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Tzav - Purim

This Issue's Halacha Article

Tzav - Purim

15 Adar Bet 5768

March 22, 2008

Vol.17 No.27

In This Issue:

Timeless Thanks

by Rabbi Steven Finkelstein

This Shabbos we will continue to celebrate the themes of Purim and simultaneously learn lessons from Parashat Tzav. Many have noticed that throughout Megillat Ester, Jews are referred to as "Yehudim" and their leader, Mordechai, is called an "Ish Yehudi." What is the significance of the name "Yehudi"? What makes it more appropriate for the Megillah than the name Bnei Yisrael? What message does this highlight for us?

In Parashat Tzav, we learn about the Korban Todah, the Thanksgiving offering. Chazal point out the importance of the offering by saying that in the future, all animal sacrifices, except the Thanksgiving offering, will be useless. Additionally, all our prayers, except for the prayers of thanks, will become obsolete. Similarly, the Shulchan Aruch tells us that it is recommended to say Mizmor LeTodah, the psalm of thanks, with a tune, because in the future, all songs will fall out of use except for this song of thanks.

I think we can all agree that recognizing the good that Hashem does for us is important, but there are many other important Korbanot and countless ways of connecting with Hashem. What makes the element of thanks the one that will continue for all times?

In the Sefer Or Gedalyahu, Rav Gedalya Schor examines these ideas. He explains that the word commonly used to connote thanks, Hodaah, actually has two meanings. First, it is an expression of thanks and gratitude, as we say every day in Shemoneh Esreih, "Modim Anachnu Lach," "We thank You." However, Hodaah is also an expression of admission or confession, as in the term Modeh BeMiktzat, one who admits to part of what he is being sued for, or "Hodaat Baal Din KeMeiah Eidim Dami" "The confession of a defendant is equivalent to the testimony of one hundred witnesses."

Rav Schor explains that the two definitions are really one and the same. When a human being stops and considers all that Hashem has done for him, he is struck by a sense of gratitude. He realizes that everything he receives is undeserved. Through his gratitude he is forced to confess and admit that he is forever indebted to Hashem.

The Jewish people have always prided themselves on their implementing this idea as a driving force in their relationship with Hashem. The Chidushei HaRim explains that we are described by the name "Yehudim," from the same root as "Hodaah," because we are a people who always understand and acknowledge that everything, both big and small , comes from Hashem.

It is also understandable that in the Megillah, the Jews are referred to exclusively as Yehudim. This name cuts to the heart of the story. Looking at all of the events in the Megillah, both large and small, it is clear that it was all orchestrated by Hashem. We too must admit that we are indebted to Hashem for everything, even those things we consider "natural," and continue to thank Hashem for these things even after all our other korbanot, prayers, and songs will have fallen out of use.

Recognizing Hashem's Miracles

by Zev Kahane

Sefer VaYikra describes the sacrificial processes of the Mikdash and Mishkan. In order to appreciate the importance of Sefer VaYikra, it is important to understand the purpose of bringing a Korban.

On a simple level, the Shoresh of "Korban" is Karov, close; the Korbanot are brought in order to bring us closer to HaKadosh Baruch Hu. Although this explains why we bring Korbanot, it fails to explain how they bring us closer to Hashem.

Chazal teach us that the Mikdash is a microcosm of the world; every part of the Mishkan corresponds to some element of the world. For example, the light of the Menorah represents the light of the sun. The Abarbanel asks what can be learned from this comparison.

The Abarbanel explains that throughout the Mikdash and Mishkan, there were miracles on public display. In the beginning of this week's Parasha, the Torah describes the eternal light which burned on the Mizbeiach. Obviously, the eternal flame was able to withstand the natural wind and rain only with the help of Hashem. Additionally, Hashem's hand was also seen in the Lechem HaPanim which miraculously would stay fresh all week. All of the miracles in the Mishkan and Mikdash serve a collective purpose. When someone traveled to the Mikdash to give a Korban, he experienced all of these miracles and see the hand of HaKadosh Baruch Hu. Chazal compare the Mikdash to the world in order to teach us an important lesson. One who travels to the Mikdash to bring a Korban and sees the miracles should understand that just as there are miracles in the Mikdash, there are miracles throughout the world. After all, the Mikdash is a microcosm of the world. Even though one may not perceive the banalities of life as miraculous, he will begin to recognize Hashem's hand in his everyday life. This is how the process of bringing a Korban brings a person closer to Hashem.

