Beit Midrash

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  • Ein Ayah
To dedicate this lesson

Internal Remorse; External Acceptance


Various Rabbis

Mishna: If [a borrower] returns a loan during Shemitta, [the lender] should say "I absolve [you from paying the loan]." If [the borrower] said: "Despite this," he should receive the payment, as the pasuk says, "This is the matter [lit., the saying] of Shemitta." Similarly, an unintentional murderer who went to exile in his city of refuge and the people of the city want to honor him, should tell them "I am a murderer." If they say to him, "Despite this," he should accept [the honor] from them, as it says, "This is the matter [lit., the saying] of the murderer."

Ein Ayah: A person is influenced by his internal life, namely, his inner feelings, which impact on all his steps and his lot in life, and his external life, that which his surroundings and society impact on him. A person should not lose either of these influences on his life.
Honor is one of the emotions that is influenced by external life and is positive in the correct measure. One should not give up his basic honor. Indeed, in order to protect one’s basic dignity, it is even possible to refrain from fulfilling one of the Torah’s positive mitzvot or to actively violate a Rabbinic law.
Therefore, even one who has failed and violated a great and overwhelming sin should not lose positive exposure to society around him. Rather, he should strengthen his internal feelings to the point that his life is more focused on the internal. In this context, he should focus on contemplating his failings, striving to straighten himself out, and fixing his actions. It is a tragedy for the sinner whose path has been perverted to throw himself into the buzz of external life, for he is likely to deteriorate further and suffer from it greatly. Therefore, when the people of his city want to honor the unintentional murderer, he should reject the false honor and say, "I am a murderer," and thereby put a stress on his feeling of inner justice. He should focus on the remorse in his heart about the tragedy of loss of a life in which he was involved more than he should involve himself in a robust social life in which he is honored.
However, when they respond to him, "Despite this," he should not totally dismiss the influence of the external, and he should receive their honor. This is appropriate after he already strengthened his internal side over the external [through his sincere statement] and elevated his soul by turning to the values of goodness, justice, and wisdom. This is the attribute of justice that follows the path of Hashem, who sets the path for sinners and leads the humble in judgment. Such a carefully balanced repentance will bring a person to a high level based on love of Hashem and His paths.
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