Machon Meir ENGLISH Rabbi Moshe Kaplan
Machon Meir FRENCH Rav Yossef David
Machon Meir РУССКИЙ Rabbi Yona Levin
Machon Meir ESPAÑOL Rabbi Dov Bigon
Machon Meir עברית Rabbi Elisha Wishlitzky
Though this parsha, like much of the rest of the book of Vayikra, is replete with difficult detail regarding very esoteric, spiritual and even mystical topics of Temple service and animal sacrifices, there is a basic and important message that the Torah wishes to communicate to us amidst this welter of detail. And, I feel that this message is the recognition that sin is a constant part of human life. We are taught: “…that there is no righteous person who lives on this earth without sin.” It is one of the weaknesses that we inherited from Adam and Eve and therefore is part of the DNA of human existence. In recognizing this fact, the Torah, as is its usual wont, deals with the…
PARSHAH PICKS: Sacrificial Lamb, Anyone? (Vayikra)
Adar II 4, 5774 · March 6, 2014
|This week’s Torah reading, Vayikra, begins the third book of the Torah, Leviticus. Last week we completed the reading of the book of Exodus, which concluded with a description of the construction of the Tabernacle. This week’s portion will provide a description of the various sacrifices – animal, fowl, and meal-offerings – offered by the priests in this newly constructed Sanctuary.|
|This Week’s Features||Printable Parshah Magazine|
G-d tells Moses about the sacrifices brought on the altar in the Sanctuary, including the meal offering, peace offering, offering of atonement, guilt offering and ascending offering.
I can see the experiential quality of it all: an ancient temple with heavenly music and mystical song; priests in flowing robes deep in meditation; mesmerizing, choreographed ritual. But why the barbecue?
By Tzvi Freeman
Are you a goring bull, trampling on everyone and everything in its way? A meek, little lamb that timidly follows the crowd?
By Yossy Goldman
“She demanded Medical School or else!” “She force fed me chicken soup — intravenously!” Jewish novelists have made millions denouncing their mothers to the world…
By Yossy Goldman
A Taste of Text—Vayikra
Experience your largeness, but at the same time feel your smallness. Talents are gifts endowed to you by G‑d.
By Chana Weisberg
Study some of the highlights of the weekly Torah portion with insights from various commentaries.
By Elimelech Silberberg
How to Study Torah – Vayikra
The name of this week’s portion, Vayikra, describes the unique Divine call to the greatest prophet of all time, Moses. How much do we know about the way G-d communicated with Moses, and what can we learn from it today?
By Mendel Kaplan
A five minute weekly Torah thought based on the teachings of Chassidut.
By Berel Bell
CHASSIDIC DIMENSION: A Nation Formed for Himself (Vayikra)
A Nation Formed for HimselfThe Haftorah of Vayikra begins with G-d describing the Jewish people as “This nation whom I formed for Myself.”1 G-d thus proclaims that all Jewish men, women and children, at all times and in all places, are unique in that we are His nation.As the Haftorah reading is to be “in the spirit of the Torah portion,”2 we must understand the relationship between the Haftorah and the portion Vayikra. Specifically, what is the connection between the opening words of the portion, “And He called to Moshe,”3 to the first phrase in the Haftorah, “ This nation whom I formed for Myself.”Additionally, why does G-d refer to the Jewish people as the nation whom He formedfor Himself, rather than employing more commonly used expressions, such as “created” or “made”? And why does G-d allude to us here as His nation, and not as the Children of Israel or the like?The fact that G-d considers the Jews to be His nation implies the essential relationship that exists between a king and his people. For a nation can be considered such only when it has a ruler, and a king can be a sovereign only when he has subjects over whom to reign.
Thus our Sages state:4 “There can be no king without a nation.” This means to say that the very sum and substance of a king — not only his majesty and glory — depends on having subjects. Consequently, G-d, as it were, is wholly dependent on the Jewish people in order for Him to be King.
Accordingly, even before a king issues decrees to his subjects there must be an essential relationship between the two. Only as a result of this association can the king issue decrees relating to the conduct of his people.5
The leading verse of the Haftorah also serves to inform us that being G-d’s nation is not something that is subject to change, for it was brought about by G-d Himself — “This nation whom I formed.” Just as He is immutable, so too are His choices.
As a result, after G-d gave the Torah (at which time the Jewish people accepted His sovereignty for all time), each and every Jew became a full partner in the Jewish nation, and thus caused G-d to be King, for “there can be no king without a nation.”
In other words, anyone who was born Jewish or was properly converted needs no other qualifications to be considered part of “this nation whom I formed;” his essential relationship with G-d is not determined by his level of performance of Torah andmitzvos. In the words of our Sages:6 “A Jew, although he sinned is still a Jew.”
Although a king is incomparably loftier than his subjects, his subjects must be similar to him in some way, for only then can he reign over them. A human being, for example, can only rule over other humans and not over animals.7
This being so, one would think that any comparison, as it were, between G-d and the Jewish people exists only on the essential level of the Jew — where every Jew is “a part of G-d above,”8 and where “G-d’s nation is part of Him.”9 On a revealed level then, this could only take place when a Jew reveals this intrinsic level through his service of Torah and mitzvos.
The verse forestalls this error by stating “This nation whom I formed,” rather than “created” or “made.” By doing so it tells us that even the revealed form and shape of this nation and all its individual components are similar to its King. This is because G-d formed us “for Myself,” so that even our revealed form would always be consonant with G-d Himself.
As a G-dly people, even the revealed form of the Jews is inherently G-dly, in keeping with the saying of our Sages10 that the Jewish people have three natural identifying traits: “They are compassionate, demure and perform acts of loving kindness.”
