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

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Vol. 12   No. 24

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The Covenant of Salt
(Adapted from the Likutei Basar Likutei)

"And all your Korbanos you shall flavour with salt, and do not withhold the salt of the covenant of your G-d from all your flour-offerings; on all your Korbanos you shall bring salt" (2:13).

Rashi refers briefly to the Medrash, which describes how, at the creation, the lower waters complained to G-d for having relegated them to a location below the sky, distant from their Creator, whilst their sister, the upper waters, were placed above the sky. To which G-d responded by making a covenant with them, to the effect that salt would be added to all the Korbanos, and the Nisuch ha'Mayim (the Water Libation on Succos) would be poured on the Mizbei'ach, granting them the closeness to G-d that they so yearned.


Rabeinu Bachye cites another explanation, based on the Medrash which divides the world into three sections - inhabited land, wilderness and the oceans.

He describes how in similar fashion, the lower waters complained, that since the Beis-Hamikdash was built on dry land, and the Torah was given in the wilderness, what comparable merit, they asked, would they receive? G-d therefore granted them a covenant of salt, extending to all the Korbanos and the Mitzvah of Nisuch ha'Mayim on Succos, as we explained.


A third explanation is given by the K'sav ve'Hakabalah, who refers to the diverse elements, fire and water, which salt comprises. The word 'Melach', he points out, has connotations of 'mixed' (as in the Pasuk [in connection with the ingredients of the Ketores]) "memulach Tohor Kodesh" (Sh'mos 30:35). And that is really what the Divine covenant was - a wondrous mixture of total opposites.

In the olden days, he explains, there were those who worshipped fire and those who worshipped water. Therefore, the Torah added salt (which contains the two forces) to all the Korbanos, as a sacrifice to G-d, to demonstrate that in fact, neither the angel of fire nor the angel of water governs the world, but G-d alone.


R. Shimshon Refael Hirsch stresses the unique preservative quality of salt, which, as is well known, prevents food from rotting, to begin of a new (inferior) existence. So too, the covenant that Yisrael entered into with Hashem at Har Sinai, must be preserved at all costs, because any deviation from it can only lead to a new, inferior sort of existence.

And so the Chasam Sofer used to say (in a play on the word Chadash, referring to the new produce each year) 'Chadash is forbidden by the Torah'. What he meant was that any fundamental change in the Torah is synonymous with a refutation of our religion.


The Chasam Sofer observes that the Torah confines the expression "Melach B'ris Elokecha" to the Minchah offering, making no mention of it by any of the animal Korbanos. Well baked loaves anointed with oil, he explains, are fit to serve at the king's table without salt, and the Torah's obligation to add salt is solely for the sake of the Divine covenant (for any of the current reasons). The animal Korbanos, on the other hand, need to be salted anyway, because unsalted meat is not edible. In fact, there we will apply the principle "Serve it to your prince" (meaning that whatever is not fit to serve to a prince, should not be served to Hashem either) - the real reason why they require salting (not for the sake of the covenant).


The Ma'ayanah shel Torah, citing R. Leibele Charif, presents the question differently. Surely, he asks, the Minchah is included in "Korban" that the Torah mentions just before it?

And he answers with the well-known concept of a Korban containing all the four elements of creation - Domem (still-life [salt]), Tzome'ach (plant-life [wine]), Chai (the animal) and Medaber (one who speaks [the Kohen who brings it]). Now a Minchah is missing Chai, giving us good reason to presume that perhaps it does not require salt either. Therefore the Torah needs to inform us that it does. And the reason for this is - because the notion that Chai is missing from a Minchah is incorrect. Chai is incorporated in a Minchah in the form of the Nefesh of the owner, who is usually a poor man and who is therefore considered as having given G-d his Soul (see Parshah Pearls 'It's the Rich Man Who Needs Warning').


And finally, we have the explanation of the Sifsei Kohen, who points out that the Torah does not command salt to be brought on 'the Korbanos', but on 'your Korbanos', a subtle hint always to place salt on one's own table during meal-times. This reminds us of four vital issues. It reminds us ... 1. that the inhabitants of S'dom were wiped out because they failed to give Tzedakah to the poor. 2. ... always to say Divrei Torah at table, for the Torah uses the term 'B'ris' with regard to Torah just as it does by salt. In other words, one should not forget to feed one's Soul, even as one feeds one's body. 3. ... to take one's cue from the lower waters and express concern when one becomes distanced from G-d (and to remember that when one does, one's prayers are answered). 4. ... not to become vain upon seeing one's table full of good things and that one is surrounded by one's wife and children, for the lower waters praised G-d before descending to earth and turning into salt.

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Parshah Pearls

The Fat and the Blood

What all Korbanos have in common is that from each one, the blood and the Cheilev (the non-Kasher fat) has to be brought on the Mizbe'ach.

