Thoughts on the Weekly Parshah by HaRav Eliezer Chrysler
Formerly Rav of Mercaz Ahavat Torah, Johannesburg

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Vol. 4 No. 25

Parshas Tzav-Poroh

Sacrifices and Their Relevance Today

Vol. 4 No. 25 Parshas Tzav-Poroh Sacrifices and Their Relevance Today The "Ma'amados" comprised twenty-four groups of Cohanim, Levi'im and Yisraelim, corresponding to the twenty-four groups into which the Cohanim were divided, and who served in the Beis Ha'mikdosh on a weekly rota system. These groups, which would gather to fast and pray during their respective week, were assigned to represent the entire Jewish nation; in Yerusholayim, to stand by the "Korban-Tomid" (the twice daily public burnt-offering) for, "how can one offer a sacrifice without the owner being present?"; whereas in the towns, the "Ma'amodos" objective was to pray that the "Korbon-Tomid" - which atoned daily for the whole of Klal Yisroel, keeping them on a high level of sinlessness - should be readily accepted by Hashem, thus achieving its purpose.

During their week of office, the members of the "Ma'mad" would also lein the Parshah of the creation of the world from Bereishis because, the Gemoro explains (Ta'anis 27b), "if not for the "Ma'amodos", Heaven and earth would not exist! And the Gemoro goes on to quote a dialogue between Avrohom Ovinu and Hashem: "Ribono shel Olom", said Avrohom, "perhaps Yisroel will sin before You and You will do to them as You did to the generations of the flood and of the Tower of Bovel?"

"No!" Hashem replied.

"Tell me how I will inherit the land (on what merit will my children not be exiled from it?)."

"Take for me three calves, three goats and three rams," replied Hashem (on the merit of the "korbonos" - the sacrifices).

"Ribono shel Olom, that's fine as long as the Beis Ha'mikdosh stands, but what will happen when it is destroyed?"

"I have already arranged for them the "order" of "korbonos". Let them read this before me. I will consider it as if they had actually brought the "korbonos", and I will subsequently pardon them for all their sins."

Chazal are telling us here that, although we cannot bring sacrifices today, we can achieve the same results by actually learning and studying the relevant chapters in the Chumash and in the Gemoro. Indeed, the Gemoro speaks of sages who were conversant in four Sedorim, because the Amoro'im would only concentrate on those tractates which were relevant in their time. Now we can appreciate why they studied "Mo'ed" (to do with the calendar), "Noshim" (the laws of women), and "Nezikin" (pertaining to damages) which were practically applicable. But which was the fourth Seider, considering that neither Zero'im, Kodoshim or Taharos applied here.

The fourth Seider must have been Kodoshim, which they studied thoroughly, although they were not currently practised. This is because, as stated above, it is equally essential to study Kodoshim when it is not applicable, as when it is.

We can derive from here the importance of reciting the "korbonos", which is an intrinsic and a vital part of "Shachris": "May it be Your will, Hashem, that this recital should be considered as if I had sacrificed a sin-offering, a burnt-offering or a peace-offering" etc., after the relevant paragraphs.

Our lips can act as substitutes for the offerings that we owe Hashem. Yet wouldn't we rather have the real thing? Let those lips offer up fervent prayers to Hashem to send the Moshiach and to rebuild the Beis Ha'mikdosh, that we should be able to serve Him once again - not only by way of "lip-service", but with actual korbonos!

Adapted from Rabeinu Bachye

The Dignity of Hashem Comes First

Rabeinu Bachye comments on the obligation for a Cohen to wear the Bigdei Kehunah, even when performing the Trum'as ha'Deshen (the mitzvah of carrying a shovelful of ashes from the Mizbei'ach to be deposited beside the ramp).

We see from here, he explains, that even when performing such a minor Avodoh (which was not even obligatory), the Cohen should beautify it. He is obligated to wear his four special garments, so that they should be carried out with the maximum honour and prestige.

