Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Nature of Sin

Rav Huna made a fairly well known statement. One who did a sin and “shanah bah,” repeated it, the sin has unfortunately become “k’heter,” something that no longer smacks of sin to the sinner himself.
Someone once asked Rav Baruch of Mezhibuzh, zt”l, about this, “Since one can always repent, what does he mean by ‘the sin is permitted to him?’ Surely the person will still repent for the sin on Yom Kippur since he does really know that it is a sin?”
The Rebbe explained, “On a simple level it means that it is harder to do teshuvah for a sin once it has become habitual than for a ‘fresh’ one. But there is also a deeper lesson in Rav Huna’s statement. ‘V’shanah’ also means, ‘and learns.’ When viewed this way, the Gemara is really saying that one who sins and learns afterward is ‘hutra,’ or released from his guilt! With this, we can more readily understand Chazal’s statement that if one sees a Torah scholar sinning at night one should not suspect him the next day since he has surely repented by then. How do we know that he will have already repented? From the fact that he is a Torah scholar—he will have learned, and his learning will bring him to repentance!”
The Satmar Rav, zt”l, had an entirely different view of Rav Huna’s words, however. He would say, “There are some people whose lack of yiras shomayim drives them to try and ‘purify a sheretz’—to illegitimately rationalize improper behavior. Such people think that they are accomplished scholars, and they are willing to concoct a ‘halachic’ way permit almost any wrong. Rav Huna means that if one did a sin and knows how to learn (v’shanah), he will find a way to justify his misdeed. Then he can say in all innocence, ‘hutra’—it’s permitted. His ability to learn is what keeps him sinning!”

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