Halacha for Wednesday 29 Adar 5779 March 6 2019

“One Whose Sin is Covered Over”

Question: Is it permissible for a Ba’al Teshuva who has transgressed many grave sins in the past, among them idolatry, and has since repented to tell his life’s story to others?

Answer: The verse in Tehillim (Chapter 32) states: “Of David, a Maskil, fortunate is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered over.” The latter part of the verse refers to one whose sins are not known by others. Rav Kahana (Berachot 34b) states based on this verse, “It is audacious in my eyes when one recounts one’s own sins.”

Rashi (Yoma 86b) explains that the reason why one should keep one’s sins hidden is in reverence of the honor of Hashem, for the more publicly one sins, the more this minimizes the honor of Hashem. Indeed, when people see others sinning, their fear of Hashem cools off and the honor of Hashem becomes diminished. On the other hand, if one sins but others do not know about it, this is not as much of a desecration of Hashem’s name.

This teaches us that it is better for one to conceal one’s sins, as the Rambam (Chapter 2 of Hlichot Teshuva) rules that regarding sins between man and Hashem, it is considered brazen to reveal these sins to others; rather, one should repent and confess one’s sins only before Hashem. (There are many details regarding this law; we shall only discuss this in a general manner.)

Nevertheless, the Gemara (Sotah 32b) explains that the Torah commands one who has committed idolatry inadvertently to being a she-goat as an offering to the Bet Hamikdash. The Gemara asks why this is so if by bringing a she-goat to the Bet Hamikdash, everyone will know that this individual is bringing this animal because he sinned with idolatry (for all sins require offerings using other animals which others may interpret to be for and Olah offering as opposed to a sin-offering)? The Gemara replies that since this individual transgressed the grave sin of idolatry, Hashem commanded that he bring such an offering so that everyone will know what sin he has transgressed; the shame that ensues will serve to atone for the individual’s sin.

Based on the above, we see that one who has transgressed the sin of idolatry and repents fully nevertheless requires shame to atone for his sin. Indeed, the Mishnah (Megillah 25a) states that there were certain Torah portions that were not translated publicly for the congregation so as not to shame the individual mentioned in the Torah who had sinned (for instance, the sin of Amnon son of King David is not translated in public in order to preserve the honor of King David). The Mishnah states that the Torah portion delineating the sin of the Golden Calf is read and translated publicly. The Gemara explains that although reading the Torah portion describing the sin of the Golden Calf causes a measure of shame to the Jewish nation, this is nevertheless worthwhile, for the shame this causes them to feel will serve to atone for the sin of the Golden Calf. This is another source for the fact that the sin of idol-worship requires one to be ashamed to achieve atonement.

Thus, regarding our scenario where this Ba’al Teshuva also committed idolatry in the past, there is a basis for this individual to tell others what he has done in order to atone for his sin. Nevertheless, the above applies only when one is recounting this before several individuals in a manner which will cause him shame for what he has done in the past and this will not cause a desecration of Hashem’s name since those listening will immediately realize this person’s sorrow and remorse. However, if the individual recounts his past sins in a calm and complacent manner and certainly if he enjoys what he is telling over, this is forbidden, for this causes a desecration of Hashem’s name. The Shaare Teshuva (Chapter 607) quotes the Panim Meirot who writes that one should never recount one’s sins, even that of idol-worship, in front of many people. He proceeds to explain this matter there. Nevertheless, if one is doing so in a remorseful manner, especially if one exclaims that he has been punished as a result (See Bet Ha’Levi, Bereshit, Chapter 18), to several people, one need not bring anything to the attention of the individual telling the story. If, however, one is telling this over in a nonchalant manner, especially in public, this is certainly forbidden. (Response written by Hagaon Harav Yaakov Sasson).

Ask the Rabbi


8 Halachot Most Popular

The Laws of Hearing Parashat Zachor

“Remember What Amalek Has Done to You” On the Shabbat preceding Purim, which is this coming Shabbat, after the opening of the Ark immediately following Shacharit prayers, two Sifrei Torah are removed; in the first one, we read the weekly Parasha (which is Parashat Vayikra this year, 577......

Read Halacha

The Custom of the “Commemoration of the Half-Shekel”-5779

It is customary to donate money before Purim as “a commemoration of the Half-Shekel” which was donated by the entire Jewish nation when the Bet Hamikdash stood. This money is customarily collected on the eve of Purim before reading the Megillah, as our Sages tell us (Megilla 13b) that &l......

Read Halacha

Arriving Late to or Skipping Some Portions of the Megillah Reading

Every member of the Jewish nation is obligated to read the Megillah on the day of Purim. One must read it during the night and once again the next day, as the verse states, “My G-d, I call out to you during the day and you do not answer; during the night I have no rest.” This verse is wr......

Read Halacha

Matanot La’Evyonim

In the previous Halacha we briefly discussed the Mitzvah of “Matanot La’Evyonim” on Purim day which is the distribution of two monetary gifts, one to each pauper. What Must One Give? In order to fulfill this Mitzvah, one need not give actual gifts; rather, it is permissible to ......

Read Halacha


The Laws of Mishloach Manot

Purim this year will fall out at the end of next week. The Fast of Esther will be observed next Wednesday and Purim will be observed on Thursday in most places and on Friday in Jerusalem. The Mitzvah of Mishloach Manot The verse in the Megillat Esther (9, 22) states: “In order to mark them......

Read Halacha

The Mitzvah of the Purim Feast This Year (5779)

Holding the Purim Feast at Night The holiday of Purim is different than all other holidays we celebrate in that whereas regarding other holidays the Mitzvah of partaking of a joyous holiday meal applies during the day and night, regarding the holiday of Purim, there is only a Mitzvah to hold a feas......

Read Halacha

The Salvation of the Jewish Nation on Purim

The verse in Megillat Esther (Chapter 3) states: “And Haman said to King Achashverosh: There is a certain nation scattered and dispersed among the nations in all the provinces of your kingdom and their laws are diverse from those of every nation and neither do they keep the king’s laws; ......

Read Halacha

A Joint Mishloach Manot by Husband and Wife

Question: On Purim I stay home and I do not give out my own Mishloach Manot. May I fulfill my obligation by sending a joint Mishloach Manot along with my husband? Answer: First, let us discuss the obligation of women with regards to Mishloach Manot. A Woman’s Obligation in Mishloach Mano......

Read Halacha