And he goes on to discuss the importance of lowering one's own dignity in face of the dignity of Hashem. He cites many examples for this, beginning with this one, as who could imagine a more menial task than emptying ashes? Yet, in its capacity as the first avodah each morning, it was appointed by lots, and it was considered a great honour to win the right to perform it. He quotes Hillel, Rabbon Gamliel and the great Tannaic masters, who used to dance wildly in the Beis Ha'mikdosh at the Simchas Beis Ha'sho'eivoh on Succos; the B'nei Levi, who used to walk behind the wagons; and Dovid Ha'melech who pranced before the Oron for all his worth when it was being transported to Yerusholayim. (Amazing as it may sound, even Moshe Rabeinu is listed as having served, together with his fellow Levi'im, as a gatekeeper in the Mishkon. In the service of G-d, nothing is considered undignified.

Oy, When it Doesn't

The Gemoro in Pesochim (57b) quotes a remarkable story to illustrate what happens to people who put their own Kavod before that of G-d. Yisochor Ish Kfar Barkai was the Cohen Godol in the days of Yannai Ha'melech. One day, the king and queen (Shlomis - also known as Shlomtziyon) were discussing an issue "of vital importance": Which tastes better, they argued, kid-goat or lamb. They decided that the best person to decide would be the Cohen Godol, who brought sacrifices every day, and who must therefore be an expert on the matter.

The Cohen Godol was summoned, and it did not take him long to arrive at his decision. Waving his hand at the king, he solemnly announced that the queen was right. It had to be the lamb that tasted better. Why? Because otherwise, why did the Torah designate the lamb to be brought each day as the Korban Tomid? Why not the goat? (In fact, the Gemoro concludes, he was mistaken. He did not even know a simple Mishnah, which states emphatically that lamb's meat and goat's meat were equally tasty, and that the Torah's choice of the lamb as the Korban Tomid had nothing whatsoever to do with the quality of its taste.

In any case, the King, incensed at the Cohen Godol's lack of respect for royalty (a person whose vanity leads him to disrespect G-d and his service, is unlikely to show more respect to his king), ordered that his right hand be cut off. However, he bribed the executioner to cut off his left hand. When the king got to hear of this, he ordered his right hand to be cut off as well.

Blessed be Hashem, Rav Yosef commented, who gave Yisochor Ish Kfar Barkai his due in this world, rather than in the World to Come!

The Distribution of Kodshei Kodshim

Although the Oloh was entirely burnt, so that unlike other Kodshei Kodshim (the Chattos, the Oshom, the Minchah and Zivchei Shalmei Tzibur on Shevu'os), the Cohen received no part of the meat of the animal. Nevertheless, he did receive the skin.

Who exactly took the skin? At first, it appears from the Torah that the Cohen who actually sacrificed the animal took it (see Chap. 7:8-9). The Torah however, qualifies this - in possuk 10 - when it writes that it belongs to all the Cohanim.

To reconcile these two pesukim, Chazal explain that, in fact, the skin of Kodshei Kodshim (like the meat) was divided up amongst all the Cohanim who served on that particular day. (In the realm of Korbonos, the night follows the day, so "day" here incorporates the twenty-four hours from dawn-break to dawn-break).

The Cohanim were divided into twenty-four family groups (known as "Mishmoros"). Each group in turn, was divided into six "Botei-Ovos", each of which served one day of the week (they all served on Shabbos). Consequently, it was the members of that particular "Beis Ov" who would receive the skins and the meat of the Kodshei-Kodshim (as well as the bread of the flour-offerings and the chest and the right calf of the Yisroel's peace-offerings). Rabeinu Bachye stresses that each type of sacrifice was divided individually, and even the five types of flour-offerings were not grouped together, but distributed as five entities.

And he explains the reason for the method of distribution in the name of the Ramban: It is because each Cohen (or group of Cohanim) who brings a Korban, is doing so, not on his own initiative, but as a representative of all the Cohanim who could have served that day. So, just as we find in warfare, that Dovid Ha'melech, taking his cue from Avrohom Ovinu, instructed the soldiers who guarded the camp to share the spoil with those who actually captured it in battle, so too did those Cohanim who did not actually bring that particular Korban, share it with those who did.

