Ohr Hachaim explains Breishit 50:20 by way of a mashal: someone intended to give his fellow poison but ended up giving him wine. The perpetrator is not deemed to be chayav for what he intended to do.

Ohr Hachaim’s comment above seems at odds with Rashi’s comment on Bamidbar 30:6 (dibbur hamatchil “va’Hashem yislach la”). Rashi gives the example of a woman who takes a neder to become a nazir while her father hears and secretly annuls the neder but she transgresses her neder. She needs slicha because kavana (and seemingly not the ma’aseh) is what matters. In the case of the Ohr Hachaim’s example it seems that the ma’aseh (and not kavana) matters. Why is it the opposite for both cases?

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    Ma’aseh is compared to the body. Kavanah is compared to the soul. Both are important and essential, but one is not alive unless the soul is dressed in the body. Commented Jan 16, 2020 at 5:37
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    Maybe because being liable is a different standard than needing forgiveness?
    – b a
    Commented Jan 16, 2020 at 10:33
  • A vow is a maaseh, as it is a verbal statement.
    – DanF
    Commented Jan 16, 2020 at 12:58

1 Answer 1


Rashi is referencing the Gemorah in Kiddushin 81B which speaks about doing Teshuva and needing a Kappora for doing an action you think is forbidden when unbeknownst to you it really isn't. In such a situation a person has to do Teshuva. And if someone did something they thought was forbidden which indeed was forbidden the obligation of Teshuva is even bigger.

The Ohr HaChaim OTOH is discussing judging that person in the court system. A human court would never convict someone (of actual, not attempted, murder) for intending to give his fellow poison but giving him wine instead. The Ohr HaChaim learns the Posuk before the one being discussed as Yosef saying that I cannot judge you only Hashem will. He then continues in this Posuk to say that Hashem should exonerate you because the same way a human court would not convict someone for giving wine instead of poison, so too Hashem in his heavenly court should exonerate you for the act of selling me due to the results.

The Ohr HaChaim doesn't say or mean that on a personal level the Shevatim had no reason to do Teshuva if what they did was wrong.

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