This week's parashah continues the laws of the korbanot /
sacrifices. R' Elazar M. Shach z"l observes that we pray daily for
the return of the sacrificial service. Yet, the haftarah for our
parashah seems to downplay the importance of korbanot! We read
(Yirmiyah 7:22-23): "For I did not speak with your forefathers nor did
I command them on the day I took them out of the land of Egypt
concerning olah-offerings or shelamim-offerings. Rather, I commanded
them only regarding this matter, saying, 'Hear My voice that I may be
a G-d unto you and you will be a people unto Me . . . '" [Note: Most,
though not all, congregations will not read this haftarah today but
will replace it with the haftarah for Shabbat Ha'gadol.]
Why does the prophet downplay the importance of the sacrifices?
Moreover, what is the significance of the fact that Hashem did not
command our forefathers "on the day [He] took them out of the land of
Egypt" concerning the sacrifices? Didn't He command them regarding
the sacrifices when He gave the Torah?
R' Shach explains: The purpose of the Exodus was to make us
Hashem's nation. Thus we read (Shmot 19:4): "You have seen what I did
to Egypt and that I have borne you on the wings of eagles and brought
you to Me." As a result of the Exodus, we are charged with coming
close to Hashem and with maintaining that closeness.
The Torah's laws, including the laws of the sacrifices, are the
tools that Hashem gave us to bring us close to Him. While we are not
free to substitute other tools for Hashem's Torah - in any case, no
other tools will work - we also should not confuse the tools - the
mitzvot - with the goal - being close to Hashem. This is the
prophet's message: "Do not confuse the sacrifices, which are the
means, with the end." Our sages teach that the Bet Hamikdash was
destroyed because our ancestors studied Torah without reciting a
blessing, i.e., as a subject rather than as the word of G-d. Mitzvot
must be performed with religious feeling, not by rote. This is the
lesson of the above verses and the purpose of the Exodus. (Haggadah
Shel Pesach Avi Ezri p.14)
"If he shall offer it as a todah / thanksgiving-offering, he
shall offer with the todah unleavened loaves . . . With
loaves of leavened bread shall he bring his offering."
The above verses teach that a todah / thanksgiving-offering must
be accompanied by loaves of both chametz and matzah. R' Don Yitzchak
Abarbanel z"l (15th century) asks: Since the Korban Pesach seems to
be, in essence, an offering brought in thanksgiving for the Exodus,
why is it not accompanied by both chametz and matzah?
R' Avraham Shmuel Binyamin Sofer z"l (the "Ketav Sofer"; 19th
century) answers that the Korban Pesach is not a todah-offering.
Rather, it is more like another set of sacrifices described in our
parashah - the inaugural sacrifices brought at the dedication of the
mishkan. Those sacrifices were accompanied by matzah, but not by
He explains further: Chazal instructed that when we relate the
story of the Exodus at the Seder, we should begin with disgrace, with
the fact that our ancestors were idolators, and conclude with praise.
Why? This may be understood through a parable:
When one gives a garment to a laundry in order to have a stain
removed, the laundry applies soaps and chemicals which first make the
garment dirtier than it was before. Of course, when the customer pays
the laundry, he does not intend to pay for the labor that was expended
in dirtying the garment; he intends to pay for the cleaning of the
Similarly, we do not praise Hashem at the Seder for redeeming us
from Egypt. Who asked Him to take us to Egypt in the first place?
Rather, we praise Hashem because He cleansed the stain of idolatry
from our souls. Just as the laundry cleanses the garment with vile
chemicals, the process by which Hashem cleansed us was our enslavement
in Egypt. It follows, that we do not owe Hashem a debt of gratitude
for the Exodus, and the Korban Pesach is not a todah offering.
Rather, the Korban Pesach is a sacrifice brought upon our inauguration
into Hashem's service.
(Haggadah Shel Pesach Ketav Sofer p.18a)
"Take Aharon and his sons with him . . . Hakhel/Gather the
entire assembly to the entrance of the ohel mo'ed / Tent of
Rashi writes: "Take Aharon with persuasive words." R' Baruch
Sorotzkin z"l (1917-1979; rosh yeshiva of Telz in Cleveland) explains
Being Kohen Gadol means giving up all semblance of a "normal"
life. This is a tremendous commitment to ask of a person, even a
person of the caliber of Aharon. One has to be persuaded that being
Kohen Gadol is the greatest fortune possible, notwithstanding the
inconveniences involved. Therefore Moshe had to "take Aharon with
To ease Aharon's transition, he was appointed be'hakhel / in an
assembly of the entire congregation. Very few mitzvot had to be done
be'hakhel, but Aharon's appointment was done before all of the Jewish
people so that he would see that they accepted him. A leader who is
not accepted by a segment of the people cannot influence the people.
