Parshas Va'eira
Exodus 6:2 - 9:34

"The Power Of Confession!" ©
A discussion on the struggle with denial

By Dr. Akiva G. Belk

This study of the weekly parsha is dedicated in the loving memory of Mr. Mordechai and Mrs. Augusta Litman, may they rest in peace.

When one sins, a common trait of the one who sins is the heavy handed urge to deny one's sin. One may feel greatly threatened / embarrassed by the nature of one's sin. THIS IS NOT UNUSUAL! In fact from man's original sin in Gan Eden, man normally attempts to cover his sin ... to act ignorant of any wrongdoing ... to deny his sin ... to blame someone else for his mistake/ for his sin ... This is what Adam, Chava and Kayin did.

What is so important about acknowledging one's sin? Why can't one quietly, discretely determine in their heart they are sorry for their sin?

Without mincing words: There is enormous power in open ... straightforward ... humble ... contrite ... genuine confession! When the power to confess rises above the powers of denying one's sin... of lying about one's sin... of acting ignorant of one's sin and of downplaying one's sin, A CHAIN OF EVIL IS BROKEN! That chain of evil that fastens us to our sin is broken! Contrite acknowledgment, not bragging, breaks that cycle of evil!

The forces that tempt us to deny our sin are so great! The powers persuading us to lie are incredibly imposing. They are like steep mountains with rocky ridges that one must scale. One has to rise above these threatening mountains, to acknowledge one's mistake. These mountains that constrain us from acknowledging the truth... from genuine confession normally are mountains of fear. We fear our spouse... We fear our parents... We fear our children... We fear our neighbors... We fear our community... We fear our employer... We fear the retribution for our sin... We fear the consequences of our sin / sins...

All of these are enormous mountains that tempt us to deny, that persuade us to lie. When an I - N - D - I - V - I - D - U - A - L scales these mountains to confess their sin and to acknowledge their wrong IT IS NO SMALL FEAT!! Confession is great!

Confession breaks denial! Confession breaks lying! Confession breaks ignorance! It is for these reasons that one MAY NOT just determine to be sorry for their sin from within the confines of their heart. When one confesses their mistake one is acknowledging that they realize what they did was a mistake. When one acknowledges their sin they are SEPARATING from their sin!!

It is here that we enter this week's parsha. Pharaoh is living in denial after five incredible acts of Hashem's great power. He is continuing to oppress G-d's people. He is continuing to hold them captive as slaves. He is continuing to deny Hashem as G-d of the entire universe. Pharaoh is continuing in his VERY EVIL WAYS!

Holy reader, it is very important to understand this concept of denial! Denial is very simple and very complicated. Denial is as simple as the thought, 'I sinned... I made a mistake... but it is not necessary for me to confess it' and as complicated as Pharaoh's hard denials of what he saw, heard, tasted etc...

One may argue that sin is between the sinner and her/his G-d. This is true to a degree. It is true in the sense that every sin is a sin against G-d! However it is not true when one's sin has an effect beyond oneself. In other words, if one were to say something evil in the privacy of their room where only G-d heard the sinful comment {first case}, then acknowledging and confessing to G-d is the proper first step. There are other steps required {as discussed in the conclusion of this article}! However if others were present when this evil comment was spoken {second case}, then acknowledging and confessing to G-d alone normally falls short of what is necessary!

We see the grounds for the first case in Genesis 3 when Kayin brings poor quality fruit as a sacrifice to Hashem. His brother Hevel brings a firstborn from the very best of his flock. Hevel's offering is accepted and Kayin's is rejected. The Torah states that Kayin is angry and depressed. Hashem spoke to Kayin. The Torah does not state that Adam, Chava or Hevel had any communication with Kayin regarding this matter. Hashem says to Kayin, "... if you improve {meaning confess and change your course of action}, there is forgiveness, but if you do not improve {if you continue to deny your mistake} sin rests at your door."

What is the point? Even though others knew of Kayin's sin, it was not necessary for him to square it with them. His original sin was against G-d. We do not read that Kayin made any attempt to persuade others to follow his sinful pattern up to this point. So up to this point his sin was against G-d! However we read in the Midrash that as a result of his discussion with Hashem after the sin in discussion, he spoke with his brother Hevel regarding the matter {second case}. When Kayin said words to the effect, 'There is no justice, no judge and no life after death,' to Hevel the issue of confession changed from first case to second case. The Midrash records Kayin's comments in a derogatory fashion. He was not seeking counsel or advice from Hevel. He was objecting to Hashem's direction! He was protesting G-d's command to him! It was at this point that the first case extended to the second case. Now it would also be necessary to include his brother in his confession. If others were present it would be necessary to include them too! This is the difference between the two.

