Knowledge of Sufficient Punishment
(Last edited: 6/5/08)
- We naturally feel cleansed of a sin when we truly repent
for – as well as pay for -- the sin. Repenting, by itself, does
not allow us to feel cleansed, and returned to G-d. We also need to “hurt,”
to suffer some sort of pain at least, for what we did. We need to be punished.
- When a child does something wrong and tells his father, his father might
forgive him on the spot – appreciating the honesty, and figuring
that the child has suffered enough (with remorse) already. When that happens,
the child can “rest easy.” All at once, all is right with
his world. Suddenly, life is good.
- But then, if the father does not think that the child has suffered enough
(is suffering enough), that the child’s remorse is only “half-hearted,”
the father will not forgive the child just yet and will bring more suffering
(in the way of punishment) to bare.
- This is how we develop "conscience" in our children. (In fact,
this is probably how we develop love in our
children. Our ability to love is probably dependent upon parental discipline.)
- This is true around the world. This is human nature. One way or another,
good children grow up expecting pain to follow sin.
- And, until sufficient pain follows, our children do not rest easy –
they expect a shoe, or the other shoe, to fall. This is what we call “a
sense of guilt” – the bane of human existence.
- It is also our sense of separation from G-d…
- In other words, our children will feel guilty until they have received
sufficient punishment. In still other words, they will not forgive themselves
until they have received sufficient punishment.
- And the thing is, we can’t leave it
up to our children to decide when the suffering is enough!
We have to ‘tell’ them. And, we tell them with the punishment
we bring. We ‘say’ to them, “Now, everything is OK.
You’re good, in my book. There are no more shoes to fall.”
- And, that’s what G-d did for the Israelites with Leviticus. He
told them exactly what they needed to do in order to rest easy. He told
them what sacrifices they needed to bring.
- He probably forgave them as soon as they were sincere. But, they couldn’t
know that they were forgiven until He told them so. In effect, they couldn’t
forgive themselves until they were told that they had done enough, suffered
enough, had been punished enough.
- So, in order to forgive themselves, they needed to be punished, and
they needed to know that they had been punished enough.
- Since most Israelites could not hear G-d directly, G-d gave them their
instructions through Moses and, thereby, through His written word. He
told the Israelites, while He was in direct contact, how they could know
-- in the future -- when they had suffered enough…
- He also told them to pray and to give charity (which are painful when
done correctly), and reduce the pain of guilt, but his people had no way
to know when they had prayed enough -- or, in most cases, given enough.
- That’s why the sacrifices were so important. They told the Israelites
that they were good in G-d’s book – which is what they needed
to know in order to forgive themselves.