Monday, March 26, 2007

Parshas Tzav

והרים את הדשן אשר תאכל האש את העלה על המזבח ... והוציא את הדשן אל מחוץ למחנה (6:3-4)

Parshas Tzav begins with the mitzvah of removing the ashes of the consumed sacrifices from the Altar. Although it was necessary in a practical sense to remove the accumulated ashes, why did Hashem actually make it a mitzvah to do so?

The Shelah HaKadosh explains that this mitzvah symbolically hints that after a person has repented and brought a sacrifice in the Beis HaMikdash to complete his atonement, his previous mistakes are forgotten and no longer mentioned. By requiring the Kohen to remove all physical reminders of his offering, the Torah teaches that from he is to be respected as any other upstanding Jew. In fact, the Gemora teaches (Berachos 34b) that repented former sinners are able to stand on a higher level than even the completely righteous.

For the same reason, the Kli Yakar (6:9) writes that the Korban Asham and Chatas, which are brought to atone for transgressions, are referred to by the Torah as “קדש קדשים” – the holiest of holies. The Gemora in Yoma (86b) teaches that a person who repents out of love for Hashem will have his misdeeds not just erased but turned into merits. Although the perfectly righteous are considered “holy,” the extra merits accrued through proper repentance transform a sacrifice ostensibly associated with sin into something even greater, “the holiest of holies.”

אש תמיד תוקד על המזבח לא תכבה (6:6)

The Shelah HaKadosh writes in the name of Rav Moshe Kordovero that a person who is being troubled by sinful thoughts should repeat our verse, which will help him remove the forbidden ideas from his mind. He adds that it is clear that this remedy was revealed to Rav Kordovero by Eliyahu HaNavi himself, but in his great humility he chose not to disclose the source of his knowledge.

Rav Shimshon Pinkus suggests that while there are certainly mystical concepts at work, we may also attempt to understand the logical significance of this technique. The Ramban writes in one of his treatises (Drashas Toras Hashem Temimah) that the entire Torah consists of various Divine names, and every verse contains names relevant to the concept discussed therein.

For example, one of Hashem’s names which is associated with the revival of the dead is contained in the episode in which the prophet Yechezkel revives dry bones (Yechezkel 37:1-14). Similarly, the Mishnah Berurah writes (98:2) that the recitation of the verse (Tehillim 51:12) לב טהור ברא לי אלקים ורוח נכון חדש בקרבי – create in me, Hashem, a pure heart, and renew within me a proper spirit – can be helpful in restoring purity of mind and heart.

Rabbeinu Bechaye writes (6:2) that the Korban Olah is burnt throughout the night because it comes to atone for inappropriate thoughts, which are most prevalent during the night. In light of this, it isn’t surprising that a verse discussing a sacrifice which effects atonement for impure thoughts also contains within it a special ability to ward them off!

זה קרבן אהרן ובניו אשר יקריבו לד' ביום המשח אתו ... והכהן המשיח תחתיו מבניו יעשה אתה (6:13-15)

The Torah describes the special meal-offering to be brought by every Kohen on the occasion of his beginning to perform the Temple service. The Gemora in Horayos (12b) rules that in addition to bringing this meal-offering on the day of his anointment, the Kohen Gadol was also required to bring this sacrifice every day of his tenure. The Sfas Emes posits that the difference between the Kohen Gadol and a regular Kohen is that the Kohen Gadol is required to refresh and symbolically re-inaugurate himself on a daily basis, thereby necessitating his daily offering of this sacrifice.

Based on this explanation, the Ohr Gedalyahu suggests that we may derive from the Kohen Gadol that part of the definition of the word “Gadol” – greatness – is renewal. With this understanding, we may now offer a new insight into the special name of this Shabbos – Shabbos HaGadol. Some commentators explains that the word שבת comes from the root שב, which means to return. Shabbos is a time when everything in creation returns to its source, rendering it specifically suited for renewal.

In particular, this Shabbos corresponds to the time when our ancestors separated their sheep for the Korban Pesach and began to prepare for their imminent redemption. As the physical world parallels the spiritual, and our world begins to rejuvenate and herald the coming of spring, Shabbos HaGadol represents a unique opportunity to begin our own personal spiritual rebirth.

וזאת תורת זבח השלמים אשר יקריב לד' אם על תודה יקריבנו (7:11-12)

In connection to our verses, which discuss the laws of the Korban Todah, the Medrash quotes a verse in Tehillim (50:23) זבח תודה יכבדנני – one who brings a Thanksgiving-Offering honors Me. However, the Medrash notes that the word “יכבדנני” – “honors Me” – is peculiarly spelled with a double “נ,” in lieu of the usual one. The Medrash cryptically explains that this anomaly is coming to teach that a person who brings a Korban Todah doubly honors Hashem, כבוד אחר כבוד. What is the additional respect shown by this person who was saved from danger and is now bringing a sacrifice to express his gratitude?

An insight into resolving this perplexing Medrash may be derived from a fascinating story recounted by the Meam Loez. The Ramban had a student who became deathly ill. Upon visiting his student, the Ramban quickly realized that there was unfortunately no hope for him. Realizing that his time was near, the Ramban asked his student to do him a favor.

The Ramban explained that there were a number of questions which had been troubling him regarding Hashem’s conduct toward the Jewish people, who were suffering greatly. As he was deeply versed in the secrets of Jewish mysticism, he wrote for his student a kamea (roughly translated as amulet) full of Divine names. After his death, the student would be able, with the kamea, to ascend to a very lofty level in Heaven where he could ask the questions and return in a dream to tell his teacher the answers.

