Mr. Moshe Glasser
Sefer Vayikra begins a section of the Torah that many find difficult, perhaps even unintelligible. The esoteric nature of Korbanot and the seemingly bloody business of sacrificing animals as part of our relationship with God is almost foreign to us today, and it is hard to imagine returning to that system in the time of Mashiach. The Rambam even suggests that Tefillah is the higher form of Korbanot, indicating that they will not return. Why, then, is it necessary for the Torah, a living document whose relevance only grows with each passing generation, to spill such enormous amounts of ink over this ostensibly irrelevant topic?
Oddly enough, Parshat Tzav only compounds the problem of Parshat Vayikra. Instead of a new set of topics, we have what seems to be a repeat of all the Korbanot mentioned in the last Parsha – Olah, Mincha, Chatat, Shelamim, Asham – with little new information. However, as with everything, the answer to both of our questions is in the details.
Rabbi Mark Smilowitz, a former Rabbi at TABC, points out that a quick reading of this Parshat Tzav shows an amazing shift of focus, amazing because it leaves the learner with a completely new perspective on the exact same information. Instead of a section about Olah from the bringer's (Makriv's) perspective, we have a section about Olah from the Kohen's perspective. The same holds true for all of Parshat Tzav; each section begins with an injunction to "tell Aharon and his sons…" This is not a rehash of a story we have already heard, but a retelling of a past directive from a new position.
The next question, obviously, is: why is this necessary? How many perspectives are needed? Isn't the perspective of the Makriv enough to understand the Korban and its purpose? Clearly, the answer is no.
The Korban is not the performance of penance by a sinner in physical representation to God, as the surface reading of Vayikra seems to indicate. Nor is it the bribing of a Kohen to lobby the Ribbono Shel Olam to let this one slide, as the surface reading of Tzav seems to indicate. It is in fact a complex relationship entered into by the Makriv and the Kohen, as both work to undo the damage the Makriv has done, or accomplish whatever the particular aim of that Korban may be (e.g. thanksgiving, forgiveness, or oath). The animal (or Mincha) substitutes for the Makriv himself, and the Kohen is charged with bringing the Makriv to the next step, namely, up to Hakadosh Baruch Hu, for the fulfillment of his obligations. Both parties must understand the rights and obligations involved, and both must agree to do their part fully and without reservation. If, therefore, one has an intention that is anything other than pure, the Korban is worse than useless (Pigul) and must be thrown away. Just as with many aspects of the relationship between man and God, a person needs a little help to get all the way up.
by Ariel Caplan
Among the many Korbanot mentioned in this week’s Parasha, Parshat Tzav discusses the laws of the Korban Todah, an offering brought to express one’s gratitude to Hashem for a specific event that happened to oneself. The Todah is accompanied by forty “loaves” – thirty of three different types of Matzah and ten of real bread. This is one of only two Korbanot that include a Chametz component; other than the Todah and the Shtei HaLechem brought on Shavuot, everything has to be unleavened. Why is the Korban Todah an exception to the rule? Additionally, the Pesukim specifically point out that the meat of the Korban as well as all forty loaves must be consumed within a single day. Why is there such a rush to complete this specific Korban?
The most common answer to the second question is that the vast amount of food that had to be eaten in such a short time effectively forced the one bringing the Korban to have a feast that would be open to the public. At this meal, people would inquire about the reason the Korban Todah was brought, just as many ask one who has recited Birkat HaGomeil (the Bracha one says after emerging from a dangerous situation unscathed) why he said it. Hence, the amount of food in conjunction with the short time-frame led to the owner publicizing the miracle that had Hashem had performed for him (see Ha’amek Davar).
To answer the question as to why the Korban Todah included Chametz, we must first examine the idea of Chametz and Matzah. There is a famous idea that Chametz, which consists of dough that rises, represents an inflated ego, while Matzah, the entire volume of which almost all of it is completely filled with substance (unlike bread which is mostly air), represents humility. On Pesach, when we remove Chametz from our midst, we also strive to uproot our own arrogance and create a modest mindset. In a sense, we subordinate ourselves to the identity of the nation as a whole, since only through this outlook can we fully appreciate the national miracle of Yetziat Mitzrayim.
