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Parshas Vayikra - Vol. 5,
Compiled by Oizer Alport
Vayikra el Moshe vay’dabeir Hashem eilav me’Ohel Moed leimor (1:1)
It is customary for children who are beginning to learn Chumash to start with the study of Parshas Vayikra. The Medrash questions (Vayikra Rabbah 7:3) why it wouldn’t be more appropriate to start from the beginning by learning Parshas Bereishis. The Medrash answers that because Parshas Vayikra discusses the offering of sacrifices, which restore and enhance one’s purity, it is appropriate for young children, who are naturally pure, to begin their studies here.
Although the students and the subject matter may share similarities, what value can there be in teaching these concepts to young children who are incapable of grasping the intricate laws and underlying ideas behind the various sacrifices? Wouldn’t it make sense to begin with episodes from Sefer Bereishis with which the children are familiar and to which they can relate more easily?
Rav Shimshon Pinkus answers these questions by comparing them to the case of a simple villager who amasses enough money to purchase an automobile. Excited to show off his new purchase, he drives it everywhere until one day, out of fuel, it suddenly refuses to move. He turns for advice to a more sophisticated acquaintance, who advises him to refill the gas tank.
In his ignorance, the villager argues that enough damage has been done through his prized possession ceasing to function. Adding dirty, smelly water to the vehicle could only make the bad situation worse. His friend patiently explains that because the villager didn’t produce the car, he is incapable of understanding how it works. The manufacturer, who is intimately familiar with its every last detail, has made it known that only foul-smelling gasoline is capable of enabling it to continue functioning properly.
Similarly, even the most experienced educator lacks the ability to fully comprehend the neshama of a child due to the simple fact that he didn’t make it. Hashem, who inserts each precious soul into a Jewish child and possesses the unique understanding of its inner workings, has declared that the essence of the soul is its pure source from just underneath His Throne of Glory. As such, He recognizes that the “fuel” so vital to the successful growth and nourishment of the neshama is the pure study of sacrifices.
V’hiktiram HaKohen haMizbeicha Lechem isheh l’reiach nichoach kol cheilev l’Hashem (3:16)
Last week we concluded Sefer Shemos, which revolved around the Exodus from Egypt, the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai, and the construction of the Mishkan. This week we begin Sefer Vayikra, which deals largely with the laws pertaining to the Mishkan and the Kohanim who served therein.
Parshas Vayikra introduces us to a number of the various Korbanos which were offered in the Mishkan and their pertinent laws. One of the sacrifices is the Korban Shelamim (Peace-Offering). In discussing the laws of a goat which is brought as a Peace-Offering, our verse requires the Kohen to burn all of its choicest parts on the Altar.
Interestingly, the Rambam writes (Hilchos Issurei Mizbeach 7:11) that this requirement wasn’t specific to the Korban Shelamim. He derives from our verse that for the performance of every mitzvah, from the selection of which animal to offer as a sacrifice to the food and clothing donated to the poor, a person should use his finest possessions.
This concept is illustrated in the following story. One of the Gerrer Rebbes, the Imrei Emes, was once approached by one of his chassidim, who lamented that he had lost his tefillin. As tefillin are quite expensive, the man was worried that it would take him quite some time to save up the money to purchase a new pair.
Much to the chassid’s relief, the Imrei Emes immediately took out a pair of tefillin to loan him until he was able to buy a new set. After giving him the tefillin, the Rebbe asked him to take extra precaution in protecting them. He explained that he had inherited this special pair of tefillin from his saintly father, the S’fas Emes.
After the chassid left, overjoyed about the change in his fortune, one of the close disciples of the Imrei Emes asked him why he was willing to part with such an irreplaceable and holy family heirloom when he could have easily attained a simple set of kosher tefillin to lend him. The Rebbe responded by quoting the words of the Rambam, who teaches that we must be willing to give up our most valuable possessions for the sake of Hashem’s mitzvos.
After studying the inspiring stories of our forefathers in Sefer Bereishis and of their salvation from Egypt in Sefer Shemos, many people find it difficult to relate to the esoteric subjects discussed in Sefer Vayikra. Although the Rambam rules that the concept of using our choicest possessions applies to all mitzvos, perhaps one of the reasons it is taught in reference to the Korban Shelamim is to remind us that these sections of the Torah can be equally applicable to our daily lives.
Just as we wear our nicest clothing to a wedding and set the table with our finest china when hosting important guests, so too does the Torah teach us that this approach should carry over to spiritual matters, as we proudly use our most precious possessions to serve Hashem and do His mitzvos.
V’lo osi karasa Yaakov ki yagata bi Yisroel (Haftorah – Yeshaya 43:22)
The Darkei Mussar writes in Parshas Balak that of the thousands of parables developed by the legendary Dubno Maggid, there were three which the Kotzker Rebbe declared were said with Ruach HaKodesh (Divine Inspiration). One of those three was used to explain this verse from the Haftorah.
A businessman once returned home from his travels and hired one of the porters at the train station to carry his luggage to his home. Upon arriving at the man’s house, the porter put down the bags and approached the man to receive his payment. The traveler took one look at the boy and informed him that he had mistakenly brought the wrong suitcases.
The surprised porter questioned how the businessman could make this claim with such certainty when he hadn’t even seen the bags, which were still outside. The man explained that it was clear from the boy’s appearance that he had sweated and exerted tremendous effort to transport the luggage. As the bags which belonged to the businessman were filled with lightweight items which wouldn’t have required such exertion, it must be that the porter mistakenly brought the wrong suitcases.
Similarly, Yeshaya related that Hashem told the Jewish people, V’lo osi karasa Yaakov – You haven’t called Me in your performance of mitzvos. The Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh writes (Bamidbar 23:21) that the study of Torah and the performance of mitzvos should be enjoyable and invigorate a person. Yeshaya teaches elsewhere (40:31), V’kavei Hashem yachalifu koach – Those who look to and trust in Hashem will be constantly strengthened and refreshed. Just as the businessman informed the porter of his error, the Navi chastises the Jews that they must not be learning and doing mitzvos for Hashem’s sake. The proof of this claim is that instead of feeling renewed and energized, ki yagata bi Yisroel – You grew weary of Me.
Answers to the weekly Points to Ponder are now available!
Parsha Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):
1) Why may offerings be brought from domesticated animals (1:2) but not from wild animals? (Daas Z’keinim, Rabbeinu Bechaye, Paneiach Raza)
2) The Gemora in Taanis (2a) refers to prayer as “the service of the heart,” and many of the laws of the daily prayers are derived from those which govern the offerings in the Temple. Where do we find in prayer a parallel to the requirement (2:13) that every offering be accompanied by salt?
3) Was a blessing recited by a person performing the mitzvah of bringing a sin-offering (4:2)? (Shu”t Rashba 1:18, Mishneh L’Melech Hilchos Maasei HaKorbanos 10:1, Ayeles HaShachar)
4) The Torah commands (5:23) a thief to return the item that he stole. If somebody stole an esrog and returned it after Sukkos ended, did he fulfill the mitzvah of returning the stolen object? (Pri Megadim Orach Chaim 656, Pischei Teshuva Choshen Mishpat 363:1)
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