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In havdalla in chonein hada'as of motzai shabbos maariv, we say "חשוכים מכל חטא [ופשע] ומנוקים מכל עון"

חשוכים means to be prevented from, as in ואחשוך גם אנכי אותך מחטוא לי (Bereishis 20:6).

The Etz Yosef commentary explains that חשוכים מכל חטא means to be prevented from doing any shogeg, accidental sin. מנוקים מכל עון means that we should be cleansed of any intentional sin that was done. But חשוכים could not be said by עון because we have the bechira to sin intentionally.

My understanding of the difference between אונס and שוגג is that one (אונס) is beyond your control and completely unavoidable, and the other (שוגג) is a result of a degree of carelessness on your part, which was not intentional but was avoidable. Thus we find שוגג קרוב לאונס by cases of accidents which were difficult but not impossible to avoid.

So why is שוגג outside my bechira and acceptable to pray that it be withheld from me? I seemingly have the choice to be careful enough to avoid שוגג as well as intentional sins.

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4 Answers 4

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This seems to parallel לא יאונה לצדיק כל און - No wrong shall be caused for the righteous, certainly according to Rashi (there on the verse and other places) that this applies to all sin, but even according to Tosfos that this only applies to food or things which are degrading for the Tzaddik, it is certainly appropriate to ask for that protection.

Note in a similar way, the Arizal says (brought in באר היטב on O.C. 447) that anyone careful about a Mashehu of Chametz on Pesach will be spared from sins the whole year, and the Lubavitcher Rebbe explains (Sichos Kodesh 5740 Achron Shel Pesach) that this refers to שוגג only, as free choice is not removed from the person.

So the point being it is possible to get divine help in avoiding accidental sin, and this is what we are asking for. Since we see that it is something that Hashem clearly does for deserving people, it is something worthy to ask for.

As for the last part of the question, you can't chose to do a Shoggeg. Rather you choose to ensure that your circumstances and actions prevent one. If a situation happens that was preventable but potentially leads to a sin, whether or not it actually does is up to Hashem. He can prevent the improper preparation from leading to a sin, thus forgiving the improper preparation.

(Parenthetically, I doubt it is humanly possible to prevent all shoggegs in everything in life. That is why there is a concept of לא יאונה לצדיק כל און - once you have done what you can do, Hashem takes care of the rest).

With a Meizid, you can ask to be forgiven, you can ask to not be tempted, but you cannot ask to be stopped from doing it, as that is your choice. With a Shoggeg, you can still do the things you shouldn't have done, and still be prevented, because your choice wasn't to do an Aveirah, it was simply to do something that could have not been done and avoided the situation. But since you have no control over if the situation will actually lead to an Aveira, you can ask that it not actually go there. This is a form of forgiveness, for sure, but it is a more powerful one, as it prevents the sin in the first place.

Or put another way, to use the other example, the food could turn out to be Kosher, at which point the whole sin is avoided. That is what we are asking for. Not to be prevented from the things we chose, but from their consequences.

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Firstly, forgiveness from accidental sins far predates the havdallah,we find in Psalm 90, .שגיאות מי יבין, מנסתרות נקני "Who can discern shogegim, cleanse (?) me from hidden sins." In fact, the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy include נושא...וחטאה "Who forgives...accidental sin."

Presumably, while one could be careful enough to avoid such sins, in practice many of us aren't. So we pray that even if we do the wrong thing by being careless, HaShem should still prevent a sin from happening. For example, if we aren't careful about making sure food is kosher, we ask that HaShem make sure it is.

This is similar to the morning blessing "and do not bring us..to the hands of temptation." While we do have the bechirah to withstand the temptation, we still want HaShem to limit the opportunity for us to exercise that bechirah in the wrong way.

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The thirteen attributes also include avon and pesha among that list. And the verse in Psalm 90 has other explanations, although the etz Yosef quotes it in his commentary. Regarding your answer, it seems to ignore my question - there is a bechira in being careful as well. It is my choice to not care enough to be careful. Why is that bechira dismissable? –  YeZ Jan 30 at 3:35
    
I have doubts about the example you give (similar to YEZ's comment). The food is what it is (kosher or not). HaShem is unlikely to intervene miraculously to change it if we are not bothered enough to make sure of its kashrut. –  Avrohom Yitzchok Jan 30 at 18:09

Shogeg is not outside of your bechira - you chose a course of action which led to the shogeg.

For example, if someone was chopping wood and did not to check to see if someone was standing nearby and a piece of wood flew off and killed the person, he is liable for shogeg, because he chose to go ahead with the chopping without taking the proper precautions.

But because this type of "choice" which involves a non-action is much harder to avoid than a positive choice to do something wrong, we ask Hashem in Havdalah to prevent us from making this "choice".

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there are different levels of shogeg.

The Rambam writes in Hilchot Rotzeach ch.6 (there's a chabad translation on this here)

  1. There are three categories of unintentional killers.

  2. There is a person who kills unintentionally (b'shgaga), he is exiled...

  3. There is a person who kills unintentionally (b'shgaga) but the shgaga (accident) is karov l'oness (close to being beyond his control)... he is exempt from Galut (exile)

  4. There is a person who kills unintentionally (b'shgaga) but the shgaga (accident) is karov l'zadon (close to intentional), this is where there was a negligence, or that he should have been more careful. He is not exiled, because his sin is great and exile is not enough to atone for him.

hence, there are 3 levels of shogeg.

  1. close to oness (beyond control). for that he does not need atonement

  2. close to negligent.

  3. somewhere in between. this is what the torah refers to in the shogeg murderer who needs atonement.

However for a total oness (i.e. something totally beyond one's control, The Gemara (see Nedarim 27a) derives from a verse in the Torah that "Ones Rachmana Patrei" )

As to why we pray to avoid shogeg (which implies some negligence), we are after all human beings. So we ask for help that we don't err as in Yishai's answer

furthermore some things are totally unintended and blameless but damage one spiritually. such as eating bugs in food. so we can pray for help in that.

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Totally unintended and blameless are not shogeg and weren't part of my question. Yishai's answer was not that we pray to avoid negligence - it was that we pray that the negligence we do should not result in a sin. –  YeZ Feb 7 at 14:09

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