Do It or Else by Rabbi Avi Rosenfeld


Sefer Vayikra deals with a variety of sacrifices, including the sin offerings, חטאות, the peace offerings, שלמים, and the burnt offerings, עולות.  When the Torah introduces theעולה, the first sacrifice mentioned in Vayikra, the Torah writes, יקריב אותו לרצונו לפני ה', “A person must bring this Korban voluntarily before Hashem.”  Rashi, quoting the Gemara in Rosh Hashana (6a), states that at times it is necessary for the Bait Din to force a person to bring a sacrifice.  This is learned from the words, יקריב אתו, “he must bring it.”  However, the word לרצונו states that the sacrifice must be brought willingly.  The Gemara resolves this contradiction by stating that the courts have a right to pressure a person until he says he wishes to bring the Korban (כופין אתו עד שיאמר רוצה אני).  This Gemara requires explanation.  How is it possible to force a person to do any action willingly?

We can answer this question by analyzing another difficult idea.  Halacha requires all divorces be given voluntary.  Unfortunately, at times, a man does not wish to give his wife a divorce when he must.  Under certain limited circumstances, the courts have the right to force a person to divorce.  This is also an example of כופין אתו עד שיאמר רוצה אני, as we force a person to voluntarily hand his wife the divorce contract.  The Rambam, when dealing with the laws of divorce (Hilchot Gerushin Chapter 2 section 20), explains the reason behind this apparent contradiction.  The only time a person is considered forced
(אנוס) is when he is required to do something that the Torah does not insist be done.  However, if a person does not act properly (i.e. he refuses to perform a Mitzva), he is doing so because he has acquiesced to his Yetzer Hara.  When the court “forces” a person to do something, the Rambam writes, the court is in fact restoring his true will, which is to fulfill the laws of the Torah.  The driving logic behind this fascinating insight is that a Jew fundamentally wants to act in accordance with the Torah, despite what his actions may indicate.

This is exactly the idea the Torah is conveying to us regarding Korbanot.  For whatever reason, if a person is not willing to bring a Korban that he has promised to offer, the courts have the right to force his hand.  This is derived from the word יקריב, the Korban must be brought even against a person’s free will.  However, the Korban’s component of לרצונו, that it must be brought voluntarily, still exists because the person truly wants to do what is right, even if he does not realize it right now.

There is an extremely powerful message behind this Halacha.  In Judaism, we believe every person is inherently good.  Despite the fact that people sometimes sin, the internal nature of the Jew remains basically good.  It is our responsibility to be כופין אתו עד שיאמר רוצה אני, to always force ourselves to become better people.

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