D'vrei Torah by Rabbi Ellie Shemtov
12-Step Torah Vayikra 5780
The first step in overcoming mistakes is to admit them.
We all make mistakes. While no one likes being wrong, some people find it easy to admit their mistakes, while others push back against the facts rather than acknowledge they did anything wrong. When that happens, we often try to justify the mistake or cover it up. But in the words of pilot Bruce Rhoades, admitting and correcting a mistake doesn’t make you look weak; it actually makes you look stronger.
This week’s Torah portion, Vayikra, outlines the five basic types of sacrifices the Israelites offered to God -- burnt offerings, grain offerings, sacrifices of well-being, sin offerings, and guilt offerings. In other words, sacrifices were brought to God for a variety of reasons: as a gift, as a way to express thanks for things like a good harvest, or as a way to be forgiven for sins.
In Step 5 of the 12 steps we admit to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs. This is perhaps the hardest of the steps because it asks that we admit our mistakes in front of God or Higher Power, and another human being.
Similarly, when one brought a sin offering which was designed to remove the guilt carried by the offender or function as a penalty fee, the offering itself became a public admission of guilt. Rabbi Shefa Gold notes that carrying the burden of our past mistakes can cause shame and shame cuts us off from God’s love. The sin offering helped purify and release one from the effects of that shame.
Whether we connect more to Step 5, a sacrificial sin offering, or a basic need to confront our lapses in judgment, the first step in overcoming our mistakes is to admit them.
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