Talmud Tips

For the week ending 16 December 2017 / 28 Kislev 5778

Shavuot 9 - 15

by Rabbi Moshe Newman
Become a Supporter Library Library

Yom Kippur, Atonement and Repentance

Rava said, “Rebbi agrees that the day of Yom Kippur does not atone for the karet transgressions done on that same day of Yom Kippur, because if it would indeed atone, there would never be a case of a karet obligation for these transgressions (and the Torah certainly did not write this punishment of karet for Yom Kippur in vain).”

Although the ruling of the Chachamim (majority of Sages) is that Yom Kippur atones only with teshuva — and this is the halacha — Rebbi disagrees and holds that Yom Kippur atones for a person’s transgressions whether or not he did teshuva for them. There are two beraitas in our sugya that seem contradictory, but Rava reconciles them in the above manner.

One beraita states that Yom Kippur atones for a person’s transgressions, with or without teshuva, according to Rebbi (with the exception of three sins: rejecting G-d, the Torah and brit mila). Another beraita states that Yom Kippur does not atone without teshuva. Rava says that in fact both of these teachings could be attributed to Rebbi, and the one that requires teshuva refers only to atoning for the karet-transgressions of Yom Kippur (eating, drinking and doing melacha). Yom Kippur atones for them, “deleting” the karet punishment, only with teshuva, because if this were not so, asserts Rava, there would never exist the possibility of karet for these Yom Kippur infractions according to Rebbi. All other transgressions, however, are atoned for by Yom Kippur even without teshuva.

The gemara proceeds to argue that Rava’s claim is not an air-tight proof for explaining the opinion of Rebbi in this unique manner, that Yom Kippur without teshuva atones for all sins except for the karet-sins associated with Yom Kippur and transgressed on that day. There are three different scenarios proposed by the gemara to demonstrate how one could be obligated karet for eating on Yom Kippur even if Yom Kippur atones without teshuva, as Rebbi clearly states in one of the beraitas.

One case proposed is if a person ate at night and died that same night. The day of Yom Kippur would provide no atonement for the karet punishment, since the person was not alive during the day. (This is based on the verse, “For on this day He shall effect atonement for you to purify you from all of your sins.” — Vayikra 16:30) A second case is if a person ate something during the day and choked to death on it. Since no time passed between the eating and the choking, there was no time during the day for the day of Yom Kippur to atone for this act. A third proposal offered by the gemara is if the person ate at the very end of the day of Yom Kippur, and there was no time remaining in the day for the atonement of the day of Yom Kippur to transpire.

  • Shavuot 13 a-b

© 1995-2024 Ohr Somayach International - All rights reserved.

Articles may be distributed to another person intact without prior permission. We also encourage you to include this material in other publications, such as synagogue or school newsletters. Hardcopy or electronic. However, we ask that you contact us beforehand for permission in advance at [email protected] and credit for the source as Ohr Somayach Institutions www.ohr.edu

« Back to Talmud Tips

Ohr Somayach International is a 501c3 not-for-profit corporation (letter on file) EIN 13-3503155 and your donation is tax deductable.