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Parshas Tzav - Vol. 5,
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) points out that this explanation is difficult to understand. 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)
Parshas Tzav contains the laws governing the Korban Todah (Thanksgiving-Offering). In expounding upon this section, the Medrash quotes a verse in Tehillim (50:23) “Zove’ach Todah y’chabdan’ni” – A person who brings a Korban Todah honors Me. The Medrash notes that the word “y’chabdan’ni” is peculiarly spelled with a double “nun” in lieu of the usual one. The Medrash cryptically explains that this anomaly teaches that a person who brings a Korban Todah doubly honors Hashem, “kavod achar kavod.” What is the additional respect shown by a person who was saved from potential danger and offers a sacrifice to express his gratitude?
An insight into resolving this perplexing Medrash may be derived from a fascinating story recounted by the Me’am Loez. The Ramban had a student who became deathly ill. Upon visiting his student, the Ramban quickly realized that there was unfortunately no hope for him. Realizing that his student’s time was near, the Ramban asked him to do him a favor.
The Ramban explained that there were a number of questions which had been troubling him regarding Hashem’s conduct toward the Jewish people, who were suffering greatly at that time. As he was deeply versed in the secrets of Jewish mysticism, he wrote for his student a kamea (amulet) containing Divine names. After his death, the student would be able, with this kamea, to ascend to a very high level of Heaven where he could ask these questions and return in a dream to tell his teacher the answers.
Shortly after the student’s death, he appeared to the Ramban and explained that everywhere he arrived, he simply showed the kamea and was permitted to continue his ascent. However, when he finally reached his destination and began to ask the questions that he had prepared, everything became so crystal clear to him that there were no longer any difficulties that needed resolution. With his newfound insight, it was immediately clear that any apparent suffering was, in the big picture, actually for the good.
With the lesson of this story, we can now understand an explanation given by the K’sav Sofer for our cryptic Medrash. After a person is miraculously saved from peril, it is human nature to express gratitude to Hashem for watching over us and rescuing us from danger. However, we certainly don’t feel appreciation for having been placed in the situation to begin with, as we would clearly prefer to have never been placed in the line of danger than to have been exposed to death and rescued from it.
To counter this attitude, the Medrash teaches us that the Torah’s philosophy is that a person who brings a Korban Todah is required to express double gratitude – not only for his salvation, but also for being exposed to the perilous situation from which he was rescued. Although it may not have been clear to him at the time, he is nevertheless expected to recognize that the suffering itself was ultimately for his benefit. Suffering can effect atonement for misdeeds or bring in its wake unexpected good.
Even if we aren’t yet able to see the benefit in a given situation, the knowledge that it is there and that we will eventually recognize it can give us the strength to persevere with faith and trust until the goodness is ultimately revealed.
V’zos toras zevach hashelamim asher yakriv l’Hashem im al todah yakrivenu (7:11-12)
Parshas Tzav contains the laws governing the Korban Todah (Thanksgiving-Offering). The Gemora in Berachos (54b) rules that a Korban Todah 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 tov 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.
Parsha Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):
1) The parsha begins with the mitzvah of removing the ashes of the consumed sacrifices from the Altar (6:3-4). Was this mitzvah also performed on Shabbos, and if not, which prohibited labor(s) would be transgressed by doing so? (Mikdash Dovid 32:2, Ayeles HaShachar)
2) A Korban Chatas, which atones for a sin one actually committed, is partially consumed by the Kohen (6:19). A Korban Olah, which atones for sinful thoughts, is completely burned on the Altar. As doing a sin is worse than only thinking about it, why is the Korban Chatas more lenient in this regard than the Korban Olah? (Mishmeres Ariel)
3) Some of the offerings described in Parshas Tzav are completely voluntary in nature. If these mitzvos are so important, why isn’t their performance obligatory, and if it they aren’t, for what purpose did Hashem give them? (Birkas Peretz Parshas Vayikra)
4) The Masoretic symbol at the end of the parsha indicates that there are 96 verses in the parsha. How can this be understood in light of the fact that in our Chumashim, Parshas Tzav contains 97 verses? (Pathways of the Prophets pg. 424-5)
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