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"If an individual person from among the people of the land shall sin unintentionally, by committing one of the commandments of Hashem that may not be done, and he becomes guilty" (Vayikra 4:27).
Often, people sin unintentionally with the best of intentions. Their Yetzer Hara (Evil Inclination) convinces them that something is a mitzvah when, in reality, it is a sin. In spite of their rationale, what is a sin is a sin and they have to repent or receive their punishment.
The following story, related in Aleynu Lishabeach by Rabbi Yitzchok Zilberstein shlita, should teach us an invaluable lesson.
The Gerrer Rebbe ztvk"l, known as the Imrei Emes, once needed a private minyan (quorum) to pray with in his room. The Gabbai (manager of the Rebbe's affairs) decided that it would be too difficult for the Rebbe if a lot of Chassidim come in at once, and so he chose eight people who would arrive at the appropriate time. They, together with him and the Rebbe, would equal ten.
However, as the eighth person entered, another Chassid decided that he would like the privilege of praying with the Rebbe too. So he grabbed onto the doorknob and prevented the Gabbai from closing the door. But the Gabbai was not about to let anyone foil his plans. He promptly slapped the Chassid's hand and, when he let go for a moment, slammed the door shut.
The Rebbe counted up the amount of people in the room, and, surprisingly, told the Gabbai that there were only nine present. The Gabbai was very surprised, and counted the assembled men himself and insisted that there were ten. The Rebbe asked him to count again, and this time too he arrived at the required number of participants.
Finally, the Rebbe explained to the perplexed Gabbai, "Do you think I'm going to include you in the minyan? No way. Just a moment ago you violated a serious crime by hitting a fellow Jew. It is written clearly in the Shulchan Aruch (Jewish Code Book of Laws) that one who hits his friend is automatically excommunicated and cannot be counted as a member of a minyan - until he repents and begs forgiveness from the one he harmed.
So much for good intentions.
P.S. Please join me in consoling my mechutainista (relative by marriage), Marsha Weiss, upon the untimely passing of her brother Nelson, o.b.m. May Hashem console her among all of the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem and may she not know of any more pain.
Shema Yisrael Torah Network