When one falters in a sin, even if it is unintentional, not only must he do actual Teshuvah (bringing a Korban his unintentional sin) but he must contemplate in his mind, that even an unintentional sin is a thing for which he is guilty, as aforementioned. For if he would not have allowed the overpowering of the animal soul, he would not have come to this.

When one has the depth of thought regarding the severity of the matter, of doing something which is contrary to the Supernal Will, then “his Nasi gives heart (attention)”. The mind (the Nasi) influences the subduing of the heart “to be broken and crushed” (להיות נשבר ונדכה). From this, not only will there be the atonement for his unintentional sin, but also the “removal of the spirit of impurity and the Sitra Achra“, in general, and it also effects the breaking of the animal soul.

When a person does Teshuvah also over a unintentional sin, in such a manner, then it is a Kal v’Chomer-(literally: from easy to heavy) - how much more will he experience remorse for the sins he has committed willfully!” He learns from the “Kal” (easy). In other words, that it is “easy” not to falter in willful sins, for the animal soul and Yetzer Hara have become broken and subdued within him.

Through each Yid ruling and controlling his “Nasi”, the brain of his head, this hastens that this shall be the,

“and My servant David shall be their prince forever”

and “king over them”, with the coming of our righteous Moshiach where G-d’s kingdom will be revealed and G-d will be King over all the earth (generation).

M’Sichas Shabbat Parshat Vayikra 5728

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