Ramban at the end of Parashat Bo strengthens this idea. In a lengthy discussion in which Ramban tries to explain why the Torah puts such strong focus on Yetziat Mitzrayim, he explains that Hashem performs great miracles only to help us find the smaller and hidden miracles in our lives. Through the recognition of the great and obvious miracles in the Mikdash, we may additionally appreciate the hidden miracles in our lives. Ramban even says that there is no such thing as "nature;" everything is miraculous. This idea that one must see Hashem's hand even when it is not obvious is a key message in the story of Purim as well. The Megillah tells us about Mordechai, "VaYehi Omein Et Hadasah Hee Ester," "And he raised Hadasah, who is Ester" (2:7). Rav Nachman from Breslov asks, why does the Megillah use such an unusual word of Omein? He explains that the word Omein comes from the word Emunah, faith. Because of the hidden miracle of Purim, it is so easy to fail to recognize Hashem's hand in the Neis. After all, Hashem's name does not appear a single time in the whole Megillah! Yet, as we know, the Yehudim did not fight Haman blindfolded, but rather with the foresight and guiding hand of Hashem. It is for this reason that we read the Megillah every year.

Every day, we are faced with the challenge of recognizing Hashem's involvement in our lives. I once heard a joke in which a person on his way to an important business deal was desperately searching for a parking spot. After driving around unsuccessfully for ten minutes, he turned to Hashem and said, "God, if You can just give me one parking spot, I will give You twenty percent of my profits to charity." Immediately, a car pulled out, giving him the spot he desperately needed. The man turned back to Hashem and said, "Never mind God, I found a spot." This man failed to notice Hashem's hand in his life; he was unable to thank Hashem for delivering the exact thing he prayed for! Too often we to fail to notice the miracles Hashem performs for us every day. Through the joint message of the Korbanot and Purim, may we strengthen our Emunah and be able to notice the miracles Hashem performs for us day in and day out. By doing so, may we all be Zocheh to the building of Bayit Shelishi, where we will be able to see Nisim Giluyim, open and blatant miracles, as well as Nisim Nistarim, those which are not easy to discern, but which we must acknowledge as well.

Tzav Tzav

by Moshe Kollmar

Every Parasha in the Torah is assigned a Masoretical Siman, an acronym with relevance to ideas and themes found in that Sidrah. In many Chumashim, it is written at the end of the Parasha as well as the amount of Pesukim in the Parasha. The Masoretical Siman for Parashat Tzav is, "Tzav Pesukim, Tzav Siman," ninety six (Tzav in Gematria) Pesukim in the Sidrah, and the word Tzav is the Siman. This Siman stands out, as it is the only one where multiple facets of the Siman are identical, the amount of Pesukim, and the Masoretically relevant acronym.

A problem arises regarding the number of Pesukim found. In most Chumashim, Parashat Tzav contains ninety seven Pesukim, not as the Siman suggests. The Minchat Shai solves this dilemma by pointing out that on one hand Mesorah labels VaYikra 8:8 as the midpoint of Pesukim in the Torah, and on the other, the Gemara (Kiddushin 30) states that the midway mark is found in Parashat Tazria, VaYikra 13:33. Rabi Yossi asks whether this verse ends the first half of Pesukim in the Torah, or begins the second half. Additionally, he calls upon someone to count the Pesukim. The Gemara then concludes that such a counting is impossible, as we do not know how to accurately divide up Pesukim. Therefore, we can solve the apparent Stirah between the Gemara and the Mesorah by answering that the different midway marks of Pesukim stated previously are based off of different calculations. Additionally, the problem of seemingly contradictory amounts of Pesukim in Parashat Tzav can be solved in a similar matter.

