More on this Parsha


This Issue's Halacha Article

Parshat VaYikra

5 Nisan 5767

March 24, 2007

Vol.16 No.25

In This Issue:

For the Greater Good

by Rabbi Yosef Adler

Ask any of your children to respond to the following situation. A teacher in your son or daughter's school puts down his or her books on a desk and walks out of the room for a brief moment. Upon returning, his or her grade book is missing. The teacher says, "I will step outside for two minutes and I plead with the person responsible for taking my grade book to simply return it to my desk." Two minutes lapse and the grade book is nowhere to be found. The teacher, in obvious distress, summons the principal, who begins to speak to each student in order to arrive at the truth. How would you expect your son or daughter to respond?

Unfortunately, survey says that 99.9% will not volunteer any information. He or she will invoke the 11th commandment - thou shalt not rat on thy friend. (Another version of the survey says that this is really the 1st commandment and that Lo Tachmod has been pushed to #11.) Jewish law and philosophy deny the legitimacy of such a response.

In Parashat VaYikra (5:1), the Torah states, "VeNefesh Ki Techeta VeShame'ah Kol Alah VeHu Eid Oh Raah Oh Yada, Im Lo Yagid, VeNasa Avono," "If a person shall sin swearing that he does not know, but he has seen or known the crime, he bears his sin."

A crime has taken place and the victim believes that you have information that would lead to the prosecution of the guilty party. Beit Din can summon you to court and demand that you produce the information. Failure to do so will lead Beit Din to extract an oath (Shevuat HaEidut) in which you swear that you do not have information relevant to their case. It is quite obvious that the "do not rat rule" is never appropriate.

In Parashat Kedoshim (VaYikra 19:11), the Torah states, "Lo Tignovu," "Thou shall not steal." Ibn Ezra is puzzled as to why the plural form is used, as opposed to the singular form, "Lo Tignov," as it appears in the Aseret HaDibrot (Shemot 20:12, Devarim 5:17). He suggests that this usage is designed to teach us that if anyone sees someone stealing and remains silent, then he, too, is considered a thief. Once again, the 11th commandment is disproved.

appropriately and let everyone know that this type of behavior is unethical, immoral, and anti-Halachah. Doing so will help create an atmosphere of trust whereby everyone in that particular community can feel safe putting down his or her possessions knowing full well that upon returning they will all be there. The 11th commandment undermines this effort. As parents, is that the path you would like your son or daughter to pursue?

With the Whole Nation in Mind

by Dan Atwood

At the beginning of VaYikra (1:2), the Pasuk introduces Korbanot with the words, "Adam Ki Yakriv Mikem Korban LaHashem," "When a man will bring a Korban to Hashem." Later (4:1), the Pasuk introduces the Korban Chatat, the sin offering, "VeNefesh Ki Techeta," "When a soul will sin." We see from these Pesukim that man is made of two parts. One is the Adam, derived from Adamah, ground. This represents man's earthly desires and his materialistic side. The second aspect of man is his Nefesh (soul), which represents his spirituality and closeness to Hashem. When one dies, the Adam returns to the ground and the Neshamah goes to be close with Hashem. During Techiyat HaMeitim, the Neshamah will return to elevate and purify the Adam.

In his famed book, Ohr Yahel, Rav Leib Chasmon asks: if the Adam pushes us to sin and the Nefesh pulls us close to Hashem, then why by Korbanot does the Pasuk say "Adam," and by sin say "Nefesh?" The root word of Korban is Karov, close, which is represented by Nefesh, not Adam!

Rav Chasmon answers that the Torah is trying to teach us that both halves are always present. When we go to sin, we have to drag along the Nefesh and degrade it through the horrible experience. However, the opposite is also true. When we bring a Korban, the Adam is uplifted and sanctified.

This is similar to an idea of Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky. He writes that the juxtaposition of the words Adam and Mikem in the Pasuk is there to show us that Adam, a single man, and Mikem, the greater community, are as one. When a single man does an action, whether good or bad, he affects everyone. One man can be responsible for the whole nation.

Both views on this Pasuk present a similar message. When we do an action, we must have in mind that we affect much more than just ourselves. If we sin, our Neshamah is brought down and the nation is punished. Alternatively, if we bring a Korban and come closer to Hashem, then our whole body and the whole nation are rewarded and exalted. Hopefully, we will soon realize this message so we can be Zoche to bring Korbanot to once again uplift not only our bodies, but also all of Klal Yisrael.

Pay Attention!

by Zev Kahane

This week's Parasha opens with the word VaYikra. Chazal (see Rashi to VaYikra 1:1) interpret this word as a call of Chibah, love and affection. When Hashem calls to someone, He is telling him to prepare to listen and to give Hashem his undivided attention. The Torah is stressing the importance of listening and hearing, as well as understanding what Hashem says.

