Don Isaac Abravanel, sometimes spelled Abarbanel (1437-1508) was a probing and penetrating Jewish thinker, as well as a prolific
Biblical commentator. In Leviticus 7, he explains God’s attitude toward penitents.

“And this is the law of the guilt offering; it is most holy.”

Abravanel observes that both guilt and sin offerings are described in the Torah as “most holy.” On the
surface, this runs counterintuitively to our logic. Since they conjure up man’s wrongdoing, why should
they be so special, so very holy? Contrast sin offerings to peace offerings, brought by people who had
not transgressed God’s commandments. Second-class, per se, peace offerings get referred to as ‘holy

Abravanel suggests that the Torah imparts an insight about wrongdoers.

How does the Almighty relate to them? Does He disparage them, for having done mischief? Quite the

People who acknowledge their wrongdoing, feel contrite about it, resolving to avoid such mistakes in
the future, need not sink into despair. Nor should they view themselves as inferior to righteous folk, on
account of having succumbed to temptation. It simply isn’t true. A penitent is not on a lower, moral level
when compared to the upright who always walks the straight path.

The truth be told, penitents are to be praised for having veered from God’s ways, and yet realigned their
steps, their wayward conduct. God holds such people in especial esteem. The Maker views them as if
they never transgressed, appreciating their efforts – and successes – to conquer evil inclinations.

In this reframed attitude toward penitents, Abravanel echoes the Jewish sages’ sentiment. They write:
In the place where a penitent stands, not even a tzaddik (rigteous person) can stand.

In sum, Heaven’s upbeat message about penitents gets Scriptural support. Guilt and sin offerings are
labeled “most holy”, illustrating that the Creator’s affection and appreciation for those who have done
wrong, yet have pulled them out of moral morass. Indeed, their sacrifices are most holy.