אשר נשיא יחטא. פירש"י אשרי הדור שהנשיא מביא כפרה על שגגתו וכו'. ור' אברהם כתב אשר נשיא יחטא הוא הפוך ופירושו אשר יחטא נשיא והוא דבק עם של מעלה ואם כל עדת ישראל ישגו כאומ' ואם אשר יחטא הוא הנשיא: אשר נשיא יחטא, “when the political head of the nation commits an inadvertent sin, etc.” Rashi explains that it is a happy day for the people of Israel when a political head of the nation is called upon to bring this offering [It shows that such a head does not consider that he is infallible, and that he accepts admonitions by his subjects. Ed.] Ibn Ezra feels that the text is inverted and should be understood as if the Torah had written; “when a political head sins, etc.” The whole verse is a continuation of what has been written before, i.e. “in the event that the entire community of Israel has committed an inadvertent sin, etc.” The word אשר, according to Ibn Ezra, is not a statement of fact, but is conditional just as the word אם.
מכל מצות ה' אלקיו. דהיינו נשיא או מלך שאין עליו אלא מצות ה' אלקיו ומזכיר זה לומר אע"פ שאין עליו מורא בשר ודם יש לו לירא מה' שהוא אלקיו כי הוא אדוני האדונים: מכל מצוות ה' אלוקיו, “of any of the negative commandments of his G’d.” Although up until now the Torah also spoke of violations of G’d’s commandments, the words מצוות אלוקיו underline that even the High Priest and the king, or other political leader, who owe obeisance only to G’d and not to a terrestrial ruler, need to be reminded by the Torah that they must always remain in awe of Hashem. He is the Supreme authority, including that of the King and High Priest. 4,23, או הודע אליו חטאתו, “or the sin that he is guilty of comes to his attention.” The Torah here abbreviated, seeing that earlier it had spoken of the example where the king himself had realized that he had committed an error. Here we speak about a situation where the king had been unaware himself that he had sinned, but that the fact and the nature of the sin had been brought to his attention by others. Nachmanides claims that there is no need for such convoluted ways of justifying the syntax of the Torah. The matter is simple. The word אשר simply means the same as כאשר, “when, or “as soon as,” There are many examples in Scripture where the word אשר appears meaning כאשר. As a result, the words או הודע אליו חטאתו refer to what had been stated previously in verse 1, i.e. ואשם, “he was conscious of some guilt.” and he became aware that he was guilty. At that time the sinner had either not taken any action in order to deal with how to atone for his transgression, or he had brought the offering but was not sure if it had been welcome in the eyes of G’d and had atoned for him. Other commentators feel that the reason why the Torah had not used wording such as או הודע אליו חטאתו except when the subject is the political head of the nation, or another individual, but not in connection with the community having sinned, or a High Priest having sinned, is that both a political head and an ordinary individual bring an אשם תלוית a contingent guilt offering, which protects them against punishment as long as the nature of their guilt has not been determined with certainty. After that, another offering, אשם ודאי, is called for. Our verse, accordingly would have to be understood thus: “if the person discussed entertains some doubt as to the precise nature of his guilt, he is to bring this אשם תלוי contingent guilt offering, pending clarification of his status. On the other hand, או הודע אליו חטאתו, if he is certain that he has to bring a sin offering to expiate his sin, he is only obliged to bring one offering, i.e. the sin offering under discussion.” The same rule applies to an ordinary priest who is subject to the same law as the ordinary Israelite. However, a High Priest or a political head of the people for whom the Torah has not made any provision to bring such contingent guilt offering in the event of doubt, as we know from the rider לאשמת העם, the guilt of the people which the Torah had added in the pertinent paragraph, (4,3) is treated in the same manner as the guilt of the community.