Written for Shabbat Parshat Vayikra, ז’ באדר ב תשע”ד:
This week’s Parsha contains many details about the different types of sacrifices that the people would bring to the Mishkan (and later Beit HaMikdash), and described the procedures that the Kohein had to perform when bringing the sacrifice. Towards the end of the Parsha are listed different Chatat (sin-offering) sacrifices which are brought, starting with one for the Kohein Gadol.
A Chatat was brought when a matter was “hidden from the people”; that they came to do something prohibited which they mistakenly thought was permissible. One would think that the people most likely to make such a mistake is the average person, and thus the procedures for his sacrifice will come first. However, it is the Kohein Gadol’s Chatat which comes first, for cases where he makes a ruling that something is permissible when it is not, and acts on his ruling.
In a Torah way of life, no one is above the law, and in fact, we only value a leader who willingly admits to his mistakes and tries to atone for them. We know that everyone is human, and even great people can make mistakes, but we expect them to admit to their mistakes and try to improve themselves, rather than sweep their mistakes under the carpet and hide their shame. In fact, R’ Bachya explains from the description of the procedure that Hashem wants the nation to see the bringing of the Chatat of the Kohein Gadol, not to shame the Kohein, but to show that everyone is equally obligated to perform the Mitzvot.
Just as the spiritual leader of our people, so, too, at every level must we, as leaders, be willing to admit our mistake. Everyone makes mistakes, but when we try to hide them, it only comes back to haunt us. If we are the leaders of a shul or community, or the head of a household, and rumors spread about something we once did, it only does us harm to lie about it and hide our shame. It is important to admit to our mistakes, and work to correct them so as not to repeat them in the future. If we can do this, then can we lead effectively, and help bring Hashem’s teachings to the world. Shabbat Shalom.