In this week’s parshah, Vayikra, we read about a person who transgressed against G‑d by being dishonest to another person. “When he realizes that he sinned and that he is guilty,” first he must correct the wrong, and only after that can he go through the process to receive atonement.

When one person is being dishonest to another, why does the Torah call it “a transgression against G‑d”? What does “when he realizes that he sinned” mean? Didn’t he know that he was being dishonest all along?

When two people make a business deal without a contract and without witnesses, and one is dishonest and swindles his partner, he feels confident doing so because no one else was there. But in truth, there was Someone there: G‑d! His dishonesty is not only against his friend; it’s a denial of G‑d’s existence.

There is a deeper level of dishonesty: being deceitful to oneself. This is when you knowingly underestimate your potential. You know the abilities G‑d has given you. Are you using all of them? Are you maximizing your potential? You have the ability to make a difference, to change the world for the better. G‑d has given you these gifts just for this purpose. Not using them is an affront to Him.

Dishonesty finds its roots in selfishness, in not being able to see anyone but oneself. When everything is about “me,” it is impossible to use my potential for G‑d because my abilities are busy satisfying my selfishness. When dishonesty is directed towards oneself, it is very difficult to correct the situation because being selfish means being right.

The only way out of the situation is for the person to realize this reality on his own, acknowledging that he sinned and admitting his guilt. Only then can he begin to make amends—first to his fellows and then to G‑d.

For many of us, it is so difficult to admit that that we were wrong. On the other hand, doing so and apologizing is so liberating. When one partner is selfish, there is no relationship. When you make room for another to exist, the relationship begins—first with the other and then with G‑d.

We are now at the end of this dark exile brought on because of senseless hatred between people. This hatred is also rooted in selfishness. If we can find a way to overcome selfishness, and make room for one another and recognize G‑d, then we will be well on our way to friendship, closeness to G‑d, filling our potential and bringing Moshiach.