The Sha'ar Bas Rabim ascribes this to the two categories of Mitzvos, Mitzvos Asei and Mitzvos Lo Sa'aseh. Now to combat transgressing the former, one requires the Midah of 'Zerizus' (eagerness, alacrity); whereas the latter requires that of 'Atzlus' (laziness). Unfornutaely, one often tends to switch the two, using laziness to desist from performing an Asei, and alacrity to transgress a Lo Sa'aseh - which is why the two parts of the animal that are involved in the Kaparah are the blood, representing the heat of the body (which is responsible for abused alacrity) and the Cheilev, representing the cold of the body (which is responsible for abused laziness).


A Rich Man and a Poor Man

"And they shall sprinkle the blood on the Mizbe'ach" (1:5).

The blood of Shechitah of all sacrifices was placed on the Mizbe'ach, only Chazal draw a distinction between that of a Chatas and that of an Olah. The blood of a Chatas Beheimah was placed above the red thread (marking the half-way mark), whereas that of an Olas Beheimah was placed below it. In the case of a bird, the reverse was the case (they placed the blood of a Olas ha'Of above the red thread, and that of a Chatas ha'Of, below).

The Chozeh mi'Lublin explains it like this. It was generally a wealthy man who brought a Korban Beheimah. For him to bring an Olah (a gift) was no big deal. What was a big deal was for him to admit that he had sinned and to bring a Chatas (something that would interfere with his self-esteem). That is why the Torah records its appreciation by having the blood of the Korban Chatas placed above the red thread, and that of the Olah below it.

In the case of the poor man on the other hand, whose self-esteem is generally low, admitting his sin was nothing out of the ordinary. What was extraordinary was for him to scrape together the few pennies that would enable him to bring an Olas ha'Of. That is why in his case, it was the Olah whose blood was placed above the red thread, and that of the Chatas, below.


The Nations' Accusations

"And you shall split it (the Olas ha'Of) by its wings" (1:17).

Chazal have said that 'One divides the Olas ha'of (the burned-offering of the bird [into two]) but not the Chatas ha'of' (the sin-offering).

The Yalkut ha'D'rush, playing on the words ("Olas" and "Chatas"), uses this statement as a hint to the gentiles' attitude towards the Jewish people. When a Jew behaves in an elevated way to do something for the good of mankind (Olas [ha'of]), they divide him from the rest of the Jewish people, treating him as an exception, rather than the rule; They make no such division however, when a Jew does something wrong (Chatas [ha'of]). Then, they point an accusing finger at all of us, and call us all sinners.


It's the Rich Man Who Needs Warning

"... a pleasant smell for Hashem" (Ibid).

The Torah uses this same expression with regard to both an animal and a bird. Now who brings a bird? A poor man of course. This comes to teach us, says Rashi, that it doesn't matter whether one gives a little or one gives a lot. What does matter is that one's heart is directed towards Heaven.

One tends to think that the last phrase refers to the one who gives a little (that he should make sure that, despite his paltry gift, as long as his motivation is pure, his Korban is accepted alongside the larger one).

Quite to the contrary, explains R. Bunim from P'shicha. The poor man most certainly brings his modest Korban with the purest of intentions, and it is the rich man, who turns up with his choice bull, who needs to be reminded to bring it Leshem Shamayim (and not for personal motives), for it to be accepted together with the poor man's Korban.


The Poor Man's Soul

"And a soul who brings a Minchah (a flour-offering) to Hashem, his Korban should consist of fine flour" (2:1).

Explaining the Torah's use of the word "soul" here, Rashi points out that since it is usually the poorest people who bring a Minchah, the term is most appropriate, since, when they donate a Korban, they really do sacrifice their souls to their Creator.

Surely, asks the Hafla'ah, a flour-offering (with the oil and the wine that accompany it) cost more than a bird? In that case, it would have been more apt to use the word 'soul' in connection with a bird-offering?

But what should the poor man, he quips, do when he does not possess even a P'rutah with which to purchase a bird. As for the flour, that he obtains from the Leket, Shikchah and Pe'ah which he collected from the rich man's field, to which he is entitled. So you see how he literally snatches his food from his mouth to bring to Hashem. No wonder the Torah uses the word "soul"!


The Best Reason of All

"Every Minchah that you bring before G-d ...because no yeast or honey are you permitted to bring as a fire-offering before G-d" (2:11).

We learned in a B'raisa quoting bar Kapara that had they added a mere Kurtuv of honey into the incense, no-one would have been able to stand before its aroma. Yet the reason they did not add honey, says bar Kapara, is on account of the the Torah's statement "because no yeast or honey are you permitted to bring as a fire-offering before G-d".

Bar Kapara is teaching us a powerful lesson here, says R. Yosef Chayim Sonnenfeld. Surely there could be no better reason to avoid the insertion of honey into the incense than the one mentioned above. After all, people swooning in the Beis-Hamikdash is hardly in keeping with the Kavod ha'Mikdash, nor would anything positive be gained by this happening. Yet bar Kapara gives the major reason for not adding honey as 'because that is what the Torah ordained'.