The importance of listening to Hashem is repeated elsewhere in Tanach. When Shaul failed to listen to Hashem's commandment to totally destroy Amalek, Shemuel posed him a rhetorical question: "Does Hashem delight in offerings as He does in [a person] listening to His voice? Behold, to obey is better than a choice offering" (Shemuel 15:22). Shaul lost his kingship because he failed to listen to Hashem.

On the other hand, Moshe was able to listen to the word of good with full attention. The reason Moshe possessed such good listening skills was because of his humbleness. In fact, this is alluded to in the word VaYikra. VaYikra (of our Parasha) is spelled with a small letter Alef, because Moshe intended to write the word "VaYikar," "And He happened upon." Moshe did not want to appear as such an amazing person; therefore he is suggesting that his conversation with Hashem be considered just "a happening."

The idea that arrogance leads to disobeying Hashem's word is alluded to later in the Parasha. When the Torah speaks of a leader sinning (VaYikra 4:22), it says, "Asheir Nasi YeCheta," "When a ruler sins." The Rashei Teivot (first letters) of these three words spell the word "Ani" which means "I." The cause of a ruler's sin is his pride and ego. This is true in the case of Shaul, and avoiding this pitfall made why Moshe an excellent leader.

Another good leader who had great humility was David HaMelech; he also understood the importance of listening to Hashem. He extols the virtue of listening, praising this ability over the willingness to bring sacrifices, stating, "Neither sacrifice nor offerings did You desire, receptive ears You opened for me" (Tehillim 40:7).

As the book of VaYikra introduces Korbanot, it is extremely important to learn from the greatness of Moshe and David, as well as the mistake of Shaul. The Torah is teaching us a very important lesson. Yes, every Korban is extremely important, but Korbanot are not Hashem's priority. He desires that we all listen to Him and give Him our undivided attention. Both Shemuel and David express how Hashem desires an attentive listener more than a beautiful sacrifice. As demonstrated by Moshe and David, this can be accomplished through humility and modesty. This important lesson does not only have to be applied to Korbanot; it could be applied to every Mitzvah which we do. Although it is important to beautify our Mitzvot, it is more important to listen to Hashem's commandment with an open and attentive ear. Through the trait of humbleness may we all continue to listen to the word of Hashem, and thereby merit bringing the Korbanot which are spoken about in out Parasha.

-With thanks to Gabi Wiseman

Humble Yourself

by Doniel Sherman

This week's Parasha discusses the obligation to bring a Korban Chatat (sin offering) after sinning inadvertently. The Sefer HaChinuch explains the psychological rationale of giving a sacrifice for atonement. It is impractical for an individual who has committed an inadvertent sin to achieve atonement by verbally committing to amend his behavior. Rather, a significant event must take place to shake the sinner from his ways. Therefore, the offender has to take a perfect he-goat from his flock and travel with the animal all the way to the Beit HaMikdash for its slaughter. Throughout the sacrificial offering, the sinner must understand that he is analogous to the animal, a carnal body, in that the human indulged in an inadvertent action, thereby committing a sin. The wrongdoer's representative goat (meat) is therefore sacrificed with other symbols of human desires, namely, wine (Nesachim) and bread (Menachot). This striking ceremony is intended to leave a lasting impression on the offender. He is not like a goat, which has no intellect, but is an intelligent member of the human race. He will also realize the futility of a beast without a purpose on this planet. This realization will cause the sinner to understand that without Hashem's guidance and direction, life is futile. Once this realization is established, he will be able to avoid transgression.

It is interesting to note that this entire process applies only if the transgressor sins inadvertently. One could have made a claim that only one who was aware of what he was doing and purposely sinned should be required to bring a Korban Chatat. Rather, one must learn that even if he is ignorant of the law, he can still be held accountable for his actions.

