Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Parshas Vayikra / Zachor

ויקרא אל משה וידבר ד' אליו מאהל מועד לאמר (1:1)

It is customary for children who are beginning to learn Chumash to start with the study of Parshas Vayikra. The Medrash questions (Vayikra Rabba 7:3) why it wouldn’t be more appropriate to start from the beginning by learning Parshas Bereishis. The Medrash answers that because Parshas Vayikra discusses the offering of sacrifices, which restore and enhance one’s purity, it is appropriate for young children, who are naturally pure, to begin their studies here.

Although the students and the subject matter may share similarities, what value can there be in teaching these concepts to young children who are incapable of grasping the intricate laws and underlying ideas behind the various sacrifices? Wouldn’t it make sense to begin with episodes from Sefer Bereishis with which the children are familiar and to which they can relate more easily?

Rav Shimshon Pinkus answers these questions by comparing them to the case of a simple villager who amasses enough money to purchase an automobile. Excited to show off his new purchase, he drives it everywhere until one day, out of fuel, it suddenly refuses to move. He turns for advice to a more sophisticated acquaintance, who advises him to refill the gas tank.

In his ignorance, the villager argues that enough damage has been done through his prized possession ceasing to function. Adding dirty, smelly water could only make the bad situation worse. His friend patiently explains that because the villager didn’t produce the car, he is incapable of understanding how it works. The manufacturer, who is intimately familiar with its every last detail, has made it known that only foul-smelling gasoline is capable of enabling it to continue functioning properly.

Similarly, even the most experienced educator lacks the ability to fully comprehend the neshama of a child due to the simple fact that he didn’t make it. Hashem, who inserts each precious soul into a Jewish child and possesses the unique understanding of its inner workings, has declared that the essence of the soul is its pure source from just underneath His Throne of Glory. As such, He recognizes that the “fuel” so vital to the successful growth and nourishment of the neshama is the pure study of sacrifices.


והקטירם הכהן המזבחה לחם אשה לריח ניחח כל חלב לד' (3:16)

Last week we concluded Sefer Shemos, which revolved around the Exodus from Egypt, the giving of the Torah at Sinai, and the construction of the Mishkan. This week we begin Sefer Vayikra, which deals largely with the laws pertaining to the Mishkan and the Kohanim who served therein. Parshas Vayikra introduces us to a number of the sacrifices which were offered in the Mishkan and their laws. One of the sacrifices is the Korban Shelamim (Peace-Offering). In discussing the laws of a goat which is brought as a Peace-Offering, our verse requires the Kohen to burn all of its choicest parts on the Altar.

Interestingly, the Rambam writes (Hilchos Issurei Mizbeiach 7:11) that this requirement wasn’t specific to the Korban Shelamim. He derives from our verse that for the performance of every mitzvah, from the selection of which animal to offer as a sacrifice to the food and clothing donated to the poor, a person should use his finest possessions.

This concept is illustrated in the following story. One of the Gerrer Rebbes, the Imrei Emes, was once approached by one of his chassidim, who lamented that he lost his tefillin. As tefillin are expensive, he was worried that it would take him a long time to save up the money to buy a new pair. Much to the chassid’s relief, the Imrei Emes immediately took out a pair of tefillin to loan him until he was able to buy a new set. After giving him the tefillin, the Rebbe asked him to take extra precaution in protecting them. He explained that he had inherited this special pair of tefillin from his saintly father, the S’fas Emes.

After the chassid left, overjoyed about the change in his fortune, one of the close disciples of the Imrei Emes asked him why he was willing to part with such an irreplaceable and holy family heirloom when he could have easily attained a simple set of kosher tefillin to lend him. The Rebbe responded by quoting the words of the Rambam, who teaches that we must be willing to give up our most valuable possessions for the sake of Hashem’s mitzvos.

After studying the inspiring stories of our forefathers in Sefer Bereishis and of their salvation from Egypt in Sefer Shemos, many people find it difficult to relate to the esoteric subjects discussed in Sefer Vayikra. Although the Rambam rules that the concept of using our choicest possessions applies to all mitzvos, perhaps one of the reasons it is taught in reference to the Korban Shelamim is to remind us that these sections of the Torah can be equally applicable to our daily lives.

Just as we wear our nicest clothing to a wedding and set the table with our finest china when hosting important guests, so too does the Torah teach us that this approach should carry over to spiritual matters, as we proudly use our most precious possessions to serve Hashem and do His mitzvos.


