In This Issue:
Rabbi Ezra Wiener
Rabbi Chaim Jachter
While some controversy exists among the Rishonim as to the purpose of sacrifices in a Jew’s service to Hashem, the Torah is clear in its description of Hashem’s enjoyment of the sacrifices. The Torah states regarding all Olah sacrifices, ones that are burned completely, “Ishei Raiach Nichoach LaHashem” “It is a burnt offering that is a satisfying aroma to Hashem.” However, the Torah makes no distinction in regard to the type of sacrifice the Olah should be, whether it must be an animal, bird, or flour offering.
It is this observation that prompts the Mishnah (Menachot 110a) to comment “Lomar Licha Echad HaMarbeh ViEchad HaMamit U’Bilvad SheYiChavein Libo LaShamayim.” “This teaches you that whether a person gisves a costly one or an inexpensive one, as long as he directs his heart to heaven, the type is irrelevant.”
Ohr HaChayim raises the following question: if the Torah’s intention is to emphasize that Kavanah is the critical element for God’s acceptance of our Korbanot, the Torah should have written “Ishei Reiach Nichoach LaHashem” regarding the least costly offering. If so, we would have deduced a Kal VaChomer: if the simple bird offering is called a satisfying aroma unto God, a costly animal offering should certainly satisfy God as well. Additionally, if the Mincha offering, an extremely simple one, pleases Hashem, the bird and animal offerings, two expensive offerings, should also undoubtedly please Him. . The Torah could have written “Ishei Reiach Nichoach LaHashem” once concerning the most inexpensive Korban to relay the message that the Kavanah of an offering is more important than the type of offering. Why did the Torah write the phrase next to each and every offering?
Ohr HaChayim suggests that had the Torah written “Ishei Reiach Nichoach” only in its description of the less expensive flour or bird offerings, one would have inferred a different Kal VaChomer and believed that it is true that a more expensive offering is better, but Hashem has compassion for the poor and is therefore willing to accept even a more simple flour or bird offering. Therefore, the Torah states “Ishei Reiach Nichoach” regarding every offering to assure poor people that God will be satisfied with their simple offerings.
According to this reasoning, we would have concluded that one who gives less is similar but not equal to one that offers more. The Torah, however, wishes to accent that one who gives less is completely equal to one who gives more. As a result, the phrase of “Reiach Nichoach” is written next to all offerings, both inexpensive and costly.
Perhaps it is for this reason that the Torah introduces the phrase “Reiach Nichoach” with the word “Ishei.” It seems obvious that the offerings were Ishei, burned on the fire, because the Torah states that the offerings were burned “Al HaEtzim Asher Al HaEtz” “On the wood that was on the fire.” Nevertheless, the Torah teaches that each of the offerings is burned because in the end, all of the Korbanot become “Ishei”; all are burned in the fire and become ashes. Thus, at the moment of God’s acceptance of the Korban, it is no longer distinguishable which type of offering was brought, but rather the fire reduces all of them to ashes. The outcome is that the type of Korban that one brought was insignificant; rather, only Hashem’s acceptance was relevant.
We should be encouraged by the words of the Ohr HaChayim in all aspects of our Avodat Hashem. Whether we can afford to give only a small amount of Tzedaka or have only a limited amount of time to study Torah, we must realize that all Mitzvot please Hashem
When addressing the sprinkling of the blood for the Korban Chatat in this week’s Parashah, the Torah states that the blood should be sprinkled, “Et Penei HaParochet” “toward the curtain” (4:17). Rashi questions why in (6:17), the Torah states to sprinkle the blood in the direction of the Parochet while earlier in the Perek, the Pasuk states, “Et Penei Parochet HaKadosh” “ towards the holy curtain” (4:6); why does the Torah refer to the Parochet as holy in one Pasuk and just a regular Parochet in another? Rashi offers a parable to solve the problem. If a minority group in a country rebelled against its king, the king would most likely maintain power. However, if the majority of the country rebelled against him, the King would most probably lose his kingship. Rashi explains that when a Kohen sins, the Beit HaMikdash will still retain its holiness. On the other hand, if all of Bnei Yisrael sin, the Kedushah will leave the Beit HaMikdash. When the Torah discusses a single Kohen’s sin in (4:6), it describes the Parochet as Kadosh because the Beit HaMikdash maintains its holiness when a single person sins. On the other hand, when the Torah describes a situation in which all of Bnei Yisrael sin in (4:17), it describes the Parochet as a normal one, not a holy one. The Parochet cannot be holy when the entire nation sins because the Kedushah leaves the Beit HaMikdash under those circumstances.
