The third book of the Torah, Vayikra/Leviticus, focusses on the sacrificial rites that were an integral part of Jewish life until the destruction of the Holy Temples. For many Jews of modernity, sacrifices are difficult to fathom. Within the sacrificial laws, however, there are many subtle lessons that are pertinent even today, when there is no Temple.

Leviticus 5:17 states: “If a person sins and commits one of the commandments of the Lord which may not be committed, but he does not know, he is guilty, and he shall bear his transgression.” The Talmud specifically states: “If there is a doubt whether he had committed the transgression, [he is liable to bring] a doubtful guilt-offering” (Keritot 2a).

The Talmud later gives the example of a person who finds out that some fat that he had earlier consumed might not have been kosher. Since he can no longer check the fat, he offers “a doubtful guilt offering.” (If he later finds out that he definitely consumed non-kosher fat, he brings a sin offering.)

Many people have trouble admitting being wrong. It is often much easier to see other’s faults or to presume someone else is to blame. But, as the old saying goes, “It takes two to Tango.” From the laws of the “doubtful guilt offering,” one might appreciate the lesson of being willing and prepared to admit that in situations of dispute one might have been guilty of instigating or conflagrating the situation and, perhaps, be willing to make a small sacrifice of compromising one’s ego by offering an apology. 

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