Perhaps based on what we have said so far we can understand why, as R’ Menachem Liebtag points out, certain Halachot of the Korban Pesach are similar to those of the Korban Todah – both must be eaten within a day and both must be eaten together with some sort of bread (the Torah specifically states that the Pesach must be eaten “Al Matzot U’Merorim,” with Matzah and Maror). Both Korbanot are dedicated to commemorating and publicizing a miracle: the Korban Todah is designed to generate public knowledge of the miracle that occurred to its owner, while the Korban Pesach and its accompanying Matzot and Maror are meant to inspire discussion of the miracles that were involved in Yetziat Mitzrayim. However, while the Korban Pesach includes only Matzah for bread, the Korban Todah includes Chametz, as well. Understandably, the Korban Pesach’s focus on national consciousness above individuality leads to the exclusive use of Matzot, the “poor man’s bread,” which represent humility. But if we apply this symbolism to the Korban Todah, we find that this Korban actually encourages haughtiness! Considering how much the Torah generally abhors conceit, how could this be?
We may answer that one who is bringing a Korban Todah is indeed supposed to be arrogant to a degree – he must go out of his way to publicize what Hashem did for him. One might think that he should refrain from such public expression, as this emphasis on one’s own relationship with Hashem (as evidenced by the miracle Hashem performed for him) seems antithetical to the ideal of humility. In truth, though, one must take the opportunity to pour out his thanks in a public forum, thereby glorifying the name of Hashem. However, one must be careful to keep this “arrogance” within the appropriate context. It is critical to remember that, while there may be ten leavened breads, the vast majority of the loaves are still Matzot, symbolizing the need to keep the focus squarely where it belongs – on Hashem. It is all too easy to cross the line from exulting in Hashem’s salvation to childish bragging.
Two practical examples clearly illustrate the necessity of finding the appropriate balance. Chazal say that two aspects of life require more work from Hashem than Keriat Yam Suf – matching up people to jobs and matching up spouses. Yet, we find that when one finds employment or decides upon a marriage partner, the reaction is often happiness without any real consideration of Hashem’s role in the matter. We may take on the attitude of “Kochi VeOtzem Yadi Asah Li Et HaChayil HaZeh” (Devarim 8:17), that we should only credit ourselves, and by extension not God, for our accomplishments. This attitude can even emerge over time – we may start out extremely grateful to Hashem, but as we tell more and more people the good news, the human tendency is to increase the focus on the event itself and to forget to include even a simple “Thank God.” Of course, there is a Mitzvah to spread Simcha, especially when there is genuinely something to be happy about – we just have to be careful to keep God in the picture. May we all be Zocheh in the future to celebrate many happy occasions and use them, both to inspire ourselves and to improve our own Avodat Hashem.
The Missing Vav
by Ilan Griboff
At the end of the Haftarah for Shabbat HaGadol, the Pasuk says, “Hinei Anochi Sholei’ach Lachem Et Eliyah Hanavi…” “Behold I am sending Eliyah the Prophet to you” (Malachi 3:23). The name Eliyah, which normally is spelled Eliyahu, is missing the final Vav.
The Midrash comments that the name Eliyahu is spelled without a Vav only five times. In addition, Yaakov’s name is spelled five times with an extra Vav. What is the connection between Yaakov and Eliyahu? The Midrash answers that Eliyahu gave the letter Vav to Yaakov as a Mashkon (collateral) to make sure that Eliyahu would in fact come to herald the coming of Mashiach.