This loving relationship between G-d and the Jews is also alluded to in the opening words of Vayikra , where the verse says: “He called to Moshe” — “called” being an expression of love.11 Moreover, the verse does not name who did the calling,12 for G-d’s call to Moshe and the Jewish people as a whole is from so lofty a level that it cannot be limited by a mere name13 — similar to the relationship between “this nation” and “Myself.”
Based on Sefer HaSichos 5750, Vol. I, pp. 378-384.
The Torah portion Vayikra details various types of korbanos (sacrificial offerings), first relating the laws of voluntary offerings and then of obligatory offerings. Why does the Torah begin with free-will offerings; one would think we’d first be made aware of the laws regarding the korbanos that must be brought, and only then of the laws governing voluntary offerings?
The spiritual thoughts of the individual bringing an offering, rather than the offering itself, were always considered to be of primary importance.
Thus our Rabbis say about voluntary offerings:14 “With regard to the [large] burnt offering of cattle, the verse states,15 ‘a pleasing fragrance to G-d.’ So too with regard to the [puny] burnt offering of a bird the verse states,16 ‘a pleasing fragrance to G-d’….This teaches us that it matters not whether one gives a lot or a little, as long as his heart’s intent is for the sake of Heaven.”
The same was true with regard to the intention needed at the time an individual brought a sin offering. As the Ramban writes:17 “When a person brings a sin offering he should realize that he sinned against G-d … in His kindness, G-d substituted the animal in his stead.” It is this thought that brings atonement.
In fact, one of the roots of the word karban is kiruv , drawing close, thereby indicating that the service of korbanos involves the drawing of one’s faculties and powers closer to G-d.18
Since the person’s intent is so crucial, the question arises: Why does the Torah seem to ignore the person’s intent with regard to korbanos ?
The answer lies in the fact that the Torah begins the laws of korbanos with free-will offerings rather than — as one might expect — obligatory offerings. By doing so it indicates that the most crucial aspect is the person’s desire to come closer to G-d — “his heart’s intent is for the sake of Heaven.” And this aspect is most important regarding all korbanos , even those that are obligatory.
It can thus be said that all korbanos are to be considered free- will offerings, for at the crux of every offering are the feelings and intent of the individual bringing it.
In point of fact, the intention necessary for bringing korbanos is found within each and every Jew; when an individual brings a free-will offering, these latent intentions are merely revealed for all to see.
Thus, it is not necessary for the Torah to command this intent, for it is found in any case; bringing an offering will automatically reveal a Jew’s innate desire to draw close to G-d.
The above explains an anomaly regarding korbanos : With regard to a free-will offering the Torah states: “he must offer it of his own free will.”19 In reconciling the seeming contradiction between “he must offer it of his own free will ,”theGemara says:20“He is pressured until he says, ‘I want to [bring the offering].’ ”
The Rambam explains this concept as it applies to a recalcitrant husband’s “free will” issuance of a divorce:21
“Since he [the balking husband] surely wishes to act like a Jew, desiring to perform all the mitzvos and distance himself from sin, and it is but his evil inclination that has latched on to him, therefore, once he has been smitten to the extent that his evil inclination has become weakened and he says ‘I want to [give the divorce],’ he is surely issuing the divorce of his own volition.”
And just as this is so regarding a Jew’s intent while bringing an offering — even when he proclaims “I do not want to bring an offering,” his inner desire is to bring one — so too with regard to all other aspects of his life. A Jew always desires and intends to be one with G-d, for as the Alter Rebbe states:22 “A Jew neither desires nor is able to sunder himself from G-dliness.”
Based on Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XVII, pp. 9-13.
At the conclusion of the Torah portion of Vayikra,23 we learn about the Asham Talui, the sacrificial offering brought in a case of questionable guilt. The Gemara24 offers the following example: A person has before him two pieces of fat and eats one of them. Subsequently he finds out that one of the two pieces was not kosher, but does not know whether he ate the kosher piece or the non-kosher piece. In such an instance he is to bring an Asham Talui.
The Asham Talui is thus brought when a person’s guilt is in doubt. This is in contrast to a regular sin offering, which is brought when a person definitely committed an unintentional sin. Logically, indubitable guilt should be treated more stringently than questionable guilt. Nevertheless, we find that the minimum value of the Asham Talui is 48 times greater than that of the minimum value of a regular sin offering.25
Why is this so?
Rabbeinu Yonah explains26 that this is because the atonement gained through an offering is accomplished by the individual’s repentance. When a person is sure he has sinned, his repentance will surely be whole and truthful. But when a person is in doubt as to whether he sinned at all, then it is necessary to seek a medium that will guarantee repentance. This is accomplished by having the offering cost more, thereby showing the person the importance of his accompanying repentance.
It would seem, however, that this reason does not suffice. While an offering had to be accompanied by repentance, the offering itself brought atonement and removed the taint caused by the particular sin. Evidently, the fact that an Asham Talui is much more expensive indicates that in some sense the taint of a questionable sin is greater than that of an incontrovertible sin.
How are we to understand this?
Generally speaking, sacrificial offerings atone only for those sins that were done inadvertently,27 for even an unintentional sin needs atonement.28 For though the sin itself was committed unwittingly, the fact that it was possible for the person to have sinned is an indication that he is spiritually lacking; were he to be spiritually complete he would not even sin inadvertently, as the verse states:29 “A righteous individual will not happen upon iniquity.”
Thus, inadvertent sin is a direct result of having allowed one’s animalistic tendencies to get out of hand.30
Those things that a person does without thinking tend to reflect the things in which he is immersed, and where his true pleasure lies. The actions of a truly holy individual are good and holy; succumbing to evil — even inadvertently — is an indication that a person does not find his pleasure only in goodness.
