Torah Portion: Vayikra
“נפש כי תחטא ומעלה מעל בה’ וכיחש בעמיתו” (ויקרא ה כא)
It is a positive commandment upon a person who committed certain sins that will be discussed below, that he bring an offering called the “definite guilt-offering.” The offering consists of a ram worth two selas. There are some sins that require bringing this offering whether the sins were committed inadvertently or willfully, and there are some sins that require this offering only if they were committed inadvertently.
One of these sins is when a person unlawfully has possession of another Jew’s money — such as he stole or robbed it; he held on to it after it had been deposited for his safekeeping; or it was left in hand after a loan or partnership — and the other person demanded to be paid. The [sinner] however denied owing anything and swore falsely. In such a case, when he regrets his sin, he must bring a definite guilt-offering, as it is written, If a person will sin and commit a treachery against Hashem by lying to his fellow… (Vayikra 5:21). [Other sinner who must bring a definite guilt-offering include: One who misused and enjoyed consecrated items, a Nazir who became defiled, a Metzora who was purified from his Tzara’as, and a man who had relations with a half-freed maidservant.]
Among the roots of this mitzvah is the idea that a person must not think that he will rob his fellow and then, when he has the money, he will simply return it to the fellow and all will be well. The Torah therefore makes it clear that even after returning the stolen money, he will still need to bring an offering before he will be atoned.
This Mitzvah of bringing this offering applies when the Holy Temple stands, to both men and women. One who transgressed this and did not bring this offering, even if he returned the stolen money, is not forgiven for his sin, though we may assume that the punishment he will receive is not as harsh as it would be if he had not bothered to even return the stolen money at all.