One may be wondering why we need to know the going price of a sheep. One also may think that it is some sort of gimmick to get you to read the article. However, it is the Chofetz Chaim who writes it, so by all means – read on.
It can happen to anyone. Indeed, the Chofetz Chaim writes that it is inevitable for someone who is not extremely careful in studying the laws of Shabbos. Most people accidentally end up violating Shabbos.
What should be done if, Heaven forbid, it happens to you?
It must also be made clear that Shabbos is a gift from Hashem and should be viewed as a patriotic national would view his country’s flag. Observed properly, it is a source of remarkable spiritual renewal.
It is also our means of affirming to the world that Hashem—who rewards good and punishes evil—created the world. Since Shabbos observance is the flag of the Jewish nation, when we accidentally violate the flag we should take special measures and efforts to ensure that we realize its seriousness and not violate it again.
Once, long ago, we had a Beis HaMikdash. The Beis HaMikdash was the pride and glory of the Jewish nation. During those times we would bring a goat or a sheep and offer it up as a Korban Chatas to Hashem.
WHAT THE KORBAN ACCOMPLISHED
The korban accomplished two things: It brought us ever closer to Hashem and allowed us to reach something called d’veikus—a cleaving to Hashem that only the Jewish nation is capable of. It also brought about atonement for sins that we had performed.
Now, unfortunately, due to our sins, we no longer have a Beis HaMikdash. Our Sages tell us that in any generation in which the Beis HaMikdash was not rebuilt, it is as if it was destroyed in that generation, as well. So because we have sinned, does it make sense that we should be able to get away with not spending money on a female sheep or female goat?
The Mishnah Berurah (334:80) explains that in our day we should give the amount of 18 pshitin to charity. This comes out to about five golden pieces. He explains that this is the going rate for the lowest cost sheep or goat.
DOES IT APPLY NOWADAYS?
Does this concept and do these prices apply today?
Certainly the concept does—that we should give the value of a small sheep or goat to charity in order to atone for our Shabbos violation. The prices in turn-of-the-century Radin, Poland, however, no longer apply to 21st-century United States. The price of a sheep or goat has gone up. Our research has shown that the lowest price sheep or goat that can be obtained as of January 2017 is in the area is $250.
There is another caveat, too. One should be careful to note that he (or she) is not giving this sheep or goat as a Korban Chatas itself. Rather, the accidental Shabbos violator should say that instead of a Korban Chatas, this amount of money is being given to charity.
The Mishnah Berurah further explains that it is proper to recite the parashah of the Korban Chatas and to understand the specifics of how it was offered. Indeed, Chazal tell us (Menachos 10a) that whoever involves himself in the study of the Chatas offering, it is as if that person had actually offered the korban.
In a nutshell, the procedure is as follows: One who offers a Korban Chatas first takes the animal to the northern area of the azarah and leans on the animal with all his might. This leaning is called semichah.
He then recites the Viduy, confessing his sin and asking Hashem for forgiveness. The animal is then immediately slaughtered in the kosher manner. The blood of the Chatas is applied to the keranos—the posts on the corners of the Mizbeiach—beginning with the southeastern corner of the Mizbeiach and continuing clockwise to the northeastern, northwestern, and southwestern corners.
The rest of the blood is then spilled onto the base of the Mizbeiach, called the yesod. Certain parts of the korban are eaten by the kohanim in the Azarah, the courtyard. The Korban Chatas must be consumed before the day following its offering.
REDEEMING WITH MONEY
The Mishnah Berurah (334:77), however, adds another aspect of penance—either fasting or redeeming the fasts with money. He writes that one who violated the Shabbos should atone for it through fasting. In fact, the Magen Avraham writes that this applies even if one violated a rabbinic law such as techumim—travelling beyond the Shabbos borders of a city.
Nowadays, however, we do not actually engage in excessive fasting, so it is advisable to redeem the fast monetarily. Since the fast should have been 40 Mondays and Thursdays—and the cost of each day’s meals are at least $7 per meal—the total amount is $560 for two meals a day. Wealthier people could and should pay more, since the real rationale for redeeming a fast is that spending the money is equivalent to the pain involved in actually fasting.
So do we need to pay for both of these? Do we need to pay the price of the $560 plus $250 or is one subsumed in the other. Dayan Hershel Ausch, the AV Beis Din of Karlsburg (Dayan Roth’s Beis Din) stated that from the Mishna Brurah it seems that both are necessay.
So we see that we really need to know the going rate of what a sheep costs. We also see how necessary it is to learn and be proficient in Hilchos Shabbos.
The author can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Footnote: A reader suggested that the price should be that of a goat, which his research has shown is considerably cheaper. It is preferable to use a sheep rather than a goat because modern day goats have many kashrus questions of treifus. Ask your local Rav or Posaik.