Daf Yomi Gittin 53
After his father’s passing, Randall inherited his tefillin. He cherished his precious black boxes, donning them daily. However, they were starting to look their age, and one day Randall decides to have them checked. Off he goes and deposits them with the sofer. Lo and behold, sure enough they are not kosher. By the looks of the worn parchment, they probably haven’t been kosher for years. Randall is beside himself. All these years, essentially has he been neglecting the mitzvah of tefillin?
Chizkiyah taught: According to the Torah, whether one committed an act of damage inadvertently or deliberately, he has a liability. What is the reason? Even unrecognizable damage is called damage.
Rashi explains: The Torah declares, “A wound for a wound,” which implies liability whether the damage was committed deliberately or inadvertently.
Let’s say you’re pulling out of a tight parking spot and you accidentally hit the car parked alongside you. It was an accident, right? But that doesn’t mean you’re off the hook. You still have to pay for your damages, even though you caused them inadvertently. Actually, I’ve never heard anyone say, ‘I got into a car deliberate.’ The vast majority of times damage is caused, it was by accident, not deliberately caused! And yet, you still have to pay. Because accident or no accident, the damage was done.
That’s what Rashi means when he explains that “a wound for a wound” implies liability whatever the cause. A wound is a wound; and no matter how it happened, it needs healing. And that’s true whether we’re talking about a physical wound or a spiritual wound. When you commit a sin, even if it was inadvertent, you cause a wound to your soul, which must be healed.
That healing is the teshuvah process. Back in Holy Temple times, that meant bringing an offering. Such offerings were brought primarily for inadvertent sins, not for intentional misbehaviour. Because a wound on your soul requires healing. Likewise, nowadays, even if the sin wasn’t your fault, you still need to cleanse your soul and heal the wound. It’s certainly easier to heal an inadvertent spiritual wound; but that wound requires healing nonetheless.
And so poor Randall who discovered that his father’s tefillin hadn’t been kosher is not completely off the hook. It is not a major transgression. In fact, Rabbi Avraham Wahrman of Buchach declares that it is considered as if he has fulfilled the mitzvah, since he believed wholeheartedly that he was doing so! But there’s still a gap in his spirit that needs mending. Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach suggests that he should keep his tefillin on for a little longer each day and say an additional prayer or learn some Torah as an atonement. Doing that for a period of time will repair his soul.
Of course, the forces of light are always more powerful than the forces of darkness. And so if committing an inadvertent transgression causes a spiritual wound, then how much more so does performing an inadvertent mitzvah cause a spiritual shield for your soul! How many times a day are we doing mitzvos without even intending to do so?
Maybe you’ve walked away from a conversation just before the lashon hara began. Maybe you chanced upon a web-site and read some Torah, with no intention to sit down and learn. Maybe you helped someone unwittingly. All of these and more are gifts from Above to provide you with abundant merit!
Life in general is like trying to get out of a tight parking spot. It’s not easy to avoid accidents, but when your life is measured, you can bring abundant light into the world. May you live a life of purpose and may your deeds be all on purpose!