One of the hardest things for a person to do is admit he or she was wrong. From the greatest to the smallest, being able to admit one’s misdeeds is highly praised. In this week’s Parasha, we read of the Nasi, the king, who sins inadvertently and brings a sacrifice (4:22-26). Rashi quotes the Gemora in Horios (10b) that describes a generation in which its king is willing to take ownership of an accidental (and all the more so an intentional) aveira in such a fashion, as “a fortunate one.”
One of the hardest things for a person to do is admit he or she was wrong. The Torah then describes the place of this korban as “the place of the burnt offering” (Pasuk 24). Why specifically there? The Chizkuni explains the reason that the sin offering is brought in the same place as the burnt offering is to shield the (accidental) sinner from embarrassment, since people will think he’s bringing a burnt offering and not a sin offering. (Based on Sotah 32b)
Delving into this point, we see something quite startling. This person bringing the sin offering who we are trying to shield from embarrassment is the Nasi – the King of Israel, the one who the Gemora found to be highly praiseworthy for his willingness and openness in admitting his mistakes. Now, does this great person need to be protected from humiliation when actually offering the sacrifice? He obviously was able to overcome his embarrassment when admitting in the first place. Having been open, honest and above board, why does he need to be shielded from further embarrassment? He already demonstrated his humility, honesty and greatness – why does he need protection?
A person may be big enough to admit a mistake or misdeed, but he often cannot handle that spotlight for long. The Torah is sensitizing us to just how painful and difficult it is to overcome these feelings. A person may be big enough to admit a mistake or misdeed, but he often cannot handle that spotlight for long. Even a great, humble leader who bares his soul and allows his misstep to become public knowledge, needs protection from a greater amount of embarrassment.
We need to keep this in mind when confronting our children about an alleged or suspected misdeed. There is every reason to assume it’s harder for a child to admit a mistake than a mature adult, as he or she lacks the maturity and perspective necessary for the humility described above. Pushing a child to admit a wrongdoing is a dangerous path because a) It may not be true, and 2) even if it is, it’s excruciatingly hard for a child to be backed into a corner, lose face and admit to a wrongdoing.
Before confronting your child, think first and consider the best path forward. One way a child may have an easier time in admitting is if the child has full confidence that the adult with whom he or she is interacting, can be fully trusted. A child who believes his parent truly has his best interests in mind, will love him no less for the misdeed and is (the parent) himself a trustworthy person, then the path is much clearer for an admission of guilt.
Parents take heed. Helping a child admit mistakes is an integral part of guiding our child’s growth into a mature responsible adult. At the same time, the extreme sensitivity surrounding the admission of guilt creates an emotional minefield that needs to be crossed with an abundance of caution, wisdom and love. Before confronting your child, think first and consider the best path forward. We would certainly want to be treated no differently. May Hashem guide our steps to success with our children.
Best wishes for an admittedly wonderful Shabbos,
Rabbi Kalman Baumann