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Parshas Vayikra

Of Places, People and Times

Volume 26, No. 23

Sponsored by the Kerchner Family in honor of the bar mitzvah of Yaakov נ״י

Rikki and Nathan Lewin, in memory of her father, Rabbi Morris E. Gordon (Harav Eliyahu Moshe ben Yitzchak Dov z”l)

Rabbi and Mrs. Barry Greengart on the yahrzeit of his mother Yuta bat Yosef a”h

Gilla and Harold Saltzman on the yahrtzeit of his father Yosef Noach ben Yitzchak Isaac a”h

Our parashah opens (after an introductory verse), “When an adam / man among you brings an offering to Hashem . . .” R’ Yeshayah Halevi Horowitz z”l (the Shelah Ha’kadosh; died 1635) comments: Know, that if Adam Ha’rishon had not sinned, there would have been no need for a separate holy place [the mishkan], since the entire world would have been Gan Eden. This is the meaning of the verse (Yirmiyahu 3:16), which speaks of future times [which will be like the brief period before Adam’s sin], “In those days, says Hashem, they will not say, ‘The Ark of the Covenant of Hashem,’ and it will not come to mind; they will not mention it and will not recall it.” Rashi z”l explains that every assembly of Jews will be holy and Hashem will rest upon it, as if it was the Aron.

The Shelah Ha’kadosh continues: Likewise, if Adam had not sinned, there would no need for some people (i.e., kohanim) to be distinguished from others to serve Hashem. Rather, everyone would have been part of the “kingdom of kohanim and a holy nation” [in the words of Shmot 19:6].

Furthermore, the Shelah continues, there would have been no times that are holier than other times. Rather, all times would have been equal, just as the future will be “a world which is all Shabbat” [paraphrasing what we recite in Birkat Ha’mazon on Shabbat].

In that world, the Shelah concludes, man would not have needed to offer an offering to Hashem, for man himself would have been an offering, just as now we are taught that man’s soul is offered on an altar above after his death. To allude to this, the Book of Vayikra, which deals with sacrificial offerings, begins with mentioning “adam.” (Shnei Luchot Ha’brit)

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“When a man among you brings an offering to Hashem - from animals . . .” (1:2)

R’ Klonimus Kalmish Shapira z”l Hy”d (the Piaseczno Rebbe; killed in the Holocaust) observes: If the Torah gives us the ability to sanctify an animal [as a korban], how much more so should we realize that it enables us to sanctify ourselves!

Likewise, just as Hashem does not reject an offering merely because, when all is said and done, the animal remains an animal, so we should not feel that Hashem has rejected us if we fall from the lofty level on which we should be. This knowledge should encourage a person to continue his upward spiritual climb despite any challenges and set-backs. (Bnei Machshavah Tovah p.54)

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“If his offering is an olah / burnt-offering min ha’bakar / from the cattle ...” (1:3)

From the phrase, “min ha’bakar / from the cattle,” implying “not all cattle,” the Gemara (Temurah 28b) derives that cattle that was worshipped (“ha’ne’evad”) is excluded from being brought as an offering.

On Shabbat Parashat Vayikra in 5734 (1974), R’ Moshe Yehoshua Hager z”l (1916-2012; Vizhnitzer Rebbe in Bnei Brak; he passed away last week) overheard his attendant telling young chassidim that there was no room for them at the rebbe’s table because all of the spaces were reserved for older chassidim. Hearing this, he told his attendant that, to the contrary, he would rather speak to those who are still young enough to be influenced. On that occasion, he interpreted the Gemara’s teaching above allegorically, as follows: “Min ha’bakar” can be read “min ha’boker” / “from morning.” “Ha’ne’evad” has the same gematria as “sama’el,” one of the names for the yetzer ha’ra. Thus, our Sages’ words may be interpreted: From morning, i.e., from youth, one must work on excluding the yetzer ha’ra.

He continued: Parents often come to me for blessings that they will have “yiddishe nachas” from their children. However, many of these parents have sent their children to schools that teach values inimical to the Torah. Such parents may be compared to one who wants to travel from Bnei Brak to Yerushalayim, but consciously gets on the bus to Haifa instead [i.e., the opposite direction from Yerushalayim].