Shortly after the student’s death, he appeared to the Ramban and explained that everywhere he arrived, he simply showed the kamea and was permitted to continue his ascent. However, when he finally reached his destination and began to ask the questions that he had prepared, everything became so crystal clear to him that there were no longer any difficulties needing resolution. With his newfound insight, it was immediately clear that any apparent suffering was, in the big picture, actually for the person’s good.

With the lesson of this story, we can now understand an explanation given by the K’sav Sofer for our confusing Medrash. He explains that human nature is that after we are miraculously saved from peril, we express our gratitude to Hashem for watching over us and rescuing us from danger. However, we certainly don’t feel appreciation at having been placed in the situation to begin with. We would prefer never to have been placed in the line of danger than to have been exposed to death and rescued from it.

To counter this, the Medrash comes to teach us that the Torah’s philosophy is that a person who brings a Korban Todah is required to express double gratitude – not only for his salvation, but also for being exposed to the perilous situation from which he was rescued. Although it may not have been clear to him at the time, and may still not be apparent at the time of his bringing his sacrifice, he is nevertheless expected to recognize that the suffering itself was ultimately for his benefit. Suffering can effect atonement for misdeeds or bring in its wake unexpected good. It is incumbent upon the sufferer to feel and express appropriate gratitude.

Even if we aren’t yet able to see the good in a given situation, the knowledge that it is there and that we will eventually understand should give us the strength to persevere with faith and trust until the goodness is revealed.

על חלת לחם חמץ יקריב קרבנו על זבח תודת שלמיו ... ובשר זבח

תודת שלמיו ביום קרבנו יאכל לא יניח ממנו עד בקר (7:13-15)

Although the Korban Todah is a type of Korban Shelamim, some of its laws differ. In contrast to a regular Korban Shelamim which may be eaten for two days and one night, the Korban Todah must be consumed in only one day and one night. Additionally, it is accompanied by forty loaves, ten each of four different types (7:12-13). What is the purpose of these unique laws?

The Abarbanel and Netziv suggest that because of these laws, a person to whom a miracle occurred will have no choice but to invite friends to a special “seudas hoda’ah” – meal expressing gratitude – to assist him with the overwhelming task of consuming such a massive amount of food in such a short period of time. Upon arriving, they will query him about the reason for the gathering, and he will proceed to relate publicly the events of his wondrous salvation. Through the unusual laws governing the Korban Todah, the Torah indirectly brings about a publicizing of Hashem’s miraculous ways and a sanctification of His Holy Name.

Alternatively, the Imrei Emes suggests that while the Korban Todah is brought to thank Hashem for His miracles, we must also recognize that we are constantly surrounded by His miracles on a daily basis. In the daily prayers, we thank Hashem ועל נסיך שבכל יום עמנו ועל נפלאותיך וטובותיך שבכל עת ערב ובקר וצהרים – for Your miracles which are with us daily, and for Your amazing acts and kindnesses which are with us always, morning, afternoon, and night. When a person brings a Korban Todah, he has become consciously aware of one of His miracles, but there are countless others to which he remains oblivious. The Torah requires the Thanksgiving Offering to be consumed in only one day to remind us that tomorrow there will be new miracles for which we must be grateful!

Parsha Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):

1) The parsha begins with the mitzvah of removing the ashes of the consumed sacrifices from the altar (6:3-4). The Gemora in Yoma (22a) explains that initially, this service was done performed by whichever Kohen wanted to do it. If numerous Kohanim wanted to do so, they raced up the ramp to the Altar, with the service done by the first Kohen to get there. How were they permitted to race up the ramp when Rashi writes (Shemos 20:23) that it is forbidden to take wide steps when ascending the ramp? (Tosefos Yeshanim Yoma 22a, M’rafsin Igri)

2) A Korban Chatas, which atones for a sin one actually committed, is partially consumed by the Kohen (6:19). A Korban Olah, which atones for sinful thoughts which didn’t come to fruition, is completely burned on the Altar. As doing a sin is worse than only thinking about it, why is the Korban Chatas more lenient in this regard than the Korban Olah? (Mishmeres Ariel)

3) The Gemora in Berachos (54b) rules that a Thanksgiving offering is brought to express one’s gratitude at being saved from potential danger. Today, in the absence of the Beis HaMikdash, we are unable to bring a Korban Todah but instead publicly recite a blessing known as Birkas HaGomel. As women were required to bring a Korban Todah after being saved from danger, are they also required to recite Birkas HaGomel, and if not, why not? (Shu”t Halachos Ketanos 2:161; Magen Avrohom, Pri Megodim, and K’nesses HaGedolah Orach Chaim 219;Aruch HaShulchan Orach Chaim 219:6; Chai Adam 65:6; Ben Ish Chai Shana Rishona Parshas Eikev 5; Kaf HaChaim Orach Chaim 219:3; Ketzos HaShulchan 85:6; Shu”t Salmas Chaim 1:51 and 136; Chazon Ish quoted in Shu”t Teshuvos V’Hanhagos 1:195; Bishvilei HaParsha)

4) The shalsheles is the longest of the musical cantillations used to read the Torah and is incredibly rare, appearing only four times in the entire Torah. It is only used once outside of Sefer Bereishis (19:16, 24:12, 39:8), in 8:23 when the Torah relates that Moshe slaughtered the ram which completed the consecration services of the Mishkan. Why is it used here? (Binyan Shlomo, Taima D’Kra Parshas Vayeira, Imrei Deah)

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