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Adapted from Yalkut Lekach Tov, v. III, p. 35
And if a person sins, and does something which the Lord has commanded not to be done even though he did not realize it, yet he is guilty, and shall bear his iniquity. (Vayikra 5:17)
When Rabbi Akiva used to read this possuk he would cry, and say, "When a person intends to each a piece of fatty meat (kosher) and by mistake picked up a piece of cheilev (treif) the Torah said, 'even though he did not realize it, yet he is guilty, and shall bear his iniquity.' Therefore, one who intended to eat treif, even more so!"
Isi ben Yehuda said, "This possuk should make everyone ill." (Kiddushin 81b)
Rav Yecheskel Abramsky (in the introduction to Chazon Yechezkel on Temurah) asks, Why should everyone become ill? Because of the tremendous responsibility incumbent upon every individual upon which he will subsequently have to give and accounting on everything he did without realizing it.
A person eats his meal. He is happy and confident that he ate glatt kosher. Afterwards he suspects perhaps he made a mistake and it was really treif. He looks in the Torah and finds that he must bring an ashom talui - a suspended sin offering. Why? The korbon (sacrifice) will protect him from Divine retribution and prevent it from taking effect on him for the crime of eating without scrupulous care and for the fact that he wasn't strict about checking and investigating thoroughly the nature of the food he put into his mouth.
A Jew is a member of Klal Yisroel. The world was created for him. Hashem Yisborach spoke face to face with him from the fiery Mt. Sinai. He is just below the angels. He cannot just do something nonchalantly, naively, without forethought. He must scrutinize every one of his actions and movements. If he would only have checked carefully and asked the proper questions he would not have come to make a mistake. He requires atonement for his negligence. We find that even on inadvertent defilement of the Beis Hamikdash and holy objects, even though he was totally unaware of what he had done before and after - it was a sin that only Hashem was aware of - the Torah proscribed atonement with the Rosh Chodesh sin offerings.
Once Rav Yisroel Isar Shapira was sitting next to Rav Chaim Soloveitchik, zt"l.
Suddenly Rav Chaim groaned and said, "How can we reach the yiras shomayim my father (Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik, zt"l, the Beis HaLevi)?" He repeated his statement several times. His brother-in-law, Rav Yisroel Isar, asked him what he was referring to? Rav Chaim answered, "I'll give you an example of my father's yiras shomayim.
"When he was the Rav of Slotzk, we were once sitting and learning in the Beis Midrash. It was a very hot summer day and father removed his coat and hat, and sat engrossed in his learning. Suddenly one of the butchers of the city burst into the Beis Midrash and started yelling at father and ridiculing him as if he were the lowest of the low. Among other things he accused father of erroneously deciding a law-suit against him. The previous day the butcher had come before the Beis Din with another butcher. Even though this butcher was in the right, father had decided the case against him because he tried to bribe father with a large sum of money.
"When father heard the accusations, he put on his coat and hat and stood up, his eyes full of tears, and was quiet. Seeing father standing there ashamed and embarrassed, the butcher continued his coarse outburst and went on to ridicule and curse all the rabbanim. He labeled father a chavernik, - a term connoting a very crooked person. He even raised his hand and threatened to hit father. He continued his tirade and father stood there controlling himself, quietly listening to his humiliation.
"As the butcher finally started leaving the Beis Midrash, he continued his tirade, cursing and uttering affronts to father's esteem. Father didn't flinch or respond. He followed the butcher out muttering under his breath, 'I'm mochel you, I forgive you. You can't hold a person responsible when he is in pain.'
"The next day the butcher purchased a few cows and was taking them to be shechted. Suddenly one of the bulls became wild. It attacked the butcher and killed him. When father heard about it he started shaking and became very distressed. He said to me several times, 'I'm worried that my resentment caused his death.'
"I told him, 'But Father, you forgave him yesterday.'
"He looked at me and asked, 'When was that?!'
"'I heard it with my own ears. As he started leaving the Beis Midrash you started walking after him and said several times, "I'm mochel you, I forgive you."'
"Father started drilling me if I had really heard that he had explicitly said that he forgave him and I hadn't made it up just to calm him down. Only after I stated confidently that I had heard it and even pointed to the place where he was standing at that moment, was he pacified somewhat. Even so, he continued to be very aggravated and dejected over the incident. He accompanied the niftar to the cemetery and cried bitter tears over his grave. He took on himself to say kaddish for eleven months and to learn daily mishnayos in his memory. Until father passed away, every year on this butcher's yahrtzeit, he fasted, said kaddish, and learned mishnayos and performed all the stringencies as if it was his own father's yahrtzeit."
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