By informing us that the Kedushah leaves the Beit HaMikdash when all of Bnei Yisrael sin, the Torah demonstrates the importance of serving Hashem as a nation. We cannot be satisfied with fulfilling the Mitzvot as individuals, but rather we must make sure that the entire nation obeys Hashem’s commandments as well. In order to assure that Am Yisrael remains an “Am Kadosh,” it is imperative to serve Hashem as individuals and as a nation.
This week the Sefer of VaYikra begins, primarily discussing Korbanot along with other challenging subjects. In the first words of the Parashah, “VaYikra el Moshe,” a small aleph is in “VaYikra.” The obvious question is why is their a small aleph in the word Vayikra, furthermore in the first word of a new Sefer? What message is the Torah providing by placing the small aleph in this location?
The Sefat Emet suggests the following answer: The letter aleph comes from the Hebrew word “Aluf,” which means “champion” or “greatness.” When learning a new Sefer, one may experience an intimidation and feel that the book cannot be learned. The Torah applies this idea by using the little aleph to show that all one needs to learn a difficult topic is a little greatness or one’s best try; the best can be enough from which to be asked even if the task ahead is hard. The little Aleph is placed in the beginning of the Sefer to showing that although it may be hard to learn the difficult Sefer of VaYikra, the little Aleph can teach one to use a little greatness to achieve one’s best. This message also applies to us for life: Some people are blessed with tremendous minds for Talmud Torah, while others are not as fortunate. We should not compare one to another, and just achieve our personal best, ultimately reaching our potential of the little aleph, written in the beginning of VaYikra.
Seifer VaYikra is known as being Sefer HaKorbanot and Avodat HaKohanim. The big question that arises is what is the purpose of Korbanot? Why does Hashem need us to sacrifice animals for him? We look at the word Korban and see that the Shoresh, the root word, is Kareiv which can also mean bring close to. So, how does sacrificing animals bring us close to Hashem? Rambam states (Mora Nevuchim 3:32 ) “…[The purpose of Korbanot is] to further us from Avodah Zarah, idolatry. We know that the Mitzrim worshiped animals. So what they were using for idle worship, we use for the purpose of bringing ourselves closer to Hashem.
Making a sacrifice is something very personal. That’s why it’s called Kareiv, the personal part brings us progressively closer to Hashem. We read the Pasuk(VaYikra 1:2) “Adam Ki Yakriv Mikem Korban” “when any man brings from yourselves a Korban.” What is the Mikem adding? The challenge is not just to have the Korban be brought, it is ideally to bring it yourself and put some of your being and soul into the Korban. We learn from this that whenever a person gives up his body’s desires that deed is like giving a Korban.
An old adage goes “It’s better to give then to receive.” We all know this to be true that when you give of yourself, whether it be a financial or of a personal sacrifice, you feel a much stronger connection to that person. On that Sunday morning when you get up and walk a few blocks to Shul it is as if you are bringing a Korban, you are overriding your body desires and putting them aside and putting Hashem first. While the neurotransmitters in your brain may be sending messages that your body wants to sleep more, you somehow overcome that desire and Yetzer HaRa and pull yourself out of bed to go to Shul, putting Hashem first.
Similarly, when a soldier fights for his country he feels afterwards a much greater connection to his country. There are many stories of soldiers risking their lives to save others and then later on being the godfather of their children. We read from a Mishnah in Pirkei Avot (2:4) make Hashem’s will your will, and only then will Hashem make your will His will. In other words, we must want to get up early for Minyan, and not do it because we are told to or because we feel we have to. What we come to realize is that we are the ones that ultimately gain from these “sacrifices”, not Hashem. At the end of the day, we lose nothing by giving ourselves wholly to Hashem, but in fact the opposite, we progressively become a better, more wholesome person, and of course become closer to Hashem with each passing day.
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