The sin offering (korban chatat,) described in Parshat Vayikra, is brought as a penalty for inadvertentlyviolating certain laws of the Torah. This is intriguing: if a person sins by mistake then he is penalized with a korban chatat, while a person who sins purposefully (though he may have a different punishment) does not need to bring any sacrifice! Why is that so?
The Shoel U'Meishiv (Rabbi Yosef Shaul Nathanson, 1808-1875, Poland) gives a fantastic explanation, based on the Ramban (Nachmanides.) The Ramban writes that the reason why a korban chatat is brought in the first place is because really the person should die for his sin, and so he brings an animal to take his place and die instead of him. The Shoel U'Meishiv wonders how an animal can possibly replace a human, being that a a human soul is at a much higher level than an animal soul-? He explains that a sin which is violated by mistake (b'shogeg) is not committed with a person's nefesh ha'sichlit, intellectual soul, but rather with his nefesh ha'behamit, his animalistic soul. Therefore, only if a person sins by mistake can an animal truly take his place.
Rabbi Michael Macks will be contributing weekly divrei torah as he is able