Thus, in one way inadvertent sin indicates a greater spiritual taint than conscious sin: When a person does something wrong knowingly, his action does not necessarily indicate to what degree he is bound up with the evil; it is entirely possible that his sole connection was only at the time of the deed, and affects only his power of action and present level of intent. However, when an individual sins unconsciously and without premeditation, then his action indicates a subconscious connection to sin; evil touches him on a level that goes much deeper than his awareness.
Just as in one sense the taint of an inadvertent sin is greater than that of a conscious sin, so too questionable guilt is in a sense harsher than indubitable guilt: When one knows for sure that he sinned inadvertently, he will be remorseful. But when his guilt is in question he may think that nothing untoward has happened. This may indicate an even deeper level of evil, wherein the individual is utterly insensitive to it.
This is why the cost of the offering for questionable guilt, the Asham Talui, is so much more than for incontrovertible guilt, for the Asham Talui must eradicate a deeper connection to sin, thereby enabling the person to once again be whole and pure before G-d.
Based on Likkutei Sichos, Vol. III, pp. 942-946.
|2.||.Tur and Shulchan Aruch (so too Shulchan Aruch Admur HaZakein) Orach Chayim , beginning of Section 284; Tur and Rama ibid., end of Section 428.|
|4.||.Bachya, Vayeishev 38:30 and beginning of Balak ; Kad HaKemach, Rosh HaShanah (2); Shaar HaYichud VehaEmunah , beginning of ch. 7, et al.|
|5.||See also Mechilta and Yalkut Shimoni on Shmos 20:3; Rashi, Vayikra 18:2.|
|6.||.Vayikra Rabbah 2:2; see also Midrash Shmuel ch. 19; Sifri, Bamidbar 11:16.|
|7.||See Likkutei Torah , Bamidbar, p. 6b; Or HaTorah , Ha’azinu p. 1661; beginning of Zeh HaYom 5660, Adon Olam 5703.|
|12.||.Likkutei Torah beginning of Vayikra.|
|13.||See Likkutei Sichos, Vol. VII, p. 24 and note; Sefer HaMaamarim Melukat, Vol. IV, p. 209.|
|16.||Ibid., verse 17.|
|17.||Ibid., verse 9; see also Seforno ibid., verse 2.|
|18.||See Sefer HaBahir 46 (109). See also Zohar, Vol. III, p. 5a; Shaloh , Misecteh Taanis (211b); Pri Eitz Chayim, Shaar HaTefillah ch. 5.|
|21.||Conclusion of ch. 2 of Hilchos Geirushin.|
|22.||See HaYom Yom, p. 73.|
|25.||Zevachim 48a; Tosafos titled Michlal in Tractate Kerisus 10b.|
|26.||Berachos 1b. See also Shulchan Aruch Rabbeinu HaZakein, Orach Chayim, ch. 603.|
|27.||Iggeres HaKodesh, Epistle 28. See also maamarim titled VeChal Adam of theTzemach Tzedek and of the year 5723.|
|28.||Rashi, Shavuos 2a titled Toleh.|
|30.||See Iggeres HaKodesh conclusion of Epistle 28; Tanya, ch. 13.|
FOR FRIDAY NIGHT: Sacred Moments (Vayikra)
Adar II 4, 5774 · March 6, 2014
By Tali Loewenthal
Does modern man and woman have any way to relate to the holy? Or is holiness, being close to G-d, something which eludes us because the pace of life is too fast, or because we are too materialistic, or because we are living in a secular society, or because times have changed…
According to Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi (1745-1812; founder of Chabad Chassidism), we can learn something about this from a phrase at the beginning of our Parshah. Ostensibly, it is speaking about “a person who wishes to offer an offering to G-d,” in the sense of an animal offering — something which would appear to concern only the times of the Temple. However, it is well known that each word of the Torah has several levels of meaning. The Hebrew word for “offer” and “offering” (yakriv/korban) also means “draw near”.
So Rabbi Shneur Zalman explains the text as saying “if a person wishes to draw near to G-d…”
Well, what does it tell us about the person who wants to draw near to G-d? How does he or she do it? As explained by Rabbi Shneur Zalman, the Hebrew text continues: you draw near by offering yourself to G-d.
Offering yourself? What does that mean, something mystical?
As explained by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, offering yourself means that the person does not think solely about his or her own benefit, but gives of his or her time, energy, money, comfort in order to help someone else.
This is something which is comprehensible, even in our high-speed, materialistic age. A person needs you. You give of yourself, generously. You are helping someone, and you are also coming close to G-d.
Or take another scenario. There is a problem in a relationship. You and another person at work; or you and someone else in the family. What do you do? You surrender something of yourself. Through this you gain in the goal of peace and unity. In addition, you personally are coming close to G-d.
Through brief instances of self-surrender, we are able to partake of sacred moments — despite our modern age. It might even be suggested that our complex world gives us more opportunities for this than people had before, when life was simpler and less involved. There is much good to be done. The teaching of our parshah gives us a path to advance forward.
GARDEN OF TORAH: The Dearness of Every Jew (Vayikra)
Likkutei Sichos, Vol. VII, pgs. 24-26;
Vol. XVII, pgs. 12-15;
Sefer HaSichos 5750, Vol. I, p. 327ff
Within the Many One
Even a brief look at our people reveals a great heterogeneity, for there is hardly a country or a setting in which Jews have not lived. Jews have featured prominently in almost every major civilization and race, and in so doing have adapted themselves to these different environments.
Nor is it merely the settings in which our people live; the nature of the individuals themselves varies greatly. Our Sages comment1 that just as the faces of no two people are alike, so too, their thought processes differ.
