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Parashat VaYikra 6 Adar II 5774 March 8, 2014 Vol. 23 No. 23
Teaching with Love
by Rabbi Yosef Adler
The Midrash (VaYikra Rabbah 7:3) quotes a practice that it is advisable to begin the Chumash education of young children with Sefer VaYikra. It explains this practice with the phrase, “Yavo’u Tehorim ViYit’asku BeTaharah,” “Pure will come and be occupied with the laws of purity.” We should let the pure, by Eli Ginsberg (‘14) innocent children begin studying the laws of purity. I myself experienced this as a student in Yeshivat Chafetz Chaim when the In Parashat VaYikra, we learn about the Korbanot which first thing that I was taught was Sefer VaYikra. were brought in the Beit HaMikdash. When describing the I believe that there may be a more compelling reason for this Korban Asham, the Pasuk states, “VeIm Nefesh Ki Techeta VeAstah practice. Sefer VaYikra begins with the words “ VaYikra El Moshe Achat MiKol Mitzvot Hashem Asher Lo Tei’asenah VeLo Yada VaYidabeir Hashem Eilav,” “And Hashem called to Moshe and VeAsheim, VeNasa Avono,” “If a person will sin and commit one of spoke to him saying…” (VaYikra 1:1). Rashi (ad loc. s.v. VaYikra all the commandments of El Moshe) points out that the Hashem that may not be done, words “VaYikra” and but was unaware and became To view last week’s issue, search for ‘Kol Torah Parashat “VaYidabeir” are both used. guilty, and he bears his Pekudei’ on YUTorah.org or email KolTorah@KolTorah.org. This seems extraneous, because iniquity” (VaYikra 5:17). One both words have very similar type of Asham is brought when meanings. He suggests that the someone is in doubt about word “VaYikra” is Lashon Chibah, an affectionate calling. whether they sinned in a case in which the punishment would be Hashem calls out to Moshe in an affectionate voice saying, Kareit. For example, if there are two pieces of meat, one “Moshe, how are you?” Only after this, does Hashem begin to permissible and one Cheilev (the forbidden fats of certain describe the laws of sacrifices. animals), in front of a person, and he ate one of them not realizing Why does Rashi choose to make this remark only on the that it could have been the Cheilev, he is obligated to bring an phrase “VaYikra El Moshe,” in this week’s Parashah if, in fact, Asham Talui, a conditional guilt offering. this phrase already appears in Sefer Shemot? Apparently, it is The idea of a Korban Asham appears strange. At most, the because of the delicate nature of the subject matter. The purpose person sinned unintentionally. And it is equally possible he of sacrifices is not simply to slaughter animals, but rather, to teach didn’t sin at all (as would be the case if he actually ate the a profound lesson and challenge: when we give sacrifices, we permissible meat)! must feel that in truth, we are sacrificing ourselves on the altar Rav Eliyahu Dessler suggests that the Torah and Mitzvot and the animals are just our messengers. To elevate the Jewish must become such an important part of our lives that it should be People and enable them to reach this high level of understanding impossible for a situation to come up in which someone sins, even the correct approach to Korbanot, Hashem needed a to employ a unintentionally. If we are properly focused on observing particularly patient and loving technique. Had Hashem given Hashem’s Mitzvot, we would be conscious of our actions to the these commands in a demanding tone, He would not have extent that we would never sin. The Korban Asham atones for the convinced anybody to be willing to make that type of sacrifice. fact that this awareness of God has not yet been achieved. Only the loving tone that Hashem used to speak to Moshe would People do not generally walk out of their house and then have any chance of succeeding in convincing him of the realize that they forgot to put on their shirt. Putting on a shirt in commandment of Korbanot. Hence, here Rashi felt it important to the morning is a habit that we do not have to consciously think emphasize that “VaYikra” denotes Lashon Chibah, a loving t one. about to remember to do. By committing an Aveirah through negligence, a person shows that keeping the Mitzvot is not as important to him as getting dressed in the morning. Unlike To sponsor an issue, please contact: email@example.com putting on a shirt in the morning, remembering to perform
I believe that this explains the Midrash as well. One begins education with Sefer VaYikra not because of its content, but rather, to convey a message to the people. If an educator wants to successfully develop a loving relationship with his students, he must show that he cares about them. If he does, he will be able to effectively teach even the difficult Sefer VaYikra.
