It’s never easy to apologize, but the Torah requires us to confess our sins and then make restitution when we have wronged another.
Forgiveness is the prerogative and privilege of the injured. No one else can forgive on his or her behalf. YAHUSHUA’Steachings against retaliation, personal vengeance, and demanding one’s “pound of flesh” apply to the individual, not to a court of law, not to a community, and not to a government.
“One must always be careful of wronging his wife, for her tears are frequent and she is quickly hurt.”
When we sin against another person, causing them some loss, we mustconfess the sin, but we must also prove our repentance by making restitution. In most cases our restitution should include a sincere confession and apology to the individual we have wronged. A person must seek his neighbor’s forgiveness before seeking God’s.
And he shall make restitution in full for his wrong and add to it one-fifth of it, and give it to him whom he has wronged. But if the man has no relative to whom restitution may be made for the wrong, the restitution which is made for the wrong must go to the LORD for the priest, besides the ram of atonement, by which atonement is made for him. (Numbers 5:7-8)
In some cases, the victim has suffered no injury and remains unaware of the offense committed against him or her. In such a case, the person might be unnecessarily hurt to hear one’s confession. It may be best to spare the person the injury that would be incurred by the confession and apology. For example, a husband probably should not say to his wife, “I apologize for gazing on other women whom I find more attractive than you.”
Sometimes the desire to confess a sin to a person who does not know about the sin stems from a selfish desire to relieve one’s own feelings of guilt. The confessor is unconcerned with how the apology will emotionally damage the victim. In such situations, a person should employ common sense and a little empathy before offering an apology.
In most cases, however, the clear and certain thing to do is to seek out the person you have wronged and apologize. Along with the apology comes restitution. In matters involving financial loss, the Torah prescribes a minimum of full repayment plus one-fifth the value. If the sin also involved a matter of sacrilege, such as swearing falsely, the sinner must also bring “the ram of atonement” as a guilt offering to the Sanctuary.
If one’s victim has died or is no longer available, one must still pay the restitution. The restitution should be made to the victim’s next of kin according to the order of blood redemption outlined in Leviticus 25:25-31, i.e., brother, uncle, cousin. The Torah says that the restitution must be given to the man’s kinsman kinsman-redeemer: “But if the man has no redeemer to whom restitution may be made for the wrong, the restitution which is made for the wrong must go to the LORD for the priest” (Numbers 5:8).
ADAPTED FROM: Torah Club Commentary Set: Depths of the Torah. Learn more about Torah Club and how you can start a Club of your own, or join a Torah Club in your area. Visit TORAHCLUB.ORG
HUSBANDS AND WIVES:
husband of the woman suspected of adultery is brought to the Tabernacle. The priest officiating the ritual prepares a cocktail of water and dust from the Tabernacle floor. He makes the woman swear an oath that will bring an imprecation upon herself if she is guilty. Then the priest wrote out the words of the oath on a scroll, washed the ink from the scroll into the water and gave the water to the woman.
The priest shall then write these curses on a scroll, and he shall wash them off into the water of bitterness. (Numbers 5:23)
The woman drank the water, symbolizing the ingesting of the curse to prove her guilt or innocence. If she was guilty, the water would harm her. If she was innocent, the water would have no malignant effect on her. Instead, it would increase her fertility.
The procedure raises a difficulty, though. Ordinarily in Judaism it is forbidden to erase God’s holy Name. For example, when a scribe is copying the Scriptures in Hebrew, he can erase any mistake he makes unless it contains God’s Name. If he errs while writing a line of text with God’s Name in it, he can erase the rest of the line, but not the Name of God.
For this reason, observant Jews do not write the Name of God in Hebrew on a chalkboard or white board that might be erased. Documents containing the written Hebrew Name of God take on a more precious status. They are not carelessly dropped or destroyed or irreverently tossed in the garbage. Holy books containing God’s Name are not even left face down on a table or placed beneath other, less sacred books. Holy books are never taken into bathrooms. Even photocopies containing God’s Name take on a holy status. When a scroll or book or piece of paper containing God’s Name is ready for disposal, the item is accorded a proper “burial” of sorts in a repository for sacred writings. These traditions teach us to respect and revere God’s Name.
Given the respect accorded to God’s Name and the strong tradition against erasing God’s Name, why does the Torah command the priest to erase the curse from the scroll into the water? God’s holy Name appears twice in the curse. The sages teach that God is so concerned for peace between a husband and wife that He is even willing for His own Name to be erased to bring it about (Sifre 17).
In Judaism, peace between husband and wife is referred to as shalom bayit (שלום בית), a term that literally means “peace of the house.” Peace between a husband and wife takes precedence even over the sanctity of God’s Name. If that is the case, we need to be careful about allowing religion to disrupt marriage. God is more interested in the success of your marriage than He is in your particular religious choices. He is so committed to the sanctity of marriage that He is even willing for his Name to be erased to preserve peace in the home. How much more should we make every effort to bring peace into our homes.
The Talmud says “One must always be careful of wronging his wife, for her tears are frequent and she is quickly hurt.” The Talmudic passage goes on to say that God is quick to respond to a wife’s tears and that her tears are more efficacious than his prayers. God takes the tears of a woman very seriously. The passage concludes by saying, “One must always be respectful towards his wife because blessings rest on a man’s home only for the sake of his wife.” (b.Baba Metzia 59a)
ADAPTED FROM: Torah Club Commentary Set: Unrolling the Scroll. Learn more about Torah Club and how you can start a Club of your own, or join a Torah Club in your area. Visit TORAHCLUB.ORG
THE PRIESTLY BLESSING:
6 closes with the immortal words of the priestly blessing, a commandment for the sons of Aaron to bless Israel. To this day, the sons of Aaron lift their hands over the worshipers in the synagogue service while they utter the words, “The LORD bless you, and keep you; the LORD make His face shine on you, and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up His countenance on you, and give you peace” (Numbers 6:24-26).
The three lines of the priestly benediction each invoke a different aspect of God’s blessing. The first requests God to bless and keep us. Messiah “has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Messiah” (Ephesians 1:3). Through Messiah, the blessing of Abraham has come upon the Gentiles, and we all experience “the fullness of the blessing of Messiah” (Romans 15:29). Through Yeshua, God is “able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory” (Jude 24-25).
The second verse of the blessing says, “The LORD make His face shine on you, and be gracious to you” (Numbers 6:25). The shining of the LORD’s face represents His attention and pleasure. His graciousness is the expression of His grace. Messiah is the fulfillment of this request as well. The gift of God’s grace comes through “the redemption which is in Messiah Yeshua” (Romans 3:24). “We believe that we are saved through the grace of the Master Yeshua” (Acts 15:11), which God “freely bestowed on us in the Beloved…according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us” (Ephesians 1:6-8).
The third verse of the blessing says, “The LORD lift up His countenance on you, and give you peace” (Numbers 6:26). The lifting up of the LORD’S countenance upon a person implies the smile of God. Messiah fulfills the request for peace: “We have peace with God through our Lord Yeshua the Messiah” (Romans 5:1).
He told His disciples, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful” (John 14:27). “Let the peace of the Messiah rule in your hearts” (Colossians 3:15), and “the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in the Messiah Yeshua” (Philippians 4:7). This peace will cover the whole earth in the Messianic Era: “There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore” (Isaiah 9:7).
ADAPTED FROM: Torah Club Commentary Set: Shadows of the Messiah. Learn more about Torah Club and how you can start a Club of your own, or join a Torah Club in your area. Visit TORAHCLUB.ORG