This variety does not, however, obscure the fundamental oneness that links every member of our people in every country and in every age. Every Jew every man, woman, and child has a soul that is “an actual part of G-d,”2 and which permeates every dimension of his being. Of this people, G-d says:3 “I created this nation for Myself; they will recite My praise.”
Every Jew is heir to the entire spiritual legacy of our people. There is a golden chain extending throughout the generations, reaching back to our forefathers, Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov, and to our Matriarchs Sarah, Rivkah, Rachel, and Leah. Every Jew in the present generation is a representative of the entire collective as it has existed and evolved throughout history. As such, G-d cherishes every Jew as a father cherishes an only son.4
Closeness with G-d
The unique love which G-d shows the Jewish people is reflected in the beginning of our Torah reading, which states:5 “And He6 called to Moshe, and G-d spoke to him.” Before G-d spoke to Moshe, He called to him, showing him a unique measure of endearment.7 G-d did not call Moshe to impart information; on the contrary, He called him to express the fundamental love He shares with our people. (For although it was Moshe alone who was called, this call was addressed to him as the leader of our people as a whole.)8
The inner G-dly nature which we possess constantly “calls” to us, seeking to express itself. This is reflected by the subject of the Torah reading, the sacrificial offerings. The Hebrew word for sacrifice, korban (קרבן), shares a root with the word kerov (קרב), meaning “close.” Sacrifices bring the Jews’ spiritual potential to the surface,9 carrying our people and each individual closer to G-d.10
The above concepts are fundamental when it comes to relationships with fellow Jews, even those whose conduct (at present) is estranged from our heritage.11 First and foremost, we must appreciate who the other person truly is. When speaking to a Jew, we must be aware that we are speaking to a soul that is “an actual part of G-d.”
There is no need to focus on the negative aspects of the other person’s conduct. Instead, one should highlight his positive potential, making him conscious of the G-dly spark within him. We must emulate the example provided by our Torah reading, and show our fellow man a special degree of closeness, inviting him to join in activities that encourage the expression of his G-dly core.
We should pursue this approach with confidence, for it speaks to the very essence of our fellow man. “No Jew can or desires to separate himself from G-d.”12 When he is invited to affirm his heritage with warmth and openness, he will respond, proceeding at his own pace to “come close to G-d.” Since he is part of the nation “created for Myself,” it is inevitable that he will ultimately “relate My praise” by following the path of Torah and mitzvos.
Seek the Silver Lining
There is a natural tendency to be impatient, to hasten a person towards complete observance of the Torah and its mitzvos, and perhaps to criticize him if he hesitates or falls back. The Torah does not approve of this approach. When Yeshayahu the prophet made harsh statements about the Jewish people, G-d rebuked him severely although his words were justified.13 Instead of being critical, we must endeavor to appreciate and always accentuate the positive qualities which every member of our people possesses. For indeed, the very fact of a Jew’s existence is an expression of G-d’s praise, independent of any Divine service which he may perform.
Despite the fact that the Jews are “one lamb among 70 wolves”14 and have faced severe persecution, we have endured while nations seemingly far greater and more powerful have disappeared. This clearly shows that G-d has invested a dimension of His eternality within His people. Our continued existence as a nation and as individuals is an expression of Divine Providence.
In the present age, every Jew is a living miracle.
This is particularly relevant today, barely a generation after the Holocaust. The fact that we were able to endure that terrible era and give birth to a new generation (regardless of any apparent spiritual shortcomings it may possess) reveals the working of G-d’s hand.15
The G-dly potential within every Jew and within our people as a whole will not remain dormant. Its blossoming will lead to an age when the G-dliness latent in the world at large will become manifest, the Era of the Redemption. At that time, the Jewish people will “relate [G-d’s] praise” in a complete manner, showing our gratitude for the miracles performed on our behalf.16
Herein we see a connection to the month of Nissan, during which Parshas Vayikrausually falls. Our Sages associate Nissan with miracles.17 Further, Nissan is the month in which the Jews were redeemed,18 and the month in which we will be redeemed in the future.19 At that time, our entire nation will proceed to our Holy Land and “relate [G-d’s] praise” in the Beis HaMikdash. May this take place in the immediate future.
|2.||Tanya, ch. 2. The expression “a part of G-d” is taken from Job 31:2. The Alter Rebbe adds the word “actual,” for two reasons: a) to emphasize that our souls are truly a part of G-d, as it were, and not merely a ray of His light; b) to underscore that even as the souls are “actual,” enclothed in the material world, they remain “a part of G-d,” for the word ממש, translated as “actual,” also means “material.” (Igros Kodesh of the Previous Rebbe, Vol. IV, p. 404, 407.)|
|3.||Isaiah 43:21; the beginning of the Haftorah for Parshas Vayikra.|
|4.||The Baal Shem Tov as quoted in Keser Shem Tov, Hosafos 133.|
|6.||When mentioning the call to Moshe, the Torah does not refer to any of the different names of G-d. For every name represents a reflection of only one aspect of His Being, while the call to Moshe expressed a connection to G-d’s essence, a level which transcends all names.|
|7.||Rashi, op. cit.|
|8.||For “it is only for the sake of Israel that I have given you greatness” (Berachos 32b,Rashi, Exodus 32:7).|
|9.||The connection between the sacrifices and the essential G-dly nature of the Jewish soul is reflected by the verse (Leviticus 1:2): “When a man… brings a sacrifice.” Why does the Torah use the word man, adam in Hebrew? Becauseadam is related to the word adamoh, “I resemble,” and thus refers to the verse (Isaiah 14:14), “I will resemble the One above;” i.e., man is representative of G-d, as it were (Sheloh, Parshas Vayeishev). A man’s ability to draw close to G-d stems from the fact that G-dliness lies at the core of his being.|
|10.||Sefer HaBahir, sec. 46.|
|11.||This concept is also alluded to by our Torah reading, for its latter sections describe the sin offerings and guilt offerings brought to atone for undesirable conduct.|
|12.||HaYom Yom, entry 25 Tammuz; Igros Kodesh of the Previous Rebbe, Vol. IV, p. 384.|
|13.||See Isaiah 6:5-7.|
|14.||Cf. Midrash Tanchuma, Parshas Toldos, sec. 5.|
|15.||Moreover, most non-observant Jews today are generally not responsible for their lack of practice. They are like “children captured by the gentiles,” who were never given an opportunity to learn about their heritage.|
|16.||See the commentary of the Radak to Isaiah 43:21. See also Rashi’s commentary to that passage, and the Midrash Leckach Tov, Bo 12:2.|
|18.||Shmos Rabbah 15:11.|
|19.||Rosh HaShanah 11a.|
ONCE UPON A CHASID: Two Guests (Vayikra)
A pleasing fragrance to G-d (1:17)
Regarding an animal-offering the Torah says “a pleasing fragrance to G-d”, and regarding a fowl-offering the Torah also says “a pleasing fragrance to G-d.” This comes to tell you that whether one offers much or offers little it is pleasing to G-d – so long as one directs his heart to heaven…
– Rashi’s commentary
One day, Rabbi Shmuel of Lubavitch said to his son, Rabbi Sholom DovBer: “Today, two people came to see me. From one, I derived great pleasure; from the other, only aggravation.
