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With this week's parashah, the Torah begins the section known as "Toras Hakorbanos" - the Laws of the Sacrifices. A great part of the Torah deals with the many complicated details of the various types of sacrifices the Children of Israel were able to bring in the Tabernacle and in the Holy Temple. One of them is the Korban Chatas, the Sin Offering, which one brings attain forgiveness for a transgression which he has performed unwittingly.

Much later in the Torah, in Parashas Pinchas (Bemidbar (28:15), the Torah describes the rules of the sin offering which is brought on Rosh Chodesh (the first of each Lunar month). The exact wording of the passage is, "And one male of the goats for a sin-offering for Hashem." Since it is the only sacrifice which is described as being "for Hashem," the Sages interpreted it in a very innovative way (Chulin 60b).

Rabbi Shim'on ben Pazi pointed out a contradiction. It says (Bereishis 1:16), "And Hashem made the two great luminaries." And then it says, "The greater luminary…and the smaller luminary." (Did Hashem make the sun and the moon the same size or did he make one bigger than the other? The answer is that Hashem made them both the same size but) The moon said before the Holy One, Blessed be He, "Sovereign of the Universe, is it possible for two kings to use the same crown?" (How can we both be the same size?) So He said to her, "Go and make yourself smaller." So she said, "Sovereign of the Universe, because I said something proper before You, I should make myself smaller?" He said to her, "Go and rule by day and by night." She said to Him, "What is the greatness of that? What does it help to light a candle in the daytime?" He said to her, "Go, and the Israelites will count the days and years according to you" (they will use the Lunar Calendar). She said to Him, "It is impossible for them not to reckon the seasons according to the Sun."…"Go, and the righteous ones will be called according to your name, 'Ya'akov the small one; Shemuel the small one, Dovid the small one.'" He saw that she is not appeased, so the Holy One, Blessed Be He said (to the Jews), "Bring an atonement for me for making the moon smaller."

From this very strange Gemara it seems that Hashem realized that He had "sinned", albeit unintentionally, by making the moon smaller and requested that on the first of every lunar month we sacrifice a sin offering for Him to bring him "forgiveness." Obviously, this cannot be, especially since there was actually nothing wrong with what Hashem had done. But what, then, is the proper explanation of the words of these Sages?

Many years ago, I said that I believe that Hashem was trying to teach us a very important lesson. Certainly it is forbidden to cause pain to anyone improperly. That is a bona fide sin and one who violates it deserves a punishment. But Hashem, Who is very concerned about people's feelings, wanted to teach us that even if the other fellow deserves to be hurt, because he is acting improperly, even so, we should feel bad and guilty that we had to make him feel uncomfortable and we should try to appease him and "get atonement" for what we did.

At that time, I mentioned my explanation of the Gemara to a rabbi, who happened to be in the midst of a dispute with one of his colleagues, and he disagreed. He said to me that "sometimes you just have to give the other person the slap in the face that he deserves and there's nothing to feel badly about."

Today, while looking for a good vort to write on the parashah, I was very happy to come across a story in the sefer, Chayim Sheyaish Bahem which supports my view.

On the thirteenth of Menachem Av, 5589, Rabbi Mordechai Banet ztvk"l, the Chief Rabbi of Nikohlsburgh, passed away. Since it was during the summer months, he was at the baths in Karlebad when he died, and he was buried in the town of Lichtenshtatt, which was nearby. When the community of Nikohlsburgh heard of the tragedy which had befallen them, they insisted that their great Rabbi be moved to their town immediately, to be buried in honor in the grave of his ancestors. However, the community of Lichtenshtatt argued that they had been privileged to receive the Holy Rabbi's body and it should remain by them. The dispute was brought before the greatest Rabbis of the generation, including the Chasam Sofer, who said that it would be permissible to move the grave, but did not rule decisively what to do.

About six months later, the Chasam Sofer dealt with the issue again and this time he wrote to the Judges of Nikohlsburgh that now he had definitely decided that they should move their Rabbi back to their town and bury him there. That is exactly what they did and he was buried there with honors on the twelfth of Adar, 5590.

This is the version that is recorded in the book Chut Hameshulash where it is explained that Rabbi Banet came to the Chasam Sofer in a dream and asked him to allow them to move his body to Nikohlsburgh. He revealed that when he was a bachur (an unmarried boy) he was engaged to the daughter of the Rabbi of Lichtenshtatt and he broke the shidduch, causing shame to the family of his betrothed. Therefore, he was punished that for half a year he would have to lie in their cemetery, far from his home town and from the graves of his ancestors. However, his penalty was over now and therefore he requested that the Chasam Sofer see to it that he be returned home where he belonged.

However, the author of the book Pe'er Mordechai, who wrote the biography of Rabbi Mordechai Banet, argues that the Rabbi never broke a shidduch in his life. He maintains that there is a mistake in the way the story is written in the Chut Hameshulash and brings another version from the son of the Chasam Sofer who heard it from his father.

He told that even the first time the Chasam Sofer dealt with the question, he wrote that they are obligated to return the body to Nikohlsburgh. However, before he could send his decision away, he fell asleep and Rabbi Banet came to him in a dream and asked him to delay his ruling for a while. He explained that he is being punished and must be buried in Lichtenshtatt for half a year because he once gave someone permission to break a shidduch. The Rabbi stressed that "although my decision was correct according to the Torah, nevertheless, since people's honor is a very serious matter and I caused pain and embarrassment to the girl and her family, therefore I am being punished!" In order to prove that his words were true, Rabbi Banet told the Chasam Sofer that they can check and see that the betrothed girl is buried right next to the grave where he is lying now. The Chasam Sofer did so and found his words to be true. Therefore he waited six months before having the Rabbi's body returned home.

We must learn from this how careful we must be never to cause pain or embarrassment to anyone, even if he or she deserves it. Then we will be truly happy in this world and in the World-to-Come.

Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Jerusalem, Israel