ואם לא תגיע ידו די שה והביא את אשמו אשר חטא שתי תרים

או שני בני יונה לד' אחד לחטאת ואחד לעלה (5:7)

The Mekor Boruch, Rav Nochum Boruch Ginsburg, recounts that he once entered the home of the Ohr Sameach and found him beaming with clearly visible pleasure. Rav Meir Simcha explained to his guest that he had just developed an original insight into the subject he was studying, for which he received quite an unexpected approbation.

The Gemora in Chullin (22a) rules that a bird which is brought as a Korban Olah may only be offered during the day. The Gemora questions the need to teach this explicitly, as this law should be derivable from a more general principle quoted there which teaches that all sacrifices must be brought during the day. The Gemora answers that without this explicit ruling, we might have mistakenly concluded that the general rule applies to the bird brought as a Korban Chatas but not to the one offered as a Korban Olah, rendering it necessary to directly state otherwise.

In his responsa, the Rashba (1:276) questions the logic of the Gemora’s answer in suggesting that we might have differentiated between the laws of the two birds, as in regard to this law they are identical. The Rashba concludes that this text was mistakenly inserted into the Gemora and should be deleted.

To resolve the Rashba’s difficulty, Rav Meir Simcha realized that a number of commentators (Ibn Ezra, Moshav Z’keinim, and Tur) question why the Torah requires a poor person to offer two birds in lieu of the one animal he would have brought if he had the means. They explain that because the bird lacks the inner organs of the animal, an additional bird is brought as a Korban Olah to replace the missing innards.

Based on this explanation, Rav Meir Simcha suggested that the line in the Gemora which the Rashba believed to be erroneous can now be easily understood. Because the premise of the bird which is brought as a Korban Olah is to compensate for the lacking innards of the animal he would have otherwise brought, it makes perfect sense to assume that the Korban Olah may be brought at night just as the innards may be offered at night. Had the Gemora not explicitly ruled otherwise, one might have concluded that the general rule requiring that the sacrifice be offered during the day applies only to the Korban Chatas.

After his intense effort to develop this insight, Rav Meir Simcha briefly dozed off. In his dream, he saw the great Rabbis of previous generations sitting in the Heavenly Court and discussing the lack of contemporary individuals capable of generating true and original Torah novellae. At this point, the Rashba himself stood up and announced, “In the city of Dvinsk there lives a Rav who has understood and delved into the truth of the Torah even more than I was able to do!”


Answers to the weekly Points to Ponder are now available!

To receive the full version with answers email the author at parshapotpourri@optonline.net.


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

1) Rashi writes (1:1) that when Hashem spoke to Moshe in the Mishkan, He spoke in His customarily powerful voice. As Rashi writes that only Moshe was capable of hearing it, what was the purpose of speaking in such a strong voice? (Darkei Mussar, Darash Moshe)

2) The Baal HaTurim explains (1:1) that the letter א in the word ויקרא is written smaller than usual due to Moshe’s humility. He preferred to use the expression ויקר, which connotes coincidental contact. When Hashem instructed Moshe to write ויקרא, he wrote a small letter א. As the word ויקרא is used in conjunction with Hashem speaking to Moshe several times previously (e.g. Shemos 3:4), why did he only write a small א here? (Peninim MiShulchan Gevoha, Even Meira)

3) Rashi writes (1:5) that after a sacrifice is slaughtered, the Kohen must receive its blood in a vessel and transport it to the Altar. The Rambam rules (Hilchos Bias Mikdash 5:18) that this must be done with his right hand. If he does so with his left hand, the sacrifice is disqualified. The Gemora in Bechoros rules (45b) that a left-handed Kohen may not perform the Divine service. As his right hand isn’t his strong hand, he is considered as if he doesn’t have a right hand. Although tefillin must be worn on a person’s weak left hand, the Gemora in Menachos rules (37a) that a left-handed person should place them on his weak right hand. Why isn’t a left-handed Kohen similarly permitted to serve in the Temple using his strong left hand?

4) How was Shmuel permitted to kill Agag (Shmuel 1 15:33), the king of the Amalekites, when the Gemora in Nazir (66a) teaches that Shmuel was a nazir who was forbidden to become impure through contact with a dead body (Bamidbar 6:6)? (Radak Shmuel 2 23:20, Derush L’Tzion 5, Tiferes Yisroel Nazir 9:5, Chavatzeles HaSharon Shemos 17:13, M’rafsin Igri Inyanim Vol. 2)

5) Prior to the performance of a mitzvah, we customarily make a blessing thanking Hashem for commanding us regarding that specific mitzvah. Why is no such blessing recited before fulfilling the Torah obligation (Devorim 25:17) to remember what Amalek did to our ancestors by recounting the event from a Torah scroll once annually?


© 2008 To subscribe or send comments, write to parshapotpourri@optonline.net

0 Comments:

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home