So, dear reader, those of us who are unwilling to make a full acknowledgment of our sin are living in one form of denial or another.

Why is confession such an issue? Consider what the purpose of bringing a sin offering is. What is the intent? The intent is to be forgiven of one's sin. In the days of the Bais Ha Mikdash {Holy Temple} this was accomplished first by confession and second by bringing a sin offering and other steps discussed later. {See Leviticus 5} Today this is accomplished first by confession and second by a humble and contrite heart which offers sacrifices of praise to Hashem plus steps discussed later. {See Psalms 51}

Holy reader, we have just considered some of the problems associated with simple denial.

In this week's parsha Pharaoh was steeped in hard denial. Not only was he unwilling to acknowledge his sin of oppressing B'nei Yisroel, he increased the level of oppression. Pharaoh also denied the existence of G-d as a superior Being. He said to Moshe and Aharon, " Who is Hashem that I should obey his voice, to let Yisroel go? I do not know Hashem, nor will I let Yisroel go." Exodus 5:2

Throughout this week's parsha we are constantly reminded that Pharaoh's heart was hard, that his heart remained set in preventing B'nei Yisroel from worshipping Hashem! His denial was a public denial, a second case denial! It was a sin against Hashem and against His people, B'nei Yisroel! Pharaoh set the tone for the inhabitants of Mitzriam. He ordered his officers to afflict B'nei Yisroel! So at each turn in the course of events, Hashem tells Moshe to remind Pharaoh and the people of Mitzriam, "...that I am Hashem..." Exodus 7:5 "By this you will know that I am Hashem..." Exodus 7:17 "...You will know that there is none like Hashem, our G-d.." Exodus 8:6 "...You will know that I am Hashem in the midst of the earth..." Exodus 8:18 "This is what Hashem the G-d of the Hebrews has said..." Exodus 9:1 Why? " that you may KNOW that there is none like Me in all the earth." Exodus 9:14 " that My Name will be declared throughout the earth." Exodus 9:16

Long before this point, the end of the fifth plague, Pharaoh knew! Yet he continued in his ways of sinful disobedience to Hashem's commands. There are those who know what Hashem has commanded yet in outright denial they continue in their pattern of sin. Their conclusion will be like that of Pharaoh and Mitzriam. They will cross the line as Pharaoh did. Pharaoh reached a place where he was no longer able to control his own heart... his thoughts... his actions... The Torah tells us that G-d took control of them. G-d hardened his heart! When Pharaoh had a choice he chose to oppress B'nei Yisroel. He chose to continue in his pattern of disobedience. He chose to continue his denial of Hashem. He crossed the line that none of us wants to cross. He could not return. This is the danger of the one hardened in denial of Hashem and His commands!!

Holy reader, a staff member at JewishPath posed this question. Can't a Jew return from wherever they are, from however far they have fallen? Isn't the Jewish light an eternal light? Well, the answer is Yes and No! Yes in the sense that it is possible. Yes in the sense that Hashem can draw anyone to him. However in the practical sense, No! Don't be fooled! When a tree is young it is flexible but when it is old the flexibility is gone. If it bends too much it will break. This should serve as a caution to us not to live on the outer perimeters of Judaism where G-d forbid one's lifestyle may prevent one from shuvah...

One may think that eventually they may change their mind BUT that is not necessarily so for those like Pharaoh who cross the line or live on the outer perimeters. It is a very scary, dangerous place to dangle with one's life!

Now, dear reader, we have just considered some of the problems associated with hard denial. Both simple and hard denial are problems that one must scale above. CONFESSION combined with ACKNOWLEDGMENT of our sin is the way to break through denial! Confession and acknowledgment of our sin /sins is the way to break the cycle of denial!

Once we break that horrible cycle, we must set our course on a new pattern that turns away from our sin / sins. If we meditate on our sin as Pharaoh did then we will return to our sin as Pharaoh did. He went running after B'nei Yisroel with his army and chariots. This resulted in the final destruction of Mitzriam.

After we break the cycle of denial and set a new course there is the issue of restitution / damages! We must pay restitution for the damages we have caused. Here again is a tough issue. Restitution is like insurance against repeating the offense.

If we follow these steps repentance is assured every time! Our lives will be changed! Our lives will be elevated to new levels of righteousness! We will be better people! Period!

I pray to Hashem that each of us will be blessed with the courage and strength to overcome our struggles with denial and live a pure life filled with Torah mitzvohs and blessings!!

Good Shabbos!

Dr. Akiva G. Belk


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