And so it is with all the Mitzvos. The fact that G-d issued a command to perform or to desist is the best possible reason for performing or for desisting. No amount of logic can match it!


The Source of a Shogeg is a Meizid

"Nefesh ki secheto ... ve'ososh me'achas me'heinoh" (a soul which sins inadvertently ... and he performs one of these") 4:2.

The truth of the matter is, says the Alshich, that strictly speaking, one ought not to have to bring a sacrifice for a Shogeg. And the reason that the Torah obliges one to do so, he explains, is because of the hypothesis that a sin performed be'Shogeg indicates that he must have once performed it be'Meizid (a sin performed on purpose). Otherwise, he would not have come to sin by mistake. That places a Shogeg in a far more serious light, and explains why a Korban is necessary. And this, he explains, is hinted in the above words 'If a soul sins (be'Shogeg)', it must be because at some stage, he performed one of these (be'Meizid).


When the Kohen Gadol Sins

"If the anointed Kohen sins be'Shogeg to the guilt of the people" (4:3).

When the Kohen Gadol sins by mistake, it is compared to the people sinning on purpose, Rebbi Shlomoh Kluger explains (because the greater the person, the deeper his sin penetrates. For so Chazal have taught - G-d takes Tzadikim to task for sins as minute as a hairsbreadth).

He also observes that the Torah omits any mention here of the fact that the Kohen does the atoning, like it does by all the other cases in the Parshah. This is because it is the Kohen himself who has sinned, and he cannot achieve atonement for himself.

* * *


The Two Parts of the Mitzvah

It is clear from the wording of Parshas Zachor that the Torah is referring to two different Mitzvos spanning two different eras.

Speaking to the people as they stood in the desert, who had yet to enter Eretz Yisrael and establish themselves there, the Pasuk begins with the Mitzvah of remembering what Amalek did to them when they left Egypt, stressing the evil that they perpetrated towards Yisrael on the one hand and their total lack of the fear of G-d, on the other.

Then the Torah switches to a later generation, the one that was poised to defeat their enemies in Eretz Yisrael and settle peacefully in the land. And it commands them to eradicate Amalek and to erase all memories of him. The earlier generation could still remember what Amalek did to them , but was not yet ready to exterminate them; whereas the latter one was ready to exterminate them but never knew first hand what they had done.

Presumably, the two Mitzvos are interlinked (a theory that is certainly enhanced by the two final words of the Parshah 'Don't forget!', forming two halves of a whole with 'Remember' at the beginning), as Chazal indeed explain. The Torah is therefore warning the earlier generation to remember what Amalek did, so that, when the time arrives that they are able to fulfill the main Mitzvah of eradicating, they will be prepared to do so.

If that is indeed the case, we can extrapolate that only those people who are subject to the second Mitzvah are obligated to perform the first, bearing out the ruling of the Seifer ha'Chinuch, who exempts women from the Mitzvah of 'commemorating Amalek'.


If You're Always Tired ...

"And you were tired and weary and did not fear Hashem" (25:18).

If someone is always tired and weary, explains Rebbi Baruch from Mezibuz, it is a sure sign that he does not fear G-d. A G-d-fearing person is also alert and ready to serve Him.

Not only does someone standing in the presence of a king not fall asleep; he doesn't yawn either!


From the Haftarah

A Good Reason to Cry

"Because you rejected the word of Hashem, He rejected you as king"(Shmuel 1. 15:23).

The Ba'al-Korei in the main Shul in Batei Mechsah, where R. Yosef Chayim used to Daven, related how, each year, R. Yosef Chayim, who was always called up for Maftir of Parshas Zachor, would burst into tears when he reached the above Pasuk in Shmuel.

Bearing in mind that Chazal have described Shaul on his coronation day 'like a one-day-old baby without sin', the wasted potential inherent in such a great man would have been sufficient reason to cry.

The Chochmas Chayim however, links R. Yosef Chayim's emotions with the Gemara in Yuma (22b), which presents Shaul in a very different light than the previous Chazal. The Gemara there, based on an earlier Pasuk (ibid. 5) "And he quarreled in the valley", explains that King Shaul had grave doubts about the justification for totally wiping out Amalek. Citing the Parshah of Eglah Arufah, where the Torah displays so much concern over the murder of one man, he could not accept the command to wipe out every person and every animal belonging to Amalek. 'If the people sinned', he mused, 'what did the animals do wrong?' Until a Heavenly Voice proclaimed 'Don't be so righteous!

From here we see the tragic results of doubt in Emunah. For Shaul's hesitation to fulfill G-d's express command to the letter (notwithstanding the fact that it was rooted in the Midah of mercy, the basis of the thirteen qualities of Mercy by which G-d Himself is described) resulted in the survival of Agag (for one night), which resulted in turn, to the emergence of Haman and the spate of Jew-haters at whose hand we Jews have suffered (and continue to suffer) throughout the ages. Little wonder that R. Yosef Chayim cried.

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