“The first was Reb Eliyahu, a simple merchant from Abeleh, a small settlement near Lubavitch.1 My conversation with the Reb Eliyahu went as follows:
‘Reb Eliyahu, how are things with you?’
‘Thank G-d. But, Rebbe, my heart aches for Yosef of our village – he simply has no success in anything. We raised a small sum between us and bought him a horse and wagon so that he could take some goods to the city, but the poor fellow has no luck. Always something happens: the axle cracks, the horse breaks a leg, and then the horse is stolen altogether. All shlimazeldik possibilities befall him. Oh, Rebbe, how can I help him?!’
“Reb Eliyahu emitted a deep sigh and burst into tears: ‘Rebbe! Please help him!’
“I said to Reb Eliyahu: ‘But indeed, there is much that you can do for him. When a Jew participates in the sorrow of his fellow and prays for him, he banishes all negative decrees.’
“I then took a coin from my pocket: ‘I want to be your partner,’ I said. ‘May the Almighty grant that you be privileged to be of assistance to a fellow Jew and may your efforts meet with success.’
” ‘Rebbe, you want me for a partner!?’ cried Reb Eliyahu, trembling from head to foot. ‘Do you know what I am? I am the ‘coarse substance’2 which the Tanya (the fundamental text of Chabad Chassidic philosophy) speaks of, whose only rectification is to be crushed…’
“And my second guest? The esteemed chassid Rabbi Eliezer of Plotzk, author of the work Mishnat Eliezer, was also in Lubavitch today.
‘How are things?’ I asked.
‘Thank G-d. I give an in-depth class in Talmud to the young men, and they learn well. On Shabbat they meditate and pray long after the congregation has concluded. They study the teachings of chassidism…”
‘What of their character traits?’ I interjected.
‘Well… You know how it is with the children of the rich…”
“I said to him: ‘The fault is their mentor’s, not theirs. The foundation of education and guidance is the imparting of a good character. Not to teach the book but to teach the person.
‘As soon as you return home I want you to establish a free loan fund. Every one of these young men should contribute half of his dowry.’
‘But Rebbe,’ protested Rabbi Eliezer, ‘I will never prevail upon them to do this!’
‘If I say so, you will manage. Tell the young men that when they give, they are not giving what is theirs, and if they do not give, they will not have what to give. I hope that on your next visit you will bring me better tidings.’
When the Rebbe finished telling his son about these two encounters, he remarked: “Had I wished to give in to the desire of my G-dly soul,3 I would have grabbed Reb Eliyahu Abelehr and covered his face with kisses…”
|1.||Abeleh was one of the hamlets that Rabbi Shmuel was trying to turn into a ‘town’. At the time, a new anti-Jewish decree had been passed by the czarist government forbidding Jews to live in villages; so the Rebbe invested much effort to promote as many settlements as possible to the status of ‘town’.|
|3.||See Strength In Numbers|
WEEKLY ALIYOT: Parshat Vayikra
General Overview: This week’s Torah reading, Vayikra, begins the third book of the Torah, Leviticus. Last week we completed the reading of the book of Exodus, which concluded with a description of the construction of the Tabernacle. This week’s portion will provide a description of the various sacrifices – animal, fowl, and meal-offerings – offered by the priests in this newly constructed Sanctuary.
First Aliyah: G‑d calls out to Moses from the Tabernacle and teaches him the laws of the elective burnt offering, the Olah sacrifice. This aliyah discusses the laws of the cattle, sheep, or goat Olah.
Second Aliyah: G‑d then teaches Moses the laws of the fowl Olah. This aliyah then continues with a description of three types of voluntary meal offerings: unbaked flour, baked loaves, and the shallow-fried meal offering. All voluntary meal offerings also contained olive oil and frankincense.
Third Aliyah: The Torah describes the last type of voluntary meal offerings — the deep-fried meal offering — and the mandatory barley offering, the Omer offering, brought on the second day of Passover. G‑d instructs the Jews to add salt to every animal sacrifice or meal offering, a symbol of our everlasting “salt covenant” with G‑d. We are also commanded not to include any leavened items or anything which contains honey in any Temple offering (there are two exclusions to the leaven prohibition).
