Friday, July 18, 2008

Pinchas: public and private sin

Parshat Pinchas

In 27:3, as the daughters of Tzelafchad ae presenting their case why they should be allowed to inherit the lands of their deceased father, they say, "[Our father] was not among the congregation..."

Rashi explains their words that Tzelafchad had died for a private sin, not for participation in the sin of Korach or that of the complainers.

The daughters of Tzelafchad are making a very important distinction for us. There is a big difference between doing something in public and between doing something in private.

What is the difference? Either way it was a sin whose punishment was that of death!

They are telling us that when a sin is committed in public, where it can possibly influence other people, that is so much more serious. When done in private, it is between man and God and nobody else is involved or influenced.

Therefore a private sin, while still deserving of death, will have less serious consequences and ramifications.

And ultimately their claim was accepted by Hashem

1 comment:

Rafi G said...

we talked about this at the Shabbos table. My 11year old son gave another answer that I thought was good. He suggested that because Tzlafchad did what he did (he was supposedly the famous "wood chopper") for a good reason - supposedly to teach the people about the punishment of chilul shabbos, it was srt of an aveira l'shma. So even though it was a sin, it was a sin for a good reason, and therefore his puishment is less than that of the greater sins of korach and the complainers, and that is why his daughters felt they should get his inheritance.