The Goal of the Sin Offering

Yael Eckstein  |  March 10, 2022

Drawing of a man with his hands held up to the sky about to make an offering.

The LORD said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites: ‘When anyone sins unintentionally and does what is forbidden in any of the LORD’s commands…’” Leviticus 4:1-2

Each week in synagogue, Jews read through the Torah from Genesis to Deuteronomy. This week’s Torah portion is Vayikra, which means “and He called,” from Leviticus 1:1–5:26.

Why do people ever do the wrong thing? Why we do we sin? Sure, there are people who have true ill intent, but even though they make the headlines, such people are most definitely a small minority. I’m talking about the rest of us. I’ve certainly done some things in my life that I wasn’t supposed to do. The question is why do we do it?

The rabbis in the Talmud said, “A person doesn’t sin unless they are filled with a spirit of foolishness.” In other words, we get careless. We get caught up in feelings of the moment without thinking about what is really important.

Most of all, we forget about God and are thinking only about ourselves. Then, after we come to our senses, we feel shame. We feel like fools. And sometimes this can lead people to think that they can’t stand before God and face Him. We are so ashamed that we forget how much God loves us.

The Goal of the Sin Offering

I thought about this as I was reading this week’s Torah portion, specifically the section dealing with sin offerings, brought to atone for violations of God’s law. The Scripture begins:

The LORD said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites: ‘When anyone sins unintentionally and does what is forbidden in any of the Lord’s commands” (Leviticus 4:1-2).

What’s interesting is that the sin offerings were only brought by someone who sinned unintentionally, not on purpose. And if you think about it, this makes a lot of sense. The purpose of the sacrifices was not to pay God back for what we’ve done. If it was, there would certainly be sin offerings for those who sinned on purpose, too.

The goal of the sin offerings was to draw us closer to God, to bring us into His presence. Because when we sin, it usually means that we forgot about Him, not that we were angry with Him.

God knows that we mean well, that we want a relationship with Him. He knows that we sometimes forget about Him and mess up, unintentionally. The sin offering was God’s way of allowing us to get close to Him again.

Your Turn:

Have you ever felt unworthy of approaching God? That something you did kept you from Him? God wants a relationship with us. Don’t let sin prevent you from drawing close to Him in prayer and worship today.