It therefore makes sense that as one's responsibility and accountability increase, any inadvertent actions of an abominable nature will have greater repercussions. Therefore, the Pesukim in Perek 4 discuss four types of people who have responsibilities to others: the "anointed priest (Kohen Gadol)," the "Congregation of Israel (which Chazal understand to refer to the Sanhedrin)," the king, and the common person. Ramban makes an interesting observation regarding the four Pesukim that discuss these individuals. He notes that the Pasuk referring to the ruler distinguishes the ruler's relationship vis a vis Hashem in a different fashion than it does the other three leaders. The Pesukim address a situation where the other three leaders do "Something against any one of the commandments of the Lord concerning things that should not be done." Yet in reference to a king, the Pasuk is slightly different, stating, "He has done something against any one of the commandments of the Lord his God concerning things that should not be done." This insertion comes to teach us something very important about the way many leaders feel while interacting with others. They often forget that they are responsible to others for their actions. They feel that they are "above the system." This is not so. They are still responsible to Hashem for all actions that they do. Therefore, they too are liable for inadvertent sins, because they are still accountable to Hashem. They are responsible for undertaking a task which required responsibilities which they then failed to provide. Because they accepted responsibility, yet were ignorant of the law (thereby leading them to an inadvertent sin) they must humble themselves before Hashem and all of the people by bringing a Korban Chatat. This message of humility is one of the many messages portrayed by the Korban Chatat. In order for anyone to truly repent, he must understand the scope of his actions. By acting without knowledge, he is no better than the animal he must sacrifice and the consequences of his actions are very great. Therefore, he must apologize to God for rebelling against Him, albeit unintentionally. In doing so, he is publicly announcing to his peers that he sinned and resolves to do better.

-Adapted from a Dvar Torah by Nechama Leibowitz in "New Studies in Vayikra."

Kiruv Connections

by Tzvi Zuckier

Parashat VaYikra deals with a very lengthy discussion of how to bring various Korbanot to Hashem. Through the various slaughterings, sprinklings, and rituals, members of Bnei Yisrael were able to please Hashem immensely, as the Pasuk states (VaYikra 1:9), "Ishei Reiach Nichoach LaHashem," "a fire-offering, a satisfying aroma to Hashem." However, why is Hashem satisfied when a person kills an animal, carries out certain processes, and then burns it on an altar? What does one accomplish by doing these actions?

The Alshich, quoting the Ramban, gives a powerful answer to this puzzling question. He remarks that the essence of bringing a Korban is not the actual offering of the animal, but rather how the sacrificing serves as a cleansing of the soul of the person who brings the Korban. When someone witnesses the various processes of the bringing of a Korban, including slaughtering the animal, removing and cleaning the various parts, catching and sprinkling its blood, and, lastly, burning the animal on the Mizbeach, he should think to himself that the animal is replacing him, as he really should have to undergo such experiences to somehow counteract all of his horrible sins. Such an idea is reinforced by the Pesukim's addition of the seemingly superfluous word of "Mikem" (1:2), as it becomes clear that the Korban should actually be "Mikem," from you, yourself, but Hashem, in His infinite kindness, allows Bnei Yisrael to sacrifice animals in their steads. Thus, through the bringing of a Korban and the accompanying introspection, he will become a holier person and prevent such acts from occurring in the future.

Nowadays, as we are without the Beit HaMikdash and the accompanying ability to bring Korbanot, Dibbur, speech, through Tefillah and Talmud Torah, is the optimal way to become closer to Hashem. Tefillot were established in the place of Korbanot, with the connection between the two being very simple: both are the best ways in their respective timeframes for one to bring himself closer to Hashem. As the Gemara in Menachot states, "anyone who busies himself with [the reading and studying of the Halachot and Pesukim of] a Korban Chatat, it is as if he himself offered a Chatat." The reason why learning the seemingly unimportant laws of cutting, cleaning, sprinkling and offering parts of an animal are considered on par with bringing the actual Korbanot is similar to what makes actual Korbanot so unique. The symbolism behind the Halachot and Pesukim of these Korbanot have deep meaning and are intended to have an impact on someone to the extent that such learning changes him internally, bringing him closer to Hashem.

With Pesach fast approaching, we must make every effort to bring ourselves closer to Hashem through Tefillah and Talmud Torah. When the Beit HaMikdash was in existence, during the Shalosh Regalim each and every Jew would travel to Yerushalayim to visit the Makom HaShechinah, Har HaBayit, and would offer various Korbanot, drawing each of them nearer to Hashem. In fact, Erev Pesach in Mitzrayim was the first time that Hashem commanded the Jews to bring a Korban and the first instance in which Hashem truly interacted with all of the Bnei Yisrael as a people, commanding them to perform an act which would establish a connection between them and Him. Furthermore, Hashem wanted the Jews to put blood on their doorposts as part of the process of offering the Korban Pesach, thereby demonstrating to the world through the blood of that Korban that, while Hashem will spare Am Yisrael, He will kill all of the Egyptian firstborns. When we daven during this month of Nissan, we should be careful to have a great deal of Kavanah, and we should remember that our Tefillot were established by the Chachamim in the place of Korbanot and are meant to bring us closer to Hashem. On Pesach itself, when we see the Zeroa, the shankbone, on the Seder plate, we should remember that the Zeroa is a reminder of the Korban Pesach and that, as we are not privileged to be able to bring Korbanot, we must instead bring ourselves closer to Hashem through great learning and intensified davening, especially on the holy days of Pesach.

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