Fourth Aliyah: The “Peace Offering,” the Shelamim sacrifice, is described in this Aliyah. The Shelamim — which could be brought from cattle, sheep, or goats — was shared by the altar, which consumed some of the animal’s fats, the Kohanim, and the donors of the sacrifice who were given the bulk of the meat. The aliyah ends with the prohibitions against consuming blood and the specific fats which were offered on the altar. These prohibitions apply to all animals, even those not offered in the Temple.
Fifth Aliyah: We now begin learning about the “Sin Offering,” the Chatat sacrifice, brought by an individual who is guilty of inadvertently transgressing a sin. This section discusses the unique Chatat sacrifices brought by a High Priest who sins, by theSanhedrin (Jewish Supreme Court) who issue an erroneous ruling which causes the populace to sin, and a monarch who sins.
Sixth Aliyah: The Torah discusses the fourth and final type of Chatat, that of a common person who sins. Also discussed is the Korban Oleh Viyored, a “vacillating” Sin Offering, brought by an individual guilty of certain specific sins. The Korban Oleh Viyored depended on the financial position of the transgressor — a wealthy person brought a sheep or goat, a person of lesser means brought two birds, and a pauper brought a meal offering.
Seventh Aliyah: This section concludes the laws of the Korban Oleh Viyored. We then move on to the last sacrifice discussed in this week’s Torah reading, the “Guilt Offering,” the Asham Sacrifice. Three types of Asham Sacrifices are discussed: a) anAsham brought by one who inadvertently misappropriates Temple property. b) AnAsham brought by one who falsely swears regarding money owed to another. (Aside for bringing a sacrifice, these two individuals must repay the principal amount, and pay a punitive fine equal to one fourth of the principle.) c) An Asham brought by a person who is uncertain whether he violated a Torah prohibition.
PARSHAH IN A NUTSHELL: Vayikra
The “ascending offering” (olah) that is wholly raised to G-d by the fire atop the Altar;
Five varieties of “meal offering” (minchah) prepared with fine flour, olive oil and frankincense;
The “peace offering” (shelamim), whose meat was eaten by the one bringing the offering, after parts are burned on the Altar and parts are given to the Kohanim (priests);
The different types of “sin offering” (chatat) brought to atone for transgressions committed erroneously by the High Priest, the entire community, the king, or the ordinary Jew;
The “guilt offering” (asham) brought by one who has appropriated property of the Sanctuary, who is in doubt as to whether he transgressed a divine prohibition, or who has committed a “betrayal against G-d” by swearing falsely to defraud a fellow man.
TORAH STUDIES: Parshat Vayikra
The Sidra of Vayikra is about sacrifice: The offerings that were made in the Sanctuary, and the procedure that surrounded them. What does it mean to us today, when there is no Temple? Two Temples were destroyed. But many millions were not, and could not be. These are the temples which every Jew possesses within himself, the holy place of the soul where his worship of G-d takes place. Judaism is invulnerable, because it has as many Sanctuaries as there are Jews. But what is the service of this inner sanctum? The answer lies in this week’s Sidra, where every instruction has a double significance: Firstly, to guide the priests in their service, and secondly, to guide us in ours. The private Sanctuary of the present is a precise counterpart of the public Sanctuary of the past. The Rebbe takes us through the act of sacrifice, translating the priestly procedure into terms of immediate bearing on our spiritual life. It is a classic example of the power of Chassidut to transform our understanding of neglected parts of the Torah into exact and striking pictures of the path of religious experience.
1. “An Offering of You”
At the beginning of the Sidra of Vayikra (the Sidra about the sacrifices), the Torah says, “If any man brings an offering of you to the L-rd.” At first glance we would suppose that the phrase “of you” refers to “any man,” thus: “If any man of you brings an offering….” But the order of words in the Torah rules this out. The Torah is precise in every detail. An apparently misplaced word has great significance. The sentence must read, “If any man brings an offering of you…,” and the implication is that the sacrifice must be of yourself. What does this mean?
This well-known Chassidic interpretation understands the phrase to be a commentary on the whole nature of sacrifice. When G-d commanded the Israelites to build Him a Sanctuary. He said: “And they shall make Me a Sanctuary and I will dwell in them.” It was not simply in it that He would dwell, but in every Jew. Each Jew had, as it were, a Sanctuary within himself. And every act, every facet of the physical Sanctuary, had its counterpart in the sanctuary of the soul.
So there is an inward act of sacrifice in the life of the Jew that precisely mirrors the outward act that took place in the Sanctuary. Even that outward act—though it involved the sacrifice of a physical animal—was essentially a spiritual one. This is why it needed the participation of the priests (kohanim) and the accompaniment of the songs of the Levites. The Zohar1 says that “the Cohanim in their silent service and their desire drew (G-d’s presence) downwards and the Levites in their songs and praises drew (man’s soul and his sacrifice) upwards.” The physical sacrifice was thus a spiritual encounter.
So, indeed more so, is the inward act of sacrifice. And this is the meaning of “If any man brings an offering of you….” “Offering” in Hebrew means “drawing near.”2 And when a Jew wishes to draw near to G-d he must make a sacrifice to G-d of his very self. The offering must be “of you.” It is the “you” that is the sacrifice.
2. The Animal
The sentence continues: “…You shall bring your offering from the cattle, the herd and the flock.”
Thus there are two sacrifices in the sanctuary of the soul. The first is “of you,” of yourself, your “G-dly soul.” The second is “from the cattle,” from the “animal soul” which constitutes all physical desires, all instincts which a man has in virtue of having a body and being part of the natural world. It is this second offering which is the ultimate aim of sacrifice: The sanctification and redirection of the “animal” in man.