K O L T O R A H P A R A S H A T V A Y I K R A
Mitzvot (and conversely, to refrain from doing Aveirot) can be challenging. One can all too easily walk out of one’s house having forgotten to perform basic Mitzvot in the morning like saying a Berachah upon donning Tzitzit (for those who do not wear a Tallit Gadol), and it is for this reason, explains Rav Dessler, there is a Korban Asham. We should all strive to achieve the level at which we are so careful about our actions that we would not even commit a sin unintentionally.
Our Inner Animal
by Alex Russell (‘16)
This week’s Parashah imforms us that if one sins, or simply wants to bring a Korban, he must bring one of a number of specified animals. Rightfully so, one may ask why the sacrifice of an innocent animal is not only permitted, but is in fact an integral part of the service in the Beit Hamikdash. How can God, the All Merciful One, seem to exact a certain cruelty on these animals, just for human use? This question is especially compelling for the Korban Olah which is not even eaten - it is totally burnt. If the majority of Korbanot are either the result of someone wanting to atone for a sin or thank God for something, then wouldn’t it make more sense—at least theoretically for him to sacrifice himself? Rav Schneur Zalman of Liadi answers beautifully that, in fact, when a person brings a Korban to Hashem, he is, in a sense, sacrificing himself. He explains that the Torah makes this point in the Pasuk that introduces the laws of the Korbanot: “Adam, Ki Yakriv Mikem Korban LaShem, Min HaBeheimah, Min HaBakar, UMin Hatzon, Takrivu Et Korbanchem,” “A man who shall bring near of you an offering to Hashem, either from the beast, from the cattle, and from the sheep, you shall bring close your offering”(VaYikra 1:2). As Rav Schneur Zalman points out, the Pasuk does not read, “A man shall bring near an offering,” but “A man who shall bring near of you an offering”—the offering brought is “of you.” The sacrificed animal is a projection, depicting a process transpiring within oneself. The Mishnah in Sanhedrin describes man as a type of microcosm. The human psyche includes a “human soul” and an “animal soul.” The human soul—also called the “Godly soul”— embodies all that is spiritual and transcendent in man. It gravitates towards its source in God, driven by an allconsuming love for Him and the desire to lose itself within His all-pervading essence. Its method of expression is the Mitzvot of the Torah—the means by which man achieves closeness and attachment to his Creator. By contrast, the “animal soul” is the self that man shares with all living creatures - a self driven and fulfilled by its physical needs and desires. Its method of expression is the endeavors of
material life. A man can bring a dozen animals to try to please God but without an understanding of their true meaning they will all be wasted. He must believe that the animals are truly being sacrificed in his stead. But what is to be done with this ‘animal inside?’ Why does it exist in the first place? Should it just be suppressed unconditionally? “Much grain is produced with the might of the ox,” remarked Shlomo HaMelech (Mishlei 14:4). Rav Schneur Zalman equates this Pasuk to our inner ‘animal soul.’ An ox left to its own devices will inevitably run amok and destroy; but when subjugated by a responsible human and harnessed to its plow, the ox’s strength translates into “much grain”— a crop that surpasses what any human’s energy alone would produce. The same is true of the beast in man. When left unchecked, this aspect of our souls easily turns wild and out of control. It is up to each person to not only stop his inner animal from running rampant, but to tap its power and utilize all of the energy it gives off. The Korban Olah, the first Korban mentioned in the Parashah, is special in a number of ways. Most drastically, the Olah is entirely consumed by the fire. The metaphorical resonance of this act yells out to the reader. Burning something fully releases all of its energy. An Olah, which is typically seen as the most spiritual Korban, uses every drop of animal spirit to grow closer to God. The Torah then discusses other Korbanot. Unlike the Olah, only certain parts of the Chatat and Shelamim “ascend” by fire. Certain fats were not allowed to be eaten, but most of the meat was eaten either by the Kohein or the man who brought the sacrifice. We can apply these messages even today in our lives. Some of our religious service is wholly spiritual and directed just at God. Every day we Daven and try to focus all of our physical ability in that pursuit. Other times we straddle the line between physical and spiritual to encompass the entirety of our Avodat Hashem. Based on an article from Chabad.org.
