Is it a Sin or a Crime?
This is the intermediary Shabbat between Yom Teruah and Yom Kippur. Vayelech is very short but full of meat and meaning. Moshe is reminding us that at 120 years of age he won’t be allowed to enter the Promised Land with his children. How difficult that must have been for him! He introduced Yehoshua who would now lead them the rest of the way. His name was changed from Hoshea to Yehoshua which implies that “Salvation comes from the Creator”. His nickname was Yeshua, who many years later would be our great rabbi, prophet, and teacher. Moshe repeated to Yehoshua to be strong and courageous, that God would not abandon him. Moshe prophesied that Israel would fail their Creator causing our sages to have many discussions about determinism as opposed to free will.
The Creator in His omniscience has given each of us the gift of free will, “bechirah chofshit” to be able to act and do our own thing. This allows us to be responsible for our own actions. Today, the notion of “sin” has been eliminated and replaced with the idea of a “crime”; this has caused our society to become more secular, taking our Creator out of the picture. Instead, we speak of human rights — the right to live, to gather as many possessions as we please and the right to self-determination. Our laws are made to respect human rights. For example, the Torah states “you shall not commit premediated murder”. The notion of human rights understands this action to be a “crime” against another human being, worthy of punishment. From the perspective of our Creator, murder is a sin; it is a transgression that goes directly against Him. It is not a human rights issue. The Creator is the Giver of life; He has breathed His Ruach, His breath into each of us by placing His Divine spark within us. It has nothing to do with evolution or the quantum leap in which inorganic materials suddenly became organic and life began. We have life because we were made from the dust in His image which is why life is sacred. Taking someone’s life is a direct assault against the Creator. No matter how much people may argue that abortion is the right of choice for any woman, science knows that from the moment of conception, life has begun. The body of the baby is a separate entity within the mother who is the incubator. Taking the life of this baby may not be considered a crime by society, but it is considered a sin in the eyes of the Creator. No legal arguments can change this.
At Yom Kippur chapter 18 of Vayikra is read listing the types of relationships which are prohibited by the Creator including man not being allowed to lie with a man. Women are not to commit bestiality. Today this free-thinking society has eliminated these words in the Torah because they are no longer convenient to their way of thinking. Humanity is failing and self-destructing. We wish each other at this time of year “g’mar chatima tova” which means may our names be sealed for a good year, but it refers to the Book of Life. There is also a Book of Death according to our sages. How can we be written in the Book of Life? Certain religions tell us that we cannot pay for our own sins, that we are handicapped and because of that our God has provided another way to get us off the hook. The Torah teaches us that everyone is responsible for their own sins, and this is repeated by Jeremiah and Ezekiel. It’s called personal responsibility.
Yom Kippur is the time when we are asked to afflict our souls. A better translation would be “to make our soul poor”. Our Rabbi Yeshua in his sermon on the mount began with blessed or happy are those who are poor in spirit for they shall inherit the kingdom of heaven. There is an understanding that Yeshua delivered this message during the High Holidays just before Yom Kippur. He was most probably referring to Leviticus 23:27c where the same expression is used but was translated “to fast”. The word that is used is “ahnitem” ענתם to make poor, to impoverish. To afflict our soul has been interpreted as a need to fast but our prophet Isaiah in chapter 58 cries out to the people in the Name of the Creator… Why are you fasting? Your fasts mean nothing to Me. Fasting is not what gets us in the Book of Life. We need to reckon with ourselves, to face our Creator, to be honest to Him and to humble ourselves before Him, and not making excuses for our behavior. Recognition and acceptance of what we have done is the first step on the way back to Him. We confess and acknowledge what we have done and then finally we make reparation. How many things have we done that we can never repair? However, the good news is that our Creator can repair anything when we go to Him. That is called true teshuva. To afflict our soul means that we search deep within our hearts asking God to examine the darkness of our souls and to reveal what we need to bring before Him. Only He can cleanse those areas — not any animal sacrifice, not any human sacrifice. The animal sacrifices were meant as an offering to God by the person who was acknowledging that they needed help. It is between Him and us. We can’t run from our Creator.
Yeshua said “blessed are those who are poor in spirit for they shall inherit the kingdom of heaven”. A better translation might be “happy are those who humble themselves before God and acknowledge who they are for they will then be able to stand in His Presence.” Do you want to be in His Presence, written in the Book of Life? If so, don’t run away from your responsibilities, from your sins; face them and bring them to the Creator. It is my desire that during these days before Yom Kippur that we come before Him remembering that this holy day is not about fasting but about our relationship with Him. I pray that we will all follow the Creator and not man; that we all understand that we have faults and accept responsibility for our behavior, for our actions, and not put the blame on anyone else. Today crime is always justified by man looking for excuses. In the area of abortion, they say that the woman has the right over her own body; of sexual aberrations, they say that people have the right to do what they want with their own bodies. It’s true, they do have that right, but they do not have the right to impose their behavior upon everyone else. Life is sacred and yes, they can do whatever they want but we have the right to say. “I am sorry, but I do not accept your behavior”. Respect is a two-way street. We have a great Judge who will examine all our hearts. My prayer is that we will be ready for this Yom Kippur, that we open our souls to Him and that we make things right. May our names be sealed in the Book of Life!