That this is the aim is suggested in the verse itself, and what follows. The offering “of you” is described as being made “to the L-rd.” But in the next verse it says that the offering “of the herd” shall be “before the L-rd,” meaning that it will reach a higher level than “the L-rd,”3 the four-lettered name of G-d. It is written,4 “There is much increase by the strength of the ox.” When the animal in man is harnessed in the service of G-d it has the power to take him closer to G-d than his G-dly soul alone could reach.
Bringing the “you,” the G-dly soul, as a sacrifice brings man only “to the L-rd,” to the level signified by the four-lettered name. This is in itself a supernatural experience, but not yet an experience of G-d as He is in Himself, beyond time and change. Whereas the sanctification of the “animal soul” brings an experience of G-d in His absolute transcendence: “When the ‘other side’ (the natural instincts) is subdued, the glory of the Holy One, blessed be He, is revealed throughout all worlds.”5
3. The Search
When an animal was to be sacrificed on the altar, the first thing that had to be done was to see that it was whole, perfect, without blemish. Only then could it be offered. So it is in the “drawing near” of man. The “animal” within himself must be without blemish before it can be sacrificed. The first step is self-examination. He must search the recesses of his soul for faults—rifts in the unity of his being. And having found them, he must set them right.
The search must be sincere, not done out of a mechanical sense of duty. For his whole spiritual integrity depends on it. Once he realizes what is at stake, he will not cover his faults in self-deception, or leave them to fester, uncured.
4. The Pressure of the Past
When a man begins this process of self-searching in earnest, it can often happen that even though he is not currently guilty of any sin, there rise to the surface of his memory all the failings and indiscretions of his past, even of his childhood,6 until he can say, “My sin is continually before me.”7 They persist because they have not been completely set right.
Had they been rectified by his subsequent service they would have been effaced, and replaced by great enthusiasm in Divine Service. For when a man has been through the “dry land of the shadow of death” which comes upon him in the moment of separation from G-d through sin, his desire to be reunited with G-d flares into the fervor of “repentance through great love” which turns “intentional sins into merits.”8
But this self-examination tells him that it is not so with him. His sins remain as sins in his memory. He has not passed through the transforming fire of love. Sin breeds sin in its chain,9 and even now he sometimes feels the pressure of wayward desires.
It is not as if his repentance for the past needs only a final touch to complete it, but rather as if it never succeeded in breaking down the barrier between himself and G-d10 that his past acts had created.
But this may give him pause. He is coming in front of G-d in an act of sacrifice, of “drawing near” with all his being, to be drawn into the Divine fire which is to carry him upwards to the essence of G-d.11 And he may say: What am I to be worthy of the act? I am imperfect. I am full of faults. The thing is beyond me!
Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak of Lubavitch answered:12 the sacrifice is not only of “you”; it depends on “you.” It is within the scope of every Jew, whatever his present and whatever his past. So that every Jew has the right to ask himself,13 “When will my acts be like the acts of my fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob?”
5. The Fire
Once the animal has been examined, and found to be without blemish, it must be killed. That is, one does not destroy its body, merely takes away its life. Then it is offered on the altar, where it is consumed (in some cases, only the fat, in others the whole animal) by fire sent from above by G-d.
This is the procedure for physical sacrifices in the Sanctuary, and it applies also to the inward sacrifice within the Jewish personality.
After one has set right the faults or blemishes in one’s way of life, the “animal” must be killed. The life must be taken from one’s instinctual, physical drives. Their energy must be redirected. The “body,” that is, the physical acts, remain. But their motive is now wholly spiritual, to give strength to the life of Divine Service. Thus in the Talmud,14Rava said: “Wine and odorous spices made me wise.” To do this is to arrive at the stage of “In all your ways, know Him,”15 where every act is for the sake of holiness, until every act becomes itself holy. This is the case, for example, on Shabbat when eating and drinking are not simply a means to the sanctification of the day, but are themselves commanded as part of that sanctity; physical wool in Tzitzit; physical leather in Tefillin; and so can every act be sanctified to this degree.
Then comes the moment of “drawing near.” The body, the “animal soul” are drawn into the fire of the soul, the fire that is the love of G-d: “Its flames are flames of fire, the flame of G-d.”16 The love that the Rabbis say17 is like “the fire of heaven” turns the animal force into molten energy that is reshaped as love of G-d.
“And you shall love the L-rd your G-d with all your heart.” The Rabbis asked,18 what is “with all your heart?” And they answered, “with your two inclinations.” When the power and passion of natural man is harnessed to the love of G-d of spiritual man, the fire within the Jew merges with the answering fire of heaven, and man and G-d “draw near.”
(Source: Likkutei Sichot, Vol. I pp. 205-208)
|1.||Part III, 39a.|
|2.||Korban and Kiruv respectively, which have the same root.|
|3.||Likkutei Torah, Maamar Leva’er… Adam Ki Yakriv.|
|5.||Cf. Tanya, Part I, ch. 27.|
|6.||Poke’ach Ivrim, ch. 21-22. Cf. Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim, end of ch. 343. Sanhedrin, 55b.|
|8.||Cf. Tanya, Part I, ch. 7.|
|9.||Pirkei Avot, 4:2.|
|10.||Cf. Tanya, Part I, ch. 17.|
|11.||Cf. Zohar, Part II, 239a; Part III, 26b.|
|12.||Maamar Bati Leganni 5710, ch. 2.|
|13.||Tana Deve Eliyahu Rabbah, ch. 25.|
|15.||Cf. Rambam, Hilchot Deot, ch. 3. Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim, ch. 231.|
|16.||Song of Songs 8:6.|
|17.||Yalkut, ad loc.|
Jewish Geography, Love and Texting, Odd Couple – Shabbat Shalom from the OU
Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz:
Sukka – 25a – 31b
Purim: Your Chance to Win the Lottery
Dear Naaleh Friend,
Purim is just a week away and we are gearing up with lots of great classes on Naaleh.com. This week we have featured a class by Mrs. Shoshie Nissenbaum titled Purim: Your Chance to Win the Lottery. In this Torah shiur, Mrs. Nissenbaum explains the power of the day, where everyone can be a winner. Please click on the image below to view this class now.