Hillel and the Geir Who Wanted to be a Kohein Gadol
by Rabbi Chaim Jachter
One of the Gemara’s most charming and well-known stories involves a non-Jew who sought to be converted on condition that he be appointed as Kohein Gadol. Careful examination of this anecdote, however, yields many questions that are most troubling. The answers to these questions present a much deeper and richer message than the simple reading of the story. I acknowledge the debt owed to my students at Torah Academy of Bergen County, my congregants at Shaarei Orah – the Sephardic Congregation of Teaneck - and those who attended a Shiur on
this story that I delivered at Congregation Rinat Yisrael in memory of Aliza Esral Z”L. The Story The Gemara (Shabbat 31a) relates:
candidate for conversion. Had Hillel not accepted him as a feasible candidate, it would have been forbidden to teach him Torah, as it is forbidden to teach Torah to a Nochri (Chagigah 13b) unless he is doing so in contemplation of conversion 1. Maharsha explains that Hillel converted the gentleman only after he came to recognize that he was ineligible to become the Kohein Gadol. Rashi (s.v. Gayarei) seems to disagree. He implies that Hillel converted the gentleman even before he understood that he could not become the Kohein Gadol.
A gentile was passing by a Beit Midrash and heard a scribe reading the verse, “And these are the clothes that they should make” (Shemot 28:4). The gentile came to the scribe to request an explanation of this Pasuk. The gentile asked, “Who is going to wear these clothes?” The scribe answered, “The Kohen Gadol.” The Three Questions on This Story This Week in Jewish History gentile said to himself, “I Thoughtful reflection on will convert so that I can by Aryeh Krischer ('14) this story yields three major become a Kohen Gadol.” questions. First, Shammai This past week we welcomed in a second Adar, another He came to Shammai and appears to be entirely incarnation of a month rife with Jewish history. In fact, told him why he wanted to correct in his rejection of this several events this past week are quite apropos considering become a Jew, and gentile as a convert. A Purim is fast approaching. On Rosh Chodesh Adar in the Shammai pushed him out convert must accept the year 1313 BCE, Makkat Choshech (the Plague of Darkness) of the house with a entire Torah unconditionally was cast on Mitzrayim. This was the second to last of the measuring stick for (see Bechorot 30b, which plagues that Hashem sent before he freed them. Many building that he had in his states that a convert must centuries later, the Jews of Persia entered their own period hand. The gentile then accept the entire Torah of unimaginable darkness: They faced annihilation in a mere came to Hillel and said to without exception, and 13 days. Yet the third of Adar, 515 BCE saw another pivotal him, “Convert me so that I Yevamot 24b, which states event in Jewish history, one sure to uplift even the lowest of shall become a Kohen that we do not accept those Jewish spirits: Ezra completed the Second Temple in Gadol.” Hillel converted who convert for ulterior Yerushalayim. How appropriate, then, that a month of him on the condition that motives such as marriage or darkness for the Jews that ended in salvation begins with he had requested. political advancement) and darkness and salvation. Afterwards Hillel said to certainly may not stipulate him, “Is it possible to serve as King without knowing the that he will convert only to become the Kohein Gadol! The royal protocols? Go and learn the royal protocols (i.e. the motivation driving this conversion is hardly suitable for a Torah).” lasting commitment to Torah life. This question is most acute The gentile began learning Chumash. When he arrived at the according to Rashi who understands that Hillel converted this verse, “Any stranger [who is not a Kohen] that shall come gentleman even before he recognized he could not become near [to serve in the Temple] shall die (Bemidbar 18:7),” he Kohein Gadol. asked, “To whom is this verse referring?” He was told, “Even A second question may be posed regarding the convert’s to someone as important as King David.” The gentile came to behavior. If he converted simply to become the Kohein Gadol, the following conclusion: The Jews are so precious in God's why did he not retract his commitment to Judaism when he eyes that they are called “sons,” as it is written, “My son, my discovered that his goal could not be realized. firstborn, O Israel” (Shemot 4:22), and nevertheless it is A third question is why Hillel specifically refers to King written, “Any stranger that shall come near shall die;” thus, David and not to the monarchy in general. Hillel could have for a convert who comes with his staff and his pack, will this simply responded that even a king could not do the service. not be so much more the case [that he will die]? Why specifically mention David? Moreover, Hillel could have The gentile subsequently complained to Shammai for 1Unlike Maharsha, Rav Akiva Eiger (Teshuvot number 41) rejecting him without informing him of the aforementioned Pasuk prohibits teaching Torah to even a viable candidate for conversion. and expressed his gratitude to Hillel for being patient and Rav Moshe Feinstein (Teshuvot Igrot Moshe Y.D. 2:104), Rav Ovadia Yosef (Teshuvot Yabia Omer 2: Y.D. 17), and Dayan allowing him to “enter beneath the wings of the Shechinah.” Rashi and the Maharsha Maharsha (ad loc. s.v. Amar Leih) clarifies that Hillel did not convert this gentleman before he realized he could not become the Kohein Gadol. Hillel merely accepted him as a viable
ק ו ל ת ו ר ה פ ר ש ת ו י ק ר א
Weisz (Teshuvot Minchat Yitzchak 3:98) all rule in accordance with Maharsha. Indeed, common practice follows the approach of Maharsha. In fact, Rav Hershel Schachter told me that a viable candidate for conversion should be invited for Shabbat and Yom Tov meals in order for him to learn how to conduct himself as a proper Jew after conversion.
