by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek
Back to This Week's Parsha | Previous Issues
Parashas Vayikra (70)This week we start the third book of the Five Books of the Torah, Vayikra; it is known in English as Leviticus, meaning laws pertaining to the tribe of Levi. In Hebrew it is called "Toras Kohanim" the laws of the Priest. So the Book deals quite a bit with service in the Temple, where the priests did the service.
Speak to the Children of Israel and say to them: If any man (Hebrew: adam) of you offer a sacrifice to Hashem, from the beasts, from the herd, from the sheep , you shall offer your sacrifice.
any man (Hebrew: 'adam'): Rashi: Why is the term 'adam' used here? [to compare to Adam) Just like Adam, the first man, did not offer a sacrifice from stolen property, for it was all his. So you too shall not bring an offering from stolen property.
Can you see what prompted this comment?
WHAT IS BOTHERING RASHI?
An Answer: Rashi sensed that the term "adam" for man was unusual. The term for man is usually "ish". (see for example verses 21:18; 21:19; 22:14).
So Rashi (and the Midrash ) is wondering why "adam" was used here.
How does his comment deal with this?
An Answer: The word "adam" is used to bring to our minds, through association Adam the first man. The first man was the only person in the world, so he was the possessor of all there was. When he took an animal for a sacrifice, it was his own possession. So we too are reminded through this association not to bring our sacrifices from stolen goods.
A CLOSER LOOK
One of the commentators on Rashi says that Rashi's wording teaches us a fine point in the law. We may ask: What is sooooo wrong if a man stole a sheep and brought it for a sacrifice. Granted it is not a nice thing to do, but in the final analysis the sheep was used for a good purpose and the man had no personal gain from it. But Rashi teaches us that if a man stole, let's say, ten sheep he should not offer one of them as a sacrifice.
What in Rashi's words hints at this?
A FULLER UNDERSTANDING
An Answer: Rashi says: "So you too shall not bring an offering from stolen property."
His words: "from stolen property" implies that one takes something from the stolen property (but not all of it) and offers it as a sacrifice. If the man stole just one sheep and offered it as a sacrifice, then the Torah would have said: "Don't bring stolen property as a sacrifice." While "you too shall not bring an offering from stolen property" implies that the sacrifice is just part of the total stolen property.
This too makes sense. This is a common way for even an "upright" Jew who has done wrong, to salve his conscience. It is like a man who gained his wealth by questionable means; he may give a lot of charity. It is his way of making good his sinful act. He may think if I didn't steal a little I would never be able to support this yeshiva and all the good it does. So maybe my act of stealing wasn't all that bad!
But G-d says explicitly "For I am Hashem, Who loves justice, Who hates robbery in sacrifice" (Isaiah 61:8).
Mitzvos that come as a result of sin are not mitzvos, they are hated by G-d.
"What's Bothering Rashi?" is produced by the Institute for the Study of Rashi and Early Commentaries. The five volume set of "What's Bothering Rashi?" is available at all Judaica bookstores.
This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
For information on subscriptions, archives, and