Monday, January 13, 2020

.י Abolishing Sin

אָמְרָה לֵיהּ בְּרוּרְיָא דְּבֵיתְהוּ: מַאי דַּעְתָּךְ — מִשּׁוּם דִּכְתִיב ״יִתַּמּוּ חַטָּאִים״, מִי כְּתִיב ״חוֹטְאִים״? ״חַטָּאִים״ כְּתִיב. וְעוֹד, שְׁפֵיל לְסֵיפֵיהּ דִּקְרָא ״וּרְשָׁעִים עוֹד אֵינָם״, כֵּיוָן דְּ״יִתַּמּוּ חַטָּאִים״ ״וּרְשָׁעִים עוֹד אֵינָם״? אֶלָּא בְּעִי רַחֲמֵי עִלָּוַיְהוּ דְּלַהְדְּרוּ בִּתְשׁוּבָה, ״וּרְשָׁעִים עוֹד אֵינָם״.
ברוריא seems to make a beautiful point here but the problem is that is not the actual meaning of the פסוק. The word חטאים is also used to refer to sinners using the same בנין as, for example a גַמָל, referring to a camel rider. I recall R' Moshe Eisemann mentioning once, "didn't ברוריא learn דקדוק in seminary?" He offered the following answer: Surely, ברוריא knew that the actual meaning of the פסוק is that the sinners themselves should pass away. But the point that ברוריא was making was that since the פסוק could conceivably be read differently to mean "the sins," you, רבי מאיר, since you are involved in the conflict and thus נוגע בדבר, you have a responsibility to err on the side of caution and understand the פסוק otherwise. It is a similar theme we find later on (:כ"ח) that there was no one who was capable of properly arranging the extra ברכה to combat the heretics. Only שמואל הקטן whom, as we know (אבות ד:י"ט) was the champion of בנפול אויבך אל תשמח, was capable of arranging the ברכה with the proper intent.

I recently heard a beautiful answer to this question, more along the lines of פשט. (Unfortunately, I can't recall where I heard this from.) Indeed, the word חַטָּאִים does mean sinners. However, there is a difference between חַטָּאִים and חוֹטְאִים. A חַטָּא is when for whom sin is an essence of his being. It is the same construct as גַמָל or חַמָר referring to a camel or donkey driver as that is their profession. A חוֹטֵא, however, is someone who sins casually. They are heavily influenced by the חַטָּאִים to follow in their ways. What the פסוק in תהילים is teaching us is that when the חַטָּאִים are no longer they will cease to influence the חוֹטְאִים and all other רשעים and they will naturally do תשובה. Beruriah was cautioning her husband that these men are not really חַטָּאִים. They are merely חוֹטְאִים and he should not pray for their demise.

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