Halacha for Wednesday 4 Elul 5779 September 4 2019

The Obligation for Every Individual to Repent-An Incident Regarding Maran zt”l

Question: Why must one ask for forgiveness from Hashem for sins one has committed unknowingly? We know that there is no such thing as even a righteous man who does not sin at all and it is impossible for one not to sin even unknowingly sometimes! Why must we then repent for even sins of this nature?

Answer: The Gemara in Masechet Yoma (36b) states: “Rabbi Meir says, what is the correct order of confession? One must say, ‘I have transgressed (Aviti), I have committed iniquities (Pashati), and I have sinned (Chatati).’” (Rabbi Meir’s order is based on the verse regarding the service of Yom Kippur which included a goat being thrown off the top of a cliff to atone for the sins of the Jewish nation. The verse states, “He (the Kohen Gadol) shall confess the transgressions of the Jewish nation and all of their iniquities for all of their sins.” Thus, the proper order of confession is “Aviti, Pashati, Chatati.”)

However, the Sages disagree with Rabbi Meir and they say that the correct order for confession is “Chatati, Aviti, Pashati”, for a “Chet” (sin) refers to something done unknowingly, as the verse states “A soul which will sin unknowingly.” “Avon” (transgression) refers to something done knowingly, as the verse states, “That soul shall surely be cut off, its transgression is upon it.” “Pesha” (iniquity) refers to a sin committed rebelliously which is the most severe of all, as the verse states, “The king of Mo’av committed an iniquity against me.” Since it is improper to confess sins performed unknowingly after one has confessed the sins one has committed knowingly and rebelliously, the proper order of confession is indeed “Chatati, Aviti, Pashati” according to the Sages. The Halacha indeed follows the opinion of the Sages. Similarly, we find King David saying, “We have sinned with our fathers; we have transgressed and acted wickedly.” He likewise addresses sins (“Chet”) before transgressions (“Avon”).

Based on this we see that although “Chet” refers to sins performed unknowingly and “Avon” refers to transgressions committed knowingly, according to Rabbi Meir it remains unchanged and one must still mention the transgressions one has committed knowingly before the sins he has committed unknowingly. We must therefore try to understand Rabbi Meir’s opinion, for it seems that one should mention “Chet” before “Avon” as it seems inappropriate to ask forgiveness for the greater sin and then the lesser sin!

Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l explains the reasoning of Rabbi Meir that really one should not have to ask forgiveness for sins he has committed unknowingly at all, for, as we have discussed in our question, there is no such thing as a perfectly righteous man who does not sin at all and it does not make sense that during one’s entire lifetime that one has not even inadvertently transgressed some sort of sin. Nevertheless, if the person was completely righteous and would follow the path of the Torah in every aspect of his life, no fault would come to his hands at all, for every Jew has a holy soul and it is impossible for one to sin even unknowingly unless one has transgressed another commandment of the Torah knowingly and willingly in which case one’s soul becomes blemished and tarnished; as a result, one later commits other sins unknowingly. Maran zt”l writes that the great Rabbeinu Moshe Alshich writes likewise that based on the root of one’s soul, one should never be able to sin at all; the only reason that one commits sins unknowingly is as a result of the sins that he has transgressed knowingly.

Regarding this idea did King David exclaim, “I shall tell over my transgression (“Avon”), I shall worry as a result my sin (“Chet”),” meaning that after transgressing a transgression knowingly, I shall then worry about my unknowing sins which will come about as a result.

For this reason, Rabbi Meir maintains that the correct order of confession is first to say “Aviti” and only then to exclaim “Chatati”, for one’s knowing sins cause one to commit sins unknowingly later.

One must therefore confess one’s sins and repent fully and not falsely convince himself that “my situation is more or less fine” or “if only others were like me, Mashiach would have arrived already” and the like, for the truth of the matter is that this is mere foolishness, for who can really bear the brunt of the depths of Hashem’s judgment? One must therefore repent fully, especially for sins one has transgressed knowingly and by doing so, one will be protected from Heaven and not even transgress sins unknowingly.

On a personal note, we remember well how although Maran zt”l’s entire life was dedicated to Torah study and the performance of Mitzvot and good deeds, he once exclaimed to us that for a certain amount of time, he would be abstaining from certain materialistic and physical things and dedicate himself completely to Torah study because “I have resolved to perform Teshuva.” How great is our longing for this great man, for although he was truly a giant and champion of Torah and Mitzvot, he was nevertheless exceedingly humble and of low spirit and he was never complacent with his level of spirituality and as a result, he would constantly strive to ascend to great heights in Torah and fear of Heaven until he eventually merited becoming the leader of the entire generation.

May Hashem accept our repentance willingly.

Ask the Rabbi


8 Halachot Most Popular

The Laws of the Holiday of Sukkot

As per the request of many of our members and as a public service, we shall now list a synopsis of some laws which are essential for the upcoming Sukkot holiday: The Sukkah must be made of three walls and Sechach (the roof). The walls may be made of any material which can withstand a normal wi......

Read Halacha

Cognac, Brandy, and Champagne- The Jews of the Ship that was Swept Out to Sea

In the previous Halacha we have explained the law that our Sages imposed a prohibition on a non-Jew’s wine and usually, the wine is not only forbidden to consume, it is likewise forbidden to benefit from. Champagne Clearly, champagne is absolutely forbidden for consumption if it was not pr......

Read Halacha

Laying a Mouse Trap on Shabbat

Question: May one lay a mouse trap on Shabbat? Answer: In the previous Halachot we have discussed that one of the forbidden works on Shabbat is trapping; one who traps an animal on Shabbat is liable for the Torah prohibition of Shabbat desecration. We have written that if one traps animals which ......

Read Halacha

Wine Poured by a Non-Jew

In olden times, idolatrous non-Jews would customarily pour wine as a libation offering to their various idols and deities. This was quite a common practice. Such wine is forbidden for consumption or to derive benefit from (such as by selling it to another non-Jew) by Torah law, for anything that is ......

Read Halacha


Things Seen Under a Microscope

Fish are permissible for consumption when they bear the two kosher signs the Torah lists, which are fins and scales. The Poskim discuss whether fish that have scales which are only visible under a microscope are kosher because they in fact do have scales or if they are considered non-kosher because ......

Read Halacha

Spraying Poisons and Pesticides on Shabbat- Animals Which Graze on Shabbat

Question: May one place or spray poisons against harmful insects or other pests on Shabbat? Answer: The basis for the answer to this question depends on a related matter which we shall discuss in this Halacha. In the next Halacha, we will summarize the law regarding placing or spraying poisons ag......

Read Halacha

Spraying Poisons Against Pests on Shabbat- The Bottom Line

A Synopsis of What We Have Learned Thus Far Yesterday, we have explained that one may place an animal onto grass on Shabbat in order to let it graze there. Although the animal will be detaching grass from the ground, since this action is not connected to the individual at all, it is permissible. ......

Read Halacha

Setting a Trap on Shabbat

Question: May one set a trap for animals when the trap continues to operate on Shabbat? Answer: In the previous Halacha we have established that one of the thirty-nine works forbidden on Shabbat is trapping. This means that if one traps a living creature on Shabbat, one is liable for Shabbat dese......

Read Halacha