First posted on The Times of Israel at: http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/tzav-sinful-ignorance/
Baal Haturim Leviticus: Tzav
Ignorance breeds monsters to fill up the vacancies of the soul that are unoccupied by the verities of knowledge. -Horace Mann
“I don’t know” is an honest, often acceptable and at times even an admirable response. However, in Jewish law “I don’t know” can be criminal.
The overarching command of Jewish law is the self-referential study of the Torah; becoming acquainted with the laws, traditions and customs of what we call the Jewish faith. If you don’t know the law, you can’t know how to act, what to do, when to do it, when not to do it, and in a system that comprises 248 positive commands and 365 prohibitions, that’s a lot of laws we can make mistakes on. We should become familiar with at least the basic ones.
The Baal Haturim on Leviticus 6:1 explains that the Kohanim, the priests of the Temple, were diligent in the fulfillment of their roles and in studying for it. He elaborates further that when there is an error in ones learning and therefore in the performance of a command it is considered in a way a purposeful sin. The person was negligent in their study and that negligence leads directly to the unavoidable mistake.
“I don’t know” is no longer an excuse. “I didn’t study those laws” does not exempt one from divine judgement. In our day and age, there is absolutely no barrier of access to the entirety of Jewish law, instantaneously, in multiple languages, on multiple sites, apps, books and a plethora of approachable Rabbis worldwide.
We should be constantly educating ourselves.
Shabbat Shalom and Chag Kasher Ve’Sameach,
To the TLV Internationals community for hosting us this Shabbat. Looking forward to a memorable event.