We have acted wantonly. (Artscroll Vidui) “The king of Moab has rebelled – Pasha – against me.” (Kings II 3:7) Pashanu means that we have rebelled against God. Perhaps we did not mount a major rebellion, but acted in small ways to voice our anger or frustration with God. Someone is upset with God and doesn’t pray. We break what we consider an insignificant Shabbat law in frustration with Judaism or Torah. The small acts of Pesha can cause enormous damage.
“In every question of dishonesty – Pesha – whether it involves an ox, a donkey, a sheep, a garment, or anything that was lost.’ (Exodus 22:8)
Pashanu describes the times when we are dishonest in our relationship with God and dishonest when performing a Mitzvah:
“Because Moses broke the Luchot – God’s Tablets – he sent his hands against Someone else’s work, he had to go up again to make amends, to pray for Israel, to carve the second set of Luchot and bring them up Sinai.” (Da’at Zekainim MiBa’alei Tosafot, Exodus 22:8) Moses was doing the correct thing. God honored him for breaking the Luchot, and yet, he is considered to be included in the Pesha sin of the verse. No matter how honorable and justified Moses’ intentions, they were God’s Tablets, not his.
Pesha is clearly not restricted to acts of rebellion. It includes even positive actions that also had a negative effect. Pashanu would include a rebuke that was necessary but caused embarrassment.
“When Aaron made the Golden Calf, the Divine decree was issued against his sons, Nadav and Avihu. Moses stood before the Holy One, Blessed is He, and said, ‘is this law hinted anywhere in the Torah?’ God answered, ‘Go, and check.’ Moses studied until he found the following verse: ‘In every question of dishonesty – Pesha – whether it involves an ox, a donkey, a sheep, a garment, or anything that was lost.’ The Pesha referred to in the verse is the sin of Aaron.” (Da’at Zekainim MiBa’alei Tosafot, Exodus 22:8)
Aaron made the calf with all the right motivations, and yet, the verse describes his action as a Pesha. Even a well-motivated act can be Pesha.
“Which act of Pesha is described in the verse? The Pesha – the carelessness- of Israel that the redeemer has not yet arrived.” (Da’at Zekainim MiBa’alei Tosafot, Exodus 22:8) If we cared enough to perfect the world and were not careless in our actions, the Messiah would have arrived. We are not careful enough about what we do.
“This verse refers to those who say that there will never be a Messiah.” (Da’at Zekainim MiBa’alei Tosafot, Exodus 22:8) Someone who does not believe in the ultimate perfection of the world is called a Posheia. “Mankind will never work things out”, is a statement of Pesha.
Pesha is not only rebellion.
Pesha can manifest itself in Mitzvot as well.
Pesha includes a lack of concern for God’s creation that results in carelessness in what we do.
Pesha includes the lack of faith in the ultimate perfection of the world.
Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l explained that if I yell at someone to stop him from turning on a light on Shabbat, resulting in his embarrassment, I am being careless. I am worried only about the immediate law, turning on a light on Shabbat, and not the long-term effects of my behavior.
Anytime I do not consider the long-term effects of my Mitzvot I am being a Posheia.
Be honest in our relationship with God. Pray and make statements of faith with integrity.
Be careful that each and every detail of my Mitzvah actions are productive.
Consider the long-term effects of our Mitzvot on others.
Believe that the world will ultimately be perfected.