This still leaves us with two questions: why was only the Vav used, and why only five times is it missing? One reason offered for the use of the letter Vav is that in Gematriah (the system which assigns a numerical value to each letter of the Hebrew alphabet), Vav is equal to six. This hints to the tradition that Eliyahu is supposed to come in the sixth millennium. A simpler explanation is that Vav is the only letter that can be added to Yaakov’s name without changing its pronunciation.
Now the only question left to answer is why is it only changed five times. A simple explanation for this is that Eliyahu made his promise to come on the five books of the Torah. The Midrash offers another explanation. The five changes hint that Eliyahu will come down to Earth five times to announce the coming of Mashiach.
The beginning of the Pasuk says, “Hinei Anochi Sholeiach” (send), not “Eshlach” (I will send). From here we can learn that Eliyahu is already on his way to fulfilling his promise that he made on a Mashkon of the letter Vav and on the five books of the Torah. May it be in the merit of our Sedarim that we can allow Eliyahu to finish the fulfillment of his promise and bring Mashiach, Bimheirah VeYameinu, Amen.
Miracles of Shabbat HaGadol
by Shmuly Reece
On the Shabbat before the Jews went out of Egypt, they took a lamb to be used for the Korban Pesach. The lambs were tied to the Jews’ bedposts and kept there until the 14th day of Nisan, when they were to be offered as Korbanot Pesach. Tosafot (Shabbat 87b) quote a Midrash Rabba, which states that when the Jews took their lambs, the first born of the nations of the world asked them what they were doing with them. The Jews answered that the lambs were the Pesach offerings for Hashem, who was about to kill the first born of the Egyptians. The Egyptians went to Paroh and their other leaders, asking them to let the Jews leave Egypt in order that the first born be spared from death. However, the leaders (with their hardened hearts) did not agree to let the Jewish people go free. The first born thereupon started a civil war against the other Egyptians and killed many of them.
The Maharsha quotes the Tur, who says that the teeth of the first born Egyptians were dulled and they were unable speak up. The Maharsha further explains that first born became concerned because the astrological sign of the lamb is the head and first of all the astrological signs. It was therefore also the sign representing the first born, who worshipped it as a deity. When they heard that the Jews intended to slaughter sheep, and, even worse, that their own deaths were predicted, they ran to Paroh demanding the release of the Jews, leading to the aforementioned civil war. The Ritva explains that on Shabbat HaGadol, when the Egyptian first born saw the Jews busy with their Korbanot Pesach and the prediction of their impending doom, they hurried to send the Jews out. The first born Egyptians were nervous because they knew no one would save them, so they killed many other Egyptians hoping the Jews would go free in the chaos and their own lives thereby spared.
This civil war is also mentioned in Tehillim 136, also known as “Hallel Hagadol”, which we recite every Shabbat and Yom Tov in Pesukei DeZimra. The Pasuk there says, “To smite the Egyptians with their first born.” If this Pasuk were referring only to Makkat Bechorot ( the tenth plague), it should have said, “To smite the first born of the Egyptians.” We see from this Pasuk that the first born waged war against the other Egyptians.
The miracle started on the Shabbat before Pesach, but lasted until the 14th when Bnei Yisrael brought the Korban Pesach. The Aruch HaShulchan comments that because it began on Shabbat, the Egyptians questioned why the Jewish people were doing labors that are usually forbidden on Shabbat (slaughtering). Perhaps this is why we have the custom of telling the story of Yetziat Mitzraim in the form of question and answer. Additionally, we know that Shabbat is dependent upon Pesach and vice versa; Hashem gave us the Mitzvah of Shabbat as soon as we left Egypt, even before we received the Torah. We say in Kiddush on Shabbat, “Zecher Liytziat Mitzraim,” recalling the Exodus from Egypt.
The Book of our Heritage (Sefer HaTodaah) adds that Bnei Yisrael needed a miracle because they took the lambs on Shabbat. They needed to give an explanation of this behavior to the Egyptians, but they could not lie (or even bend the truth to prevent possible arguments with the Egyptians) on Shabbat. Our Sages said, “Even an ignorant man would not tell lies on Shabbat.” They therefore needed a miracle to save them.