(For similar reasons, Pirkei Avot teaches, "Make for yourself a
teacher." Only if you accept the teacher upon yourself can he
(Ha'binah Ve'ha'berachah pp. 216 & 204)
R' Shlomo Wolbe z"l (famed teacher of mussar, whose first
yahrzeit falls during Pesach) writes:
Education consists of two parts: First, building a stable human
being, and second, enabling the student to continue to grow from
within. These two processes are represented by halachah / law and
aggadeta / ethical and philosophical teachings, respectively.
Halachah creates structure and stability. Without halachah, the
Jewish people would not be a unique people. Furthermore, halachah is
universal, applying equally to young and old in their respective
Aggadeta, on the other hand, inspires growth and change, not
stability. Furthermore, each person's grasp of aggadeta is bound to
vary depending on the refinement of his soul.
Our Sages say, "Don't challenge statements of aggadeta." Many
people mistakenly take this to mean that Chazal endorsed an "anything
goes" attitude toward aggadeta, i.e., nothing a person says in the
realm of aggadeta can be "wrong." In fact, says R' Wolbe, that is not
at all what our Sages meant. Rather, the statement, "Don't challenge
aggadeta," means, "Don't attempt to study the non-halachic sections of
Torah in the same analytical question and answer format ("shakla
v'taria") with which you study the legal sections of the Talmud.
Aggadeta is something one comes to understand through reflection over
a long period of time while living his life within the framework of
For example: A person who bakes matzah is engaged in a process
strictly governed by halachah. He must meticulously follow the laws
associated with that act, taking care of every minute detail to avoid
any possibility that the dough will leaven or come in contact with
chametz. There certainly is no time during the matzah-baking for
philosophical or ethical reflection. But afterward, the realization
sets in that the zerizut / alacrity with which one bakes matzah is a
paradigm for all mitzvah observance. The Torah says (Shmot 12:17),
"You shall guard the matzot." In Hebrew, the word "matzot" is spelled
the same as the word "mitzvot"; thus, our Sages derive from this verse
that one must "guard" the mitzvot, i.e., perform them with alacrity.
Just as matzah-dough can become chametz if it is not prepared quickly,
so any mitzvah can be "spoiled" by laziness or delay.
Another example: One who carefully performs the search for
chametz, checking every corner of the house and every pocket of his
children's garments, is too busy to reflect on the meaning of the
mitzvah. But later, he realizes that chametz is a metaphor for the
yetzer hara. Indeed, the Gemara (Pesachim 7b) derives the obligation
to use a candle for bedikat chametz from the verse (Mishlei 20:27), "A
man's soul is Hashem's candle, which searches the chambers of one's
innards." Just as a candle is used to search for physical chametz, so
the soul should be used to search inside oneself for spiritual
chametz. Furthermore, the physical inspection of the house
demonstrates the importance of physical cleanliness. On further
reflection, we sense the importance of spiritual cleanliness as well.
(Alei Shur Vol. II p.388)
"Yesod Ve'shoresh Ha'avodah"
("The Foundation and Root of Divine Service")
This year, we are presenting excerpts from the work Yesod
Ve'shoresh Ha'avodah by R' Alexander Ziskind z"l (died 1794).
The primary theme of this work is improving one's
concentration in prayer. In Sha'ar Ha'tzon, Chovat
Ha'moadot, the author discusses the Yom Tov prayers. He
"Atah vechartanu" is part of the same thought as "Ya'aleh
ve'yavo." A person should recite these with a broken-heart and with
intense concentration, asking Hashem to have mercy on us and remember
us on this holiday.
"Va'hasee'ainu" - R' David Avudraham [14th century] writes that
this word derives from the verse (Bereishit 43:34), "He had masot that
had been set before him served to them." In that context, the word
means "gifts." Thus we ask Hashem to present us with "birkat
mo'adecha" / "the blessing of Your festival" as a gift. The word
"masah" also can mean "load." In other words, we ask Hashem to place
the blessing of the festival upon us.
When one says the conclusion of the blessing, "He sanctifies (the
Shabbat), Yisrael and the festivals," one should take care to
concentrate and to give praise to G-d for the portion He has given us
and for the festivals which He gave us because of His love for us.
When one says "Amen" to this blessing during the chazzan's
repetition, one should have in mind that he is confirming the many
praises of Hashem that this berachah includes.
The editors hope these brief 'snippets' will engender further study
and discussion of Torah topics ('lehagdil Torah u'leha'adirah'), and
your letters are appreciated. Web archives at Torah.org start with 5758 (1997) and
may be retrieved from the Hamaayan page.
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