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    Saints who sin

    The word “sin” comes into basically every page of the Yom Kippur service. Its sparring-partner, “saint”, hardly figures at all.

    Nobody is expected to be perfect. Nobody is such a tzaddik that they do only good and never sin: Ki adam ayn tzaddik ba’aretz asher ya’aseh tov v’lo yecheta (Koh. 7:20). The only complete tzaddik is God.

    When my teacher, Rabbi Koppel Kahana, asked us to expound a Tosafot he gave members of the class 50%, 60 %, 70%… but no more, and he said, “Only God gets 100%”.

    The Lubavitcher Rebbe says that anyone who sins is being stupid. He quotes a verse, “If anyone goes astray…” (Num. 5:12). That, he said, is what sin is – stupidly going astray. It is not only that the sages say that a person does not sin unless they have been overtaken by a spirit of stupidity. Rarely does a sinner act in defiance and rebellion against God; on the contrary, they let themselves go astray from the right path.

    Sin does occur, but usually it is not deliberate. It happens by mistake when we lose control and go astray.

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