Clinging To Closeness
by Ariel Herzog
Every Pesach, on Shabbat Chol Hamoed, Ashkenazim read “Shir HaShirim,” Song of Songs, in Shul. At first glance the “song” appears to be a love poem about a wife and husband who separate and, after much yearning, eventually reunite. Chazal, however, explain this poem to be an allegory in which the husband is Hashem and His wife is the Jewish nation. Bnei Yisrael sin and, after Hashem abandons them, they yearn to return to Him; after much pleading, He eventually accepts their Teshuva.
A few basic questions arise on Chazal’s interpretation. First and foremost, why do Chazal feel the need to explain Shir HaShirim in this manner? Why can’t it be that Shlomo Hamelech simply wrote a romance about two humans? Furthermore, if Chazal are correct, why did Shlomo Hamelech have to write Shir HaShirim in the form of an allegory? He could have stated outright that it is a love poem between Hashem and Bnei Yisrael! An additional question arises as to why, of all the holidays and special days of the year, we choose Pesach to read this particular Sefer.
To answer these questions, one needs to understand the relationship between Hashem and Bnei Yisrael throughout Jewish history and, specifically, Tanach. When Bnei Yisrael received the Torah at Har Sinai, Chazal comment (see Rashi to Devarim 33:2) that Hashem came down to the mountain like a “bridegroom who goes out to greet His bride.” The analogy goes even further to say that the Torah is the item that Hashem married us with. When a man marries a woman, one of the ways to acquire her is through money. He gives her the valued object and she is acquired unto him. Likewise, Hashem acquired Bnei Yisrael by giving us the Torah. The Tanach consistently refers to the relationship between Hashem and Bnei Yisrael as that of a husband and his bride.
The relationship between a husband and wife is one that transcends all other relationships. The love that is shared between married couples is more intense than that found by all other relationships, a direct result of the fact that the husband and wife give each other their entire lives, sharing all that they have. This can explain why the relationship between Hashem and Bnei Yisrael is compared to that of a husband and wife. Our connection to Hashem is supposed to be so strong and unyielding that the Torah chooses to utilize the metaphor of a similar relationship, the husband and wife, so that an average human can understand it and implement it.
This can help explain the saying of Rabbi Akiva who said “all the books of Tanach are holy, but Shir HaShirim is the holiest of holies”. Shir HaShirim expressed a passionate relationship between Hashem and Man. No other book of Tanach features the fire that Shir HaShirim depicts, the yearning to get close to Hashem in the same way that a Chatan yearns to reach out to his Kallah.
This still begs the question as to why we read this Sefer on Pesach. Again, the answer can be found in the parallel between a husband and wife. The central theme of Shir HaShirim is renewal. After a wife (i.e. Bnei Yisrael) disappoints her husband (i.e. Hashem), she yearns for her husband, and he, in turn, reunites with her. Even though Bnei Yisrael sin, Hashem gives us chance after chance to repent and return to Him.
This message of renewal is a major theme in the Exodus story. Chazal say that when Am Yisrael was in Egypt, they sank diminutively to the second-lowest level of impurity and, when they crossed the Red Sea, they were on the highest level of holiness. Exhibiting the same theme as Bnei Yisrael, Pesach occurs in the month of spring. Spring, the famous season of renewal and rebirth, is the time when man feels as if he just crawled out from the darkness of winter and has entered life for the first time.
The concept of renewal plays a tremendous role in a Frum family. The wife is separated from her husband during her days of Nidah, monthly. At the end of that time period, she goes to the Mikvah, a ritual bath that symbolizes renewal and rebirth, and she is permitted to return to her husband. It is almost as they re-wed monthly (see Nidah 31b). [Editor’s note: this explains, in part, why the divorce rate in the Orthodox community is a fraction of the rate outside the Orthodox community].