We hope you will take the time to look at our Parsha Newsletter. To view the newest one please click here for the printable version or scroll down for our e-mail version. As always, visit our websiteNaaleh.com to learn more and watch thousands of classes on various Torah and Jewish topics.
Ashley Klapper and the Naaleh Crew
Dedicated in memory of Rachel Leah bat R’ Chaim Tzvi
Torat Imecha- Women’s Torah
Proper Thinking Parshat Vayikra
Based on a Naaleh.com shiur by Rabbi Hershel Reichman
In Parshat Vayikra, the Shem Mishmuel discusses two bird sacrifices, the olat ha’of and the chatatha’of, that were offered in the Beit Hamikdash. While the head of the olat ha’of was entirely severed from its body before it was completely burnt, the head of thechatat ha’of was not. The Gemara says that the olat ha’of atoned for evil thoughts. The chatat ha’of was brought for mistaken or forgetful thinking that ultimately led to improper actions. The Shem Mishmuel explains that the sin is not the initial evil thought that enters the mind. Rather, if a person dwells on the thought and allows it to overtake him, it can lead to evil. Therefore, the head of the olat ha’of was entirely severed, hinting that bad thoughts must be banished at once. In contrast, thechatat ha’of atoned for the mistake of not thinking enough. Therefore, the Torah commands that the head remain attached to the bird. The sinner must learn to be more mindful and careful so that in the future he will avoid repeating the sin he committed.
Some situations call for thinking more while others require quite the opposite. The Torah goal is to attain the correct balance that will ultimately lead to purity and holiness.
Halacha states that the mitzva ofshiluach haken (sending away the mother bird) only applies if the nest is connected to the ground. The Gemara asks: if a nest is found on a person’s head, is it considered on the ground or up in the heavens? The Gemara questions further, where in the Torah is there an allusion to Moshe? It quotes a verse in Parshat Noach “Lo yadon ruchi b’adam l’olam b’shegam hu basar, v’hayu yamav me’ah v’esrim shanah. This evil generation will not be maintained forever, for they are flesh, they will be given an extension of 120 years.” B’shegam is the same gematriya as the name Moshe. Moshe lived 120 years. The Gemara then asks where are Haman, Esther, and Mordechai alluded to in the Torah and it brings the relevant verses. How do we understand these seemingly unconnected ideas?
Rav Moshe Breslover explains that although the aron was covered with gold on the outside, its core was wood. Likewise, the outer beautiful coverings of the mishkan concealed the main covering which was goatskin. This signifies that the essence of the mishkanwas simplicity, while its beauty was secondary. The Torah commands us, “V’asu li mikdash.” Every Jew has an obligation to build a model sanctuary within himself where Hashem can reside. This inner mishkan was revealed to Moshe as the Torah says, “All that I show you,” which connotes that he was the model of how the sanctuary could connect us to Hashem. The Shechina spoke from Moshe’s throat just as it did from between the keruvim. Moshe, though, was the greatest of all prophets. Who can reach his level? Now we can understand the reference of the Gemara. The pasuksays, “B’shegam hu basar.” He was mere flesh. Rashi says b’shegamis the numerical value of Moshe, who was born of a physical mother, and rose to awesome heights. Still as great as he was, he always remained humble. This is the model of the mishkan. On the outside it appeared ornate gold, but inside it was simple wood.
When the Gemara says that the allusion to Haman is, “Hamin h’aeitz achalta,” it teaches us that Haman sinned for the same reason Adam did. Haman was the antithesis of Moshe. His haughtiness and his desire to be like a deity led to his downfall. The allusion to Mordechai is mor d’ror. The letters of mor can be switched around to read rahm, high. This is the same numerical value as Amalek. Drormeans freedom. Mordechai understood that humility was the secret to freeing oneself from Amalek. Throughout the megilah he is found at the gate of the King of kings, Hashem. He doesn’t feel worthy to enter. Even after he dons beautiful clothing and is raised on a horse, he returns to the gates. He never forgets his place.
Ester is also hinted at in the Torah, “Anochi haster astir panai. I will hide my face.” She was the essence of modesty and concealment.
The Shvilei Pinchas explains that Purim was the battle of humility against pride. When Achashveirosh told Haman, “I want to honor someone,” Haman immediately thought, “Who else does the king mean but me?” Mordechai was able to vanquish him with humility. Purim is a day of kabalat hatorah because the Torah was given to humble people. Wine, which ages in simple earthenware vessels, flows freely on this day.
The joy of Purim is recognizing that what we have does not make us significant, because nothing physical remains forever. We dress up because we realize greatness is not about social strata or recognizing anyone for their external possessions. It’s about uniting as one in joyous celebration with Hashem. The avoda of Purim is to embrace every Jew as a friend. It’s about humility and recognizing that we are all meant to serve Hashem.
The bird has the ability to both survive on earth and in the heavens. Moshe was the embodiment of this seamless blend between the physical and spiritual. Purim too is about melding these two aspects into one. The medium that connects us is prayer. Both Mordechai and Esther davened at every step of the way until Hashem sent His salvation. The Kav Yashar says that Taanit Esther and Purim are auspicious days for tefila when one can break through barriers with joy and love. Even decrees that were signed and sealed can be wiped away. One of the holiest moments to pray is at the Purim meal. At Ester’s party the king asked her, “What is your request? It shall be fulfilled.” On Purim, Hashem is ready to fulfill our deepest longings. May all our prayers be answered l’tova.