Parashat Sav: Following G-d’s Example of Respect
The Torah in Parashat Sav continues its discussion of the various forms of Korbanot (sacrifice). Among the interesting and meaningful laws relevant to the sacrifices is the location where they were offered. The Torah stipulates that the Ola sacrifice, a voluntary offering generally brought when somebody did not commit a sin but entertained thoughts of sin, was prepared at the same location as the Hatat – the sin-offering. A person bringing an Ola would bring his animal to the same section in Bet Ha’mikdash where sinners would bring a Hatat sacrifice to atone for their wrongdoing.
The reason why this was done, the Rabbis explain, is to avoid humiliating the sinner. If there was an area designated exclusively for Hatat offerings, then anyone who brought his Hatat would be easily identified as a sinner, and he would suffer embarrassment. G-d did not want sinners to be subject to humiliation, and He therefore instructed that the Hatat and Ola would be brought to and sacrificed at the same location, such that nobody would know who was bringing an Ola and who was bringing a Hatat.
If we had been the ones deciding, I imagine that some of us would have done just the opposite, and would have specifically designates a spot exclusively for the sinners bringing their Hatat offerings. If they are guilty of wrongdoing and are thus required to bring a sacrifice for atonement, then to the contrary – let them be humiliated!
But this is not the Torah’s perspective, and this is not the Torah way. G-d shows sensitivity, compassion and respect to even the sinners of our nation, because He loves them despite their wrongdoing. He wants the sinners to offer a sacrifice and earn atonement, not for them to suffer humiliation.
We must learn from G-d’s example of sensitivity. If G-d, the judge of the world, avoids causing people embarrassment for their mistakes, then certainly we must do the same. It is very wrong to embarrass or insult somebody because his or her level of observance is lower than ours. We are certainly no more righteous than G-d Himself. And if He is concerned for the feelings of sinners, then we, too, must be respectful to all people regardless of their level of observance. And besides, the vast majority of Jews who are not meticulously observant – certainly in our community – are lacking due to deficient knowledge, or because of their upbringing. There are very few who knowingly disregard Torah and Misvot in order to rebel against G-d. Is it right for us to look disdainfully upon those who do not have the background or knowledge that we have?
Moreover, the way to influence people to positive change is through respect and kindness, not through insults and hostility. There are some neighborhoods in Israel whose residents pelt their fellow Jews with rocks if they drive through the streets on Shabbat. Can we imagine someone deciding to become Shabbat observant because he or she is hit by a rock? Is there any chance of such measures achieving desired results? Wouldn’t it be far more effective to greet them with Kibbeh and other delicious Shabbat foods, and show them the beauty and warmth of Shabbat?
G-d makes a point of showing respect to those who have sinned, and we must ensure to do the same.