However, what is the meaning and significance of this Siman? The word Tzav means "command", alluding to the Mitzvot and our obligation to complete them. Parashat Tzav contains 18 Mitzvot, with nearly every Mitzvah regarding Korbanot, the general theme of the first half of Sefer VaYikra. This Sidrah concerning Korbanot is placed in the middle of the Torah to edify, that although the exterior of a Jew may be unappealing and problematic, in the center of every member of Klal Yisrael there is still is a Neshama of Kedusha, similar to the Kedusha of the Karbanot. This idea is a reoccurring theme throughout of all of Sefer VaYikra. Whilst occupying area of Kedusha, it is easy to remember one's religious obligations; therefore, the first half of Sefer VaYikra which mainly deals with Devarim SheBeKedushah such as Karbanot, refrains from stating Ani Hashem, a reminder to follow the word of Hashem. Conversely, the latter half of Sefer VaYikra, which mainly deals with proper conduct outside of the Mishkan, states Ani Hashem numerous times. This is to remind us that, albeit it might be difficult to notice, no matter how troublesome a person may be, their Neshama is still present, and they remain a fellow member of Klal Yisrael.

Big Men Do Little Things

by Zach Margulies

Parshat Tzav begins with the first daily job of the Kohanim. In describing how the Kohen should remove a handful of the ashes from the previous day's Korbanot from the top of the Mizbeiach the Torah states, "VeHeirim Et HaDeshen," "He shall separate the ash," (VaYikra 6:3). As this is the first law set by Hashem for the Kohen, Chazal raise an obvious difficulty: why is the first job given to the Kohen such a seemingly trivial and unimportant one?

The Chovot HaLevavot suggests that a Kohen could become arrogant walking into the Beit HaMikdash with his nice garments and important jobs. Therefore, he must start the day with a modest job to humble himself. But just as the special man should not become haughty, so too the poor man must not be embarrassed by his lack of means. The Mishna (Bikkurim 3:8) describes that when people would bring Bikkurim to the Beit HaMikdash, the rich would carry their fruits in golden baskets while the poor would carry their fruits in woven reeds. The Kohen would return the baskets to the rich while he would take both the baskets and the fruits of the poor. Why would he make the poor even poorer? Clearly, the Kohen did not want to embarrass the poor by displaying the contrast between their unappealing fruits and the luscious fruits of the rich. So as not to embarrass the poor, the Kohen would not take out the fruits of the poor in public. This example illustrates that honor and maintaining dignity are of high importance and even outweigh monetary value.

Another question asked by Chazal addresses the process of the Kohen's ash removal. Why would the Kohen remove just one handful of ashes from the Mizbeiach everyday when in the very next Pasuk, the Torah states that all of the remaining ashes would be removed to outside the camp? It makes sense for the Kohen to do "Hotzaat HaDeshen", removal of the ashes from the camp, when the Mizbeiach is full so they could start the day's work. Why, however, was it necessary to first do "Terumat HaDeshen," removal of just one handful? Why not remove all the ashes together at one time?

Rav Shimshon Raphael Hirsch answers by explaining two fundamental ideas with regard to the performance of Mitzvot. Firstly, when people do Mitzvot, they might be excited initially, but eventually they become bored by their redundancy. When a Bar Mitzvah boy dons Tefillin for the first time, he always has a smile on his face, but after a few weeks the same Mitzvah starts to become tiresome. The fact that the Kohen was commanded to remove just one handful of ashes every day despite the fact that he seemed to be accomplishing nothing, teaches us the importance of continued enthusiasm about Mitzvot. If the Kohen could consistently passionately go about a Mitzvah which seemed to serve no purpose, we, too, must perform all Mitzvot eagerly, even ones which we come across on a regular basis. Additionally, all Mitzvot must be done with a certain level of consistency and routine. The Kohen's repeated removal of the handful of ashes was a lesson in the importance of consistency when performing Mitzvot.

It seems that these two ideas of Rav Hirsch contradict each other. On the one hand, we need renewal and enthusiasm when carrying out Mitzvot, while on the other we need routine. However, Chazal explain that really both of these ideas are necessary in a Jew's life. They explain each mitzvah needs to be done the same every day, but with special intensity that makes it our own.