Separation and renewal play a great role in a Torah lifestyle. The connection between Hashem and Bnei Yisrael is likened to the relationship between a husband and wife because of the love which takes place even after we sin. Concordantly, Pesach, a time of renewal, is a time for us to draw close to Hashem and cleave to Him. It is a time to leave the past behind and repent. Each Jew is commanded to cling to Hashem and, clearly, Pesach is a time where this unique Mitzvah requires little effort.
Half a Mitzvah?
by Dov Rossman
In Arvei Pesachim, the tenth Perek of Masechet Pesachim, Rashbam and Rashi state that the main Mitzvah of Matzah is the Afikoman at the end of the seder. The reason that we recite the Berachah on the Matzah eaten earlier is based on the logic of Rav Chisda, who states: “LeAchar Sheyimalei Kereiso Meihem, Yachazor Viyvareich!?” “After he has filled up his stomach from them (Matzah) he will go back and recite the blessing on them!?” Rav Chisda refers to a case in which a person only had lettuce for both Maror and Karpas. According to Rav Huna, one should make a Borei Pri Haadamah when they eat the lettuce for Karpas, and then later make the Al Achilat Maror when they eat it for the Mitzvah of Maror. Rav Chisda disagrees, claiming that it is illogical to say the Berachah on the Maror later because of his aforementioned logic. Rather, both Berachot should be recited when the Karpas is eaten, and the Maror should be eaten later without a Berachah.
Rashbam and Rashi use Rav Chisda’s same logic to explain why the Berachah of Al Achilat Matzah is recited when first eating Matzah, even though it is not the main Mitzvah. Another example of this kind of logic is in regard to Tekiyat Shofar on Rosh Hashanah. There are two different times when Shofar is blown: Tekiyot DeMeyushav (sitting) and Tekiyot DeMeumad (during Shemoneh Esrei). The Tekiyot DeMeumad are the main fulfillment of the Mitzvah of Shofar. Nonetheless, the Berachah of Lishmoah Kol Shofar is recited before the Tekiyot DeMeyushav, because they are done earlier than the Tekiyot DeMeumad.
There appears to be a contradiction in the explanation of Rashbam. The Gemara at the beginning of Arvei Pesachim says that Rabi Yose permits eating all of Erev Shabbat and Erev Yom Tov, even close to sundown, because he does not require one to have an appetite for the Shabbat orYom Tov meal. On Erev Pesach, however even according to Rabi Yose one must not sit down to a meal on Erev Pesach once half an hour before Mincha arrives. Rabi Yose requires that one have a good appetite for the Matzah. Rashbam explains that since there is an obligation to eat Matzah, one should not eat the Matzah for the Mitzvah when he/she is full. The question is obvious: if Rashbam maintains that the main Mitzvah of Matzah is Afikoman, then the real Matzat Mitzvah is always eaten when full (it comes right after the main meal). What is the point of starving oneself on Erev Pesach when the only Matzah you will eat when hungry is not a Mitzvah anyway? On the contrary, it would appear that one is supposed to be full when eating the main Matzah; the Korban Pesach and the Matzah that goes with it were specifically eaten for dessert!
To resolve this contradiction, we must reexamine the statement of Rav Chisda. He never meant to say that a Berachah should be recited over a Devar HaReshut (optional Mitzvah). The Matzah that one makes a Berachah on is of course fulfilling the Mitzvah of Matzah, though not necessarily the full Mitzvah. Just because it’s not the main Mitzvah doesn’t mean that it is not a partial Mitzvah. Any time that one eats Matzah on the first night of Pesach he/she is fulfilling the biblical commandment of “BaErev Ttochelu matzot”. The same can be said for Shofar and Maror. Just because it is not the main Mitzvah doesn’t mean that one does not fulfill his/her obligation to hear the Shofar on Rosh Hashanah or eat Marror on Pesach. Even part of a Mitzvah is still very worthwhile. -Adapted from a Shiur given by Rabbi Ezra Wiener at TABC
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