This coming week’s parsha is VaYikra (“and He called”) and is the first parsha of Leviticus. The parsha lays out the reasons one must make a sacrifice (i.e. for peace and sins) but the one most interesting to me the laws of “guilt offerings”. These are offerings that one makes when they are not sure of their transgression but still ‘feel’ guilty about it. I find this concept profoundly interesting. Weren’t we brought up with the mantra “innocent until proven guilty”? Isn’t that what our entire legal system is founded on? Didn’t we learn to give people the benefit of the doubt?
This parsha though tells us the opposite. It says that even if we are unsure of someone’s innocence (or guilt for that matter) that person needs to make a sacrifice. The 16th Century Italian Commentator Sforno in trying to reconcile this states that it is about taking personal responsibility for questionable actions even in the absence of conclusive proof of wrong doing. Rabbis Shlomo Levin and Yonatan Neril have stated that the most pertinent example of this is Global Warming. They state that even though scientists may disagree on the exact scale of the upcoming environmental disaster we, humanity, need to take responsibility and not let the debate prevent us from taking ownership over the problem and doing something about it! So the message from this week’s parsha I think is; don’t be afraid to take responsibility for an action that you may have unintentionally done. If someone points something out that you did, don’t just dismiss them, listen to them and attempt to be the best human that you can!