By R’ Mordechai Young
As a teenager, I went to Queens for Simchas Torah one year, since many of my friends were spending the chag there. At night, walking home from shul, I acted in a bit of a wild way. At the same time, we saw my friend Ian’s father, Mr. Hametz, who wished us a “gutten yom tov” and chatted with us for a few minutes.
The next day, I was in Ian’s house and Mr. Hametz asked to speak to me in the other room. He described my behavior in general terms, not speaking of me specifically, but stating that it’s not appropriate for people to act rambunctiously in this neighborhood on yom tov. He spoke so nicely, not talking down to me. I accepted his mussar and was impressed that he waited to convey this message to me, not embarrassing me. Further, he gave me the message with such wisdom and without judgment.
In this week’s parashah, Moshe Rabbeinu tells Aharon to come and offer his korban chatas and korban olah. They are both offered at the northern part of the Mizbeiach. The chatas is brought for certain sins done inadvertently. The olah isn’t brought to atone for sins. The Gemara (Sotah, daf 32b) explains why they are offered in the same place. Hashem didn’t want to embarrass the one who sinned; if the chatas was brought in its own spot everyone would know he sinned.
Moshe Rabbeinu told Aharon to approach and bring these korbanot. Rashi explains that Aharon hesitated to approach because he was embarrassed that he had a connection to the sin of the Golden Calf. Moshe asked, “Why are you embarrassed?”
Rashi says that Moshe is indicating to Aharon that it is because of this that Aharon was chosen to be the kohen gadol. The Sfas Emes beautifully clarifies Rashi’s words: Precisely because of Aharon’s beloved character trait of bushah (embarrassment) Hashem chose him.
This leads us to a question regarding the Gemara quoted above. Since bushah is a good middah, why not have the sinner feel embarrassment and have his chatas brought to a separate location?
It’s true that bushah can be beneficial, and gives the person who sinned atonement. However, the people who can deal with embarrassment are few and far between; indeed, most would rather avoid it. If the korban chatas was brought in a separate location, this might have stopped some people from doing teshuvah and bringing the korban. Hashem knows this and cares about the sinner’s state of mind, and therefore instructed that both korbanos be brought to one place.
Let us remember how much Hashem loves us even when we mess up! We can learn from Hashem and try not to embarrass someone who makes a mistake.