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Parshas Tzav - Vol. 3, Issue 22
Compiled by Oizer Alport
U’kli cheres asher t’vushal bo yishaveir (6:21)
The Torah teaches that an earthenware vessel in which a sacrifice has been cooked must be broken. Rashi explains that this is because particles from the sacrifice become embedded in the walls of the earthenware. After the passage of one day and one night, the taste of those particles, which would enter any offering subsequently cooked inside of the vessel, legally becomes “nosar” and is forbidden.
Tosefos in Avodah Zara (76a) questions this explanation. Rashi and Rabbeinu Tam both maintain that after the passage of one night, the taste of food absorbed in a utensil goes bad and is Biblically permitted in consumption. If so, why does the Torah require the earthenware vessels to be broken?
Rav Yosef Shaul Nathanson brilliantly answers this question based on a Mishnah in Avos (5:5). The Mishnah relates that one of the ten miracles which occurred in the Beis HaMikdash was that the meat of the sacrifices never spoiled. As a result, the particles which remained overnight in the walls of the earthenware vessel became “nosar,” and their consumption was prohibited. Because the Mishnah teaches that the taste was miraculously retained without spoiling, it caused anything cooked inside to become Biblically forbidden, and there was no choice but to break it!
V’zos toras zevach hashelamim asher yakriv l’Hashem im al todah yakrivenu (7:11-12)
The Gemora in Berachos (54b) rules that a Korban Todah (Thanksgiving-Offering) is brought by four groups of people to express their gratitude to Hashem for being saved from potential danger. In the absence of the Temple, they instead publicly recite a blessing known as Birkas HaGomel.
It is curious to note that after hearing somebody make a blessing we answer simply, “Amen,” with one exception. After hearing a person say Birkas HaGomel, we respond, “Amen, Mi sheg’malcha kol tov, Hu yigmalcha kol tuv selah” – He who has bestowed upon you all good should continue to bestow upon you all good. As this lengthy response is found nowhere else, it clearly needs an explanation.
In his introduction, the Shalmei Nedorim offers a beautiful insight based on a fascinating episode related by the Gemora in Shabbos (53b). The wife of a poor man passed away shortly after giving birth. The pauper lacked the means to hire a nurse-maid for his newborn, but the baby’s life was saved when the man’s body miraculously became capable of nursing the baby.
The Amora Rav Yosef praised the man, saying that he must have had great merits to have brought about such an open miracle. Abaye, on the other hand, remarked how lowly he must have been for needing a miracle performed on his behalf. The Shalmei Nedorim explains that Abaye’s intent was not to say that the man was wicked. After all, he merited an extraordinary miracle to save his child’s life. Rather, Abaye was lamenting that the miracle used up so many of his merits (see Rashi Bereishis 32:11).
In light of this insight, he explains that Birkas HaGomel is recited after a person has been saved from potential danger. While we are happy that he survived, we are also afraid that it may have come at the expense of his accumulated merits. As a result, a simple “Amen” won’t suffice, and we add a special supplication requesting that his good fortune should continue and not be depleted through this miracle!
Vaya’as Aharon u’banav es kol hadevorim asher tzivah Hashem b’yad Moshe (8:36)
After discussing more of the laws governing the sacrifices, Parshas Tzav turns its attention to the inauguration of the Kohanim. It relates at length the procedure by which Aharon and his sons were consecrated to serve as Kohanim. After relating all of the details of the process, the parsha concludes by recording that Aharon and his sons did everything Moshe commanded them to do in the name of Hashem.
Rashi explains that the Torah specifically records that they did everything Hashem commanded to praise them, in that they followed Hashem’s instructions without the slightest deviation. This is difficult to understand. Why does the Torah find it noteworthy that the righteous Aharon and his sons obeyed Hashem’s explicit commands, something that we would have naturally taken for granted?
The Darkei Mussar notes that the prophet Yirmiyahu relates (15:17), “I didn’t sit together with a group of jokesters.” This is also perplexing; would we have expected a prophet of Hashem to waste his valuable time with such unproductive members of society that it was worth mentioning otherwise? Wouldn’t it strike us as odd to hear somebody mention in a eulogy of the Chofetz Chaim or Rav Moshe Feinstein that he didn’t spend his days at the circus or the bar?
Rav Moshe Rosenstein, the Mashgiach of the Lomza yeshiva, answers that human nature is to be innately interested in such frivolous matters, and it is proper to praise these individuals for refusing to remain with their inborn tendencies. They worked on themselves until they reached a level at which they had completely uprooted their natural inclinations, and doing Hashem’s will became second nature.
Similarly, Aharon was born as a regular person; only through many years of hard work did he become the great Aharon HaKohen with whom we are familiar. Instead of remaining average, he became a person for whom there was no possibility of intentionally deviating from Hashem’s commandments. Although at the time of the building of the Mishkan he was already on a level at which he faced no struggle, the Torah still praises him for his lifetime of work that brought him to that level.
The following story presents a contemporary application of this concept. The Beis HaLevi was renowned for his tremendous Yiras Shomayim (fear of Heaven). A Rav in Europe once remarked in jest that if he was on the Heavenly Court at the time of the Beis HaLevi’s death, he would refuse to give him reward for any sin that he didn’t commit. The Beis HaLevi was on such a high spiritual level that he had no evil inclination pushing him to transgress. Because he had no internal struggle, he wasn’t deserving of any reward for his choices. The Rav added that he would, however, give the Beis HaLevi unimaginable reward for using his free-will to develop himself to the point that he reached such a lofty level!
While we may not be on the level of Aharon, Yirmiyahu, or the Beis HaLevi, this lesson is still applicable. We all have mitzvos and areas of life with which we struggle. Our natural instincts guide us in the opposite direction of where we know we’d like to be going. We can take strength from seeing that true and lasting change is possible, and we should be encouraged by the knowledge that we will receive eternal reward for our efforts, even after they become second nature to us.
Parsha Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):
1) Rabbeinu Bechaye writes (6:2) that the 13 types of sacrifices correspond to the 13 Attributes of Hashem’s Mercy. How many can you name, and what connections can you find between them?
2) The Medrash teaches (Vayikra Rabba 9:7) that all sacrifices will be nullified in the Messianic era except for the Korban Todah. As the Gemora in Berachos (54b) rules that this offering is brought after being saved from danger, how will it be applicable when all will dwell in peace?
3) The Torah forbids (7:18) consuming a sacrifice which was rendered “pigul” by a Kohen performing any of the services with its blood while intending to eat or offer the sacrifice after its appropriate time. Must the Kohen actually say this is his intention, or does it become disqualified even if he merely thinks that he will do so? (Mishneh L’Melech Hilchos Pesulei HaMukdashin 13:1, Chasam Sofer Chullin 37b, Aruch L’Ner Kerisos 2b, S’fas Emes Zevachim 29b)
4) The Medrash teaches (Vayikra Rabba 7:3) that in the absence of the Temple, one who recites and studies the laws of the sacrifices will be considered in Hashem’s eyes as if he actually brought them. Does this principle mean that the study of the laws of any mitzvah is considered tantamount to fulfilling it, or is this concept unique to the study of the laws of sacrifices? (Rashi and Tal Torah Bava Metzia 114b, Maharsha Megillah 28b, Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh Vayikra 26:3, Shulchan Aruch HaRav Hilchos Talmud Torah 2:11, Chofetz Chaim in Torah Ohr Chapter 2)
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