… Shlomo HaMelech, may peace be upon him, says (Koheles 12:14): For G-d will bring every action to justice.…" Just as the Holy One blessed be He does not allow any good deed, however small, to go unrewarded, He will not allow any bad deed, however small, to go unjudged or unchastised. The purpose of this verse, furthermore, is to counteract the thoughts of those who would be tempted to believe that the Master , blessed be He, will not include in His judgments the lighter offenses and will not require an accounting of them. But in fact, this is one of our fundamental truths (Bava Kamma 50a): "Whoever says that the Holy One blessed be He overlooks things will have his innards overlooked." And similarly they said (Chagigah 16a): "If the evil inclination says to you, 'Sin and the Holy One blessed be He will be forgiving,' do not listen to him!" This is self-evident and clearly spelled out because the Eternal is a G-d of truth. This is what Moshe Rabbeinu, may peace be upon him, said [this verse]: "The Rock, His actions are perfect, for all His ways are just. A faithful G-d, without injustice.…" Since the Holy One blessed be He wants [a world of] justice, it would be a violation of justice to turn a blind eye either to merit or to misconduct. Consequently, if there is meant to be justice, He must repay each person in accordance with his conduct and the results of his actions – both for good and for bad, with the strictest of precision. This is what our Sages of blessed memory said (Ta'anis 11a): "'A faithful G-d, without iniquity, righteous and fair is He' [this verse] – for the righteous [as well] as the wicked." This is the standard, and He judges everything and punishes each sin. And no one can escape from this. You might ask how the attribute of compassion enters into all of this, since in all cases justice must be precise. The answer is that the attribute of compassion is undoubtedly holding up the world, without which the world could not exist at all. Nonetheless, this does not rule out [the function of] the attribute of justice. For according to the letter of the law, the sinner should be punished immediately, subsequent to his sinful act, without any delay. Furthermore, the punishment should be [meted out] with anger, since it is directed against one who has rebelled against the words of the Creator, blessed be His Name, and there should be no way whatsoever to atone for the sins. (How, in fact, can a person rectify that which he has ruined once the sin has been committed? For example, if a person has killed another, [or] has committed adultery, how can this be rectified? Can he purge from reality the act which has been done?) The attribute of compassion, however, yields the opposite of the three things mentioned above: Time is extended to the sinner and he is not destroyed as soon as he has sinned; the punishment itself will not be total; the possibility of repenting will be granted to the sinner as an act of benevolence, so that the uprooting of the penitent's will, should be equivalent to the uprooting of the deed. This means that since the penitent recognizes his sin, admits his guilt and ponders his wrongdoing, repents and totally regrets all that he has done from the outset [as in the declaration of regret over a vow that was taken) so that his regret is so complete that he wishes the deed had never been done and he is filled with terrible anguish that it was done, and from he severs himself from it, and flees from it – then the willful uprooting [of the deed] will be like the uploading of the vow and it will be an effective act of atonement for him. This is what Scripture says (Yeshayahu 6:7): "And your iniquity will disappear and your sin will be atoned for." This means that the sin will literally disappear from reality and will be uprooted retroactively, as a result of one's current anguish and his regret over the past. This surely is benevolence, for it goes beyond the letter of the law. Nonetheless, it is a benevolence that does not undermine the attribute of justice completely. For it allows for the assumption that the satisfaction and pleasure derived from sinning have now been replaced with regret and anguish. Similarly, the extra time granted [between the sin and the punishment] is not an instance of tolerance towards sinful behavior, but rather a brief waiting period to allow one the opportunity to adopt corrective measures.
VIEW EXCERPT DETAILS