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Massei: Rav Avraham Grodzenski: Understanding Someone’s Intention

The 22nd of Tammuz is the Yahrtzeit of Rav Avraham Grodzenksi, mashgiach of Slabodka; died al kiddush Hashem, along with his sons, Yisrael, Zeev, and Eliezer, and his daughter, Miriam (1942). A collection of his thoughts are recorded in Toras Avraham. His last three years were spent in the Kovno Ghetto. An account of that period in his life was written by his daughter, Rebbetzin R. Wolbe, who became the wife of Rav Shlomo Wolbe, entitled “Ve’emunascha Baleilos.” On June 23, 1941 (27th of Sivan) German bombardment of Lithuania put a stop to the learning in Slabodka, as Kovno took the brunt of the attack.


“Then the assembly shall judge between the assailant and the avenger of the blood according to these laws. The assembly shall rescue the killer…(Numbers 35:24-25).”

Most sins can be considered a mistake. There are mistakes in knowledge, such as what qualifies as a violation of the Shabbat. There are mistakes of fact, such as a person violating the Shabbat thinking that it is not Shabbat. There are mistakes in law, such as a person who mistakingly believes that something is permissible.

There are few sins that are considered intentional, and even of these they are not necessarily considered to have been committed with full intention. For example. We live in times when people are convinced that what they hear is fact. It becomes easy for them to believe certain facts without their necessarily being true. A person may be convinced that although it is Shabbat, and although it is prohibited to perform certain types of work on Shabbat, what he is about to do is not truly work and therefore he believes that it is permissible although he is acting with intention.

When the first teaches that the assembly shall judge and the assembly shall rescue it means that when ever we judge someone we must be aware that although he seemed to act with full intention we do not necessarily understand what contributed to that intention. We must judge by exploring his entire thought process as he sinned.

This was one of the most significant responsibility of the prophets; it was their job to make sure that people were fully aware of the seriousness of their actions, that the actions were sinful, and the consequences of their actions. This is why we are often held responsible for not obeying the instructions of a prophet rather than for the specific sin. We send because we did not pay attention to the prophets who were pointing out the seriousness of the action.

When God sends a prophet to teach the people after they are sending, He is acting towards us with great kindness, affording us another opportunity to achieve clarity. For this is what God desires more than anything else; that we act at all times with full awareness. (Torat Avraham: Prophecy & Suffering)

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