(Tzav) (Yirmiyoh 7:21-9:23)

The main thrust of the Haftorah lies in the opening pesukim, where the Novi Yirmiyohu chides the people "Why do you bring Me burnt-offerings?" he quotes G-d as saying. "You may just as well bring peace-offerings and eat the meat yourselves" - Rashi, explaining the first possuk.

A burnt-offering, he meant to tell them, is entirely a gift to G-d. But how meaningful are gifts to G-d, when they are accompanied by total disobedience, when the people refuse to go along the path that G-d has set out for them. From the moment they left Egypt, they have followed nothing but the dictates of their own hearts.

"When I took you out of Egypt," G-d reminds them further, "I did not demand that you bring Me sacrifices, but rather that you obey My instructions, that I should be your G-d., and you My people." Those were the terms of the contract made at Har Siai. And this is reminiscent of the words of Shmu'el Hanovi to King Shaul, "Behold, to listen is better than sacrifices, to pay attention that the fat of rams!" (Shmu'el I 15:22).

The Redak elaborates: the Novi mentions the burnt-offerings which are entirely burnt, and he mentions the peace-offerings of which the owner eats the bulk. But he has failed to mention the sin-offerings and the guilt-offerings. This is because the people refused to admit that they had sinned, which is why they did not do teshuvah. And in any case, their sins were performed deliberately - and for such sins the sin-offering does not atone. They brought their burnt-offerings, he adds, to convey the impression that they served G-d, whilst their peace-offerings allowed them to pretend that they were eating meat in the service of G-d.

But what is the point of continuing with sacrifices brought under such false pretences? The people actually believed that their Korbonos created an atmosphere of goodwill between G-d and themselves. Indeed, that is what the Torah writes with regard to the Korbonos: "And it will be accepted by G-d to atone for him" (Vayikro 1:4). But that was an illusion. If Klal Yisroel's deeds were unacceptable to G-d, then how could they expect their sacrifices to be accepted? (About such sacrifices it is written "But the sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination" [Mishlei 21:77], and "Who asked you for this, you who trample My courtyards?" [Yeshayoh 1:12])

The long and the short of it is that sacrifices can be a powerful means of atonement, and can serve as an effective means of coming close to G-d, but only if they complement one's actions in the service of G-d. To believe that they can replace one's basic obligations is nothing short of naive - like a child who constantly refuses to obey his parents, and then believes that he can make amends by bringing them presents from time to time.

The Haftorah inserts two pesukim from Chapter 9, although it really ends early in Chapter 8. "So says Hashem, let not the wise man boast with his wisdom, nor the strong man with his strength, or the rich man with his wealth." Chazal have taught us that wisdom, strength and wealth are Divinely-allotted to a person when he is born. It is therefore probable that these final pesukim are inserted because of their similarity to the opening pesukim that we discussed earlier.

Like in the case of the Korbonos, wisdom, strength and riches are futile if one's aim is not to serve G-d with them. They are no cause for pride in a person who rejects G-d, nor will they be of any assistance to him to counter G-d's retribution (see Redak 9:22), any more than the Korbonos will. If anything, even less so, since the Korbonos are at least in themselves, an act of G-d worship - wisdom, strength and riches are not!

It is only when one uses these attributes in the service of G-d, i.e. when they enhance one's avodas Hashem, rather than clash with it, that they become praiseworthy. That is why the Haftorah concludes, "Only with this can one be justifiably proud - by becoming wise in the knowledge of G-d" (Yir'as Shomayim - Targum Yonoson - the one attribute that is not allotted to him at birth, but for which he must strive himself) etc. If one uses one's wisdom, strength and riches towards this end, then and only then, will they have achieved their true purpose.

PLEASE NOTE that this year Midei Shabbos is not dealing with special Parshiyos such as Parshas Poroh. We hope to cover them next year.

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