cogently cited the negative example of the successful Judean King Uziah who was struck with a lifetime of leprosy when he sought to perform the Kohein’s service in the Beit Hamikdash (Divrei HaYamim 26:16-19), instead of mentioning David HaMelech. The Torah Temimah (BeMidbar 1:51, note 2) answers the third question by citing I Divrei HaYamim 15:2 where David HaMelech declares that only the Levi’im can carry the Aron. The convert realized that if regarding the work of the Levi’im King David would not overstep his boundaries, then he, for sure, could not be the High Priest. If a king is bound to his specific role which he cannot exceed even as king - then the convert’s duty must also be to meet his specific role. We may add that Hillel specified David HaMelech in order to communicate to the convert that one can be a great Jew such as David HaMelech (whose great grandmother Rut constitutes the paradigm of a proper convert) even if one is not the Kohein Gadol. Moreover, with this added insight, we can answer our other two questions. It sheds light onto Hillel’s decision to convert this gentleman. Hillel recognized that the gentile was not fundamentally interested in becoming the Kohein Gadol. Rather, Hillel discerned that the man was essentially seeking to serve Hashem in the highest manner possible. His request, as bizarre as it seemed, revealed an ambitious spiritual agenda. Hillel recognized that patience with this gentleman would yield outstanding results. He intuited that in time, he could gently reveal that there are many portals and pathways for one to scale the heights of spirituality without serving as the Kohein Gadol, as taught by the example of David HaMelech. Hillel’s message resonates with the convert, since it expresses his true motivations. Hillel, as a talented analyst of the human psyche, was able to reveal to the convert his subconscious motivations at the appropriate moment using a most appropriate method of communication. A Mashal A story can help us understand Hillel’s wisdom. Parents have great joy when they hear a child declare that one day he/she is going to grow up to be the president of the United States. From a child’s perspective, it is understandable why he/she would set this as a goal. The glamour of this office would clearly be an attractive life objective for a child. The reality is, though, that this office is not actually about celebrity and demands a commitment to intense work and the acceptance of overwhelming
Please join TABC at its 31st Annual Dinner on Sunday, March 30th, at Congregation Keter Torah, as we honor a group of very special individuals. The theme of this year’s dinner, “Building our Future,” acknowledges the tremendous contributions of our honorees; Wendy and Isaac Shulman, Alisa and Stephen Levy, Dr. Garry Katz, and Yaacov Apfelbaum, who have all contributed in significant ways to the growth of our Yeshiva. For reservations or to make a donation, please go to tabc.org/dinner.
responsibility. It is positive for a child to declare that he/she is going to be the president, despite the fact that this dream will almost certainly not be fulfilled, because it’s constructive for a child to harbor lofty goals and high ambitions. Similarly, Hillel perceived the positive aspect of the gentile’s ambition to become Kohein Gadol. Although it was an unrealistic expectation, Hillel recognized the positive nature of the ambition and in his wisdom redirected the ambition to a more reasonable direction. Conclusion – VeHeyei Berachah and High Ambitions Hashem blesses Avraham Avinu (BeReishit 12:2) that he and his children will bring Berachah to the world. Indeed, the Jewish People historically has been a nation of high ambition which has brought blessings to the world in manners that are entirely disproportionate to its small numbers. Hillel recognized that someone of high spiritual ambition is a most worthy of becoming a Geir – an ideological child of Avraham Avinu. Moreover, Hillel identified with passionate ambitions to rise from the bottom to the top. Indeed, the Gemara (Yoma 38a) describes how Hillel was willing to sit on the roof of the Beit Midrash on a cold winter Friday night so he would not miss the Torah learning of the great Shemayah and Avtalyon. Thus, Hillel had empathy for the ambitious but misguided gentile who wished to become the Kohein Gadol. By redirecting his ambition instead of rejecting it, Hillel facilitated the addition of a great Jew to our community.
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