The Vizhnitzer Rebbe added: In my youth, someone said to me, “It’s not necessary to be single-faceted [i.e., studying Torah alone]; there is nothing wrong with being an expert in secular subjects as well.” I heard him out, and then I asked him, “Since you are in favor of being multi-faceted, why do you always read a novel in bed before going to sleep? Why don’t you alternate between reading novels and works of mussar / character development such as Chovot Ha’levavot?” (Sichot U’ma’amarei Kodesh 5732-5734 p. 319)

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“If his offering is a shelamim / peace-offering . . .” (3:1)

R’ Yosef Bechor Shor z”l (France; 12th century) writes: The reason it is called a “shelamim” / peace-offering is that the altar gets a part, the kohanim get a part, and the owners get a part. This is the way of peace, i.e., that everyone eats together. (Bechor Shor)

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R’ Alexander Ziskind z”l (Poland; died 1794) writes: From the first day of Nissan [which falls on this Shabbat], one should rejoice and be very, very happy because the days have arrived in which Hashem desired to redeem us and to sanctify us with His commandments. Soon the days will come when we will give Him pleasure by fulfilling many mitzvot--for example, eating matzah, eliminating chametz from our property, eating maror, refraining from working on yom tov, and all the other mitzvot of this month. Every day, one should look forward to, and anticipate joyfully, the approaching time when he will give this pleasure to his Creator. The closer one gets to that day, the greater one’s joy should be. (Yesod Ve’shoresh Ha’avodah: Sha’ar Ha’tzon)

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Pesach

“Afilu kulanu chachamim . . . / Even if we all were wise, understanding, experienced, and knowledgeable in Torah, we still would be obligated to tell about the Exodus from Egypt.” (Haggadah Shel Pesach)

R’ Eran Moshe Margaliot shlita (Israel) writes, based on the writings of R’ Yehuda Aryeh Leib Alter z”l (1847-1905; the Gerrer Rebbe; known as the “Sefat Emet”):

Why, indeed, must a wise person who knows the story of yetziat Mitzrayim retell it year-after-year? He explains: We learn in Pirkei Avot (ch.3), “If one’s yir’ah / fear of sin precedes his wisdom, his wisdom will endure.” Even if one is wise, he needs yir’ah because yir’ah is the foundation which allows a person to stand before Hashem and accept the yoke of Heaven. That, in turn, is a prerequisite for attaining true wisdom.

He continues: Through retelling the story of the Exodus on the Seder night, a person can experience a revelation of G-d, which leads, in turn, to increasing one’s yir’ah and re-accepting the yoke of Heaven. This comes from the realization that Hashem did not simply free us from serving Pharaoh; He did so in order that we would serve Him.

Also, a wise person must retell the story of the Exodus until he understands that all of his wisdom is not his own accomplishment, but from Hashem. This is why we conclude the Seder with the poem, “Echad mi yodea?” / “Who knows one?” We declare: “Mi yodea” / “The fact that anyone knows anything” is the result of the abilities he has been given by the “Echad Elokeinu” / “Our One Elokim who is in the heavens and the earth.” (Petach Ha’haggadah p.26)

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“They baked the dough that they took out of Egypt into unleavened cakes, for they could not be leavened, for they were driven from Egypt for they could not delay, nor had they made provisions for themselves.” (Shmot 12:39; quoted in the Pesach Haggadah)

Rashi z”l comments on the last phrase (“nor had the made provisions for themselves [for the journey]”): “This is stated to tell how praiseworthy Yisrael was. They did not say, ‘How can we go forth into the wilderness without provisions?’ Rather, they had faith and set forth. This is what is referred to in the prophets (Yirmiyahu 2:2), ‘I remember for you the kindness of your youth, the love of your nuptials, how you went after me in the wilderness in a land that was not sown’.”

R’ Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg z”l (rosh yeshiva of Yeshivat Torah Ohr in New York and later in Yerushalayim; he passed away this week at the age of 101) asks: Seemingly, the act of going into the wilderness with no provisions was an expression of Bnei Yisrael’s faith in Hashem. Why does Rashi attribute it to kindness and love?

He explains: The ability to have emunah / faith is inextricably intertwined with the ability to love and to perform kindness. In human relationships, one is able to love other people when he is able to trust them. In relation to Hashem, one is able to love Him when one recognizes His greatness, and this manifests itself in faith as well. Further, only a person who is capable of placing his faith in other people is capable of trusting in Hashem.

R’ Scheinberg adds: This is the meaning of a passage in the midrash Mechilta, commenting on the verse (Shmot 14:31), “They had faith in Hashem and in Moshe, His servant.” The Mechilta asks: If they had faith in Moshe, is it not a given that they had faith in Hashem? The midrash answers: This teaches that if one has faith in His trustworthy shepherd, it is as if one has faith in the Creator. On the other hand, the midrash continues, we read (Bemidbar 21:5), “The people spoke against G-d and Moshe.” If they did not have faith in Hashem, is it not a given that they did not have faith in Moshe? This teaches, the midrash concludes, that if one does not have faith in His trustworthy shepherd, one cannot have faith in the Creator. [The ability to have faith in Moshe and the ability to have faith in Hashem go hand-in-hand.] (Derech Emunah U’vitachon p.60)


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