This issue is sponsored by Rabbi Chaim Wilschanski shlita
Vol. 23 No. 24
on the occasion of the marriage of his grandson
Raphael Rotstein to Shoshana Kramer n"y
May they be zocheh to build a bayis ne'eman b'yisrael
The Rambam explains that G-d commanded us to bring Korbanos to counter the beliefs of such people as the Egyptians, who worshipped the lamb, the Caldeans, who venerated the demons (which appeared to them in the form of goats), and the Indians, who, to this day, consider the cow sacrosanct. And it is to counter these false ideologies that He commanded us to offer to Him these three animals, comprising the spectrum of Kasher animals, in the same way as one roots out bad character-traits by going to the opposite extreme.
The Ramban, however, apart from a number of other difficulties that he raises with the Rambam's explanations, objects to the negative ramifications of what the Torah refers to as "the Bread of Hashem" and what it describes as "a pleasant smell for Hashem", thus suggesting something more positive.
He therefore maintains that the Korbanos come to atone for our sins, which are subdivided into three sections - actions, words and thoughts. So G-d ordered the sinner to bring a sacrifice; he leans his hands on it to make amends for his sinful actions; he recites viduy to atone for sinful speech and he sacrifices the innards and the kidneys, the organs that control his thoughts, to repair his sinful thoughts. He sprinkles the blood, which is synonymous with the soul of life, of the Korban on the Mizbe'ach to remind him that it really ought to be his blood that is being sacrificed, and the burning of the specified parts of the animal to indicate that a person who sins is no better than an animal. And he will reflect upon the kindness of G-d who accepts his offering in lieu of himself, who ought to be the one being burned.
The Ramban's explanation however, seems problematic, bearing in mind that virtually all the sin-offerings come to atone for sins that one perpetrated unintentionally, and which are therefore devoid of sinful words and thoughts.
And besides, how will he explain the burnt offerings and the peace and thanks offerings (which are all brought voluntarily), as well as the meal and bird offerings, the Korban Pesach, B'chor and Ma'aser Beheimah, most of which have nothing to do with sinning, and which do not fit into his explanation?
A possible third reason behind the Korbanos is based on the word "Korbanos" itself, a derivative of the word 'Korov', close, as the many facets of Korbanos serve to bring us closer to G-d - though admittedly, the two earlier explanations could well be connected with the same idea. There is nothing that draws one person closer to another than giving, particularly when one gives out of gratitude, in order to repay a favour that one received from the recipient.
And it is in order to acknowledge the ongoing stream of favours that G-d performs with us that He instituted Korbanos, providing us with the opportunity to repay Him in our own little way for His ongoing Chasodim.
In this way, a woman who has given birth, a Metzora who has been cured and someone who has been saved from a life-threatening situation bring a Korban to thank Him for His salvation. And one offers one tenth of one's new-born calves and lambs and gives one's firstborn animals to the Kohen, which he brings as a Korban. One acknowledges one's financial success and one's wellbeing by offering an Olah or a Shelamim, and brings sacrifices on each Yom-Tov, to renew one's connection to one's Master, season by season, as a sign of thanks for the various stages of productivity.
Granted, the sin and guilt-offerings too, come to reconnect to Hakadosh-Baruch-Hu by atoning for various specific sins, but that is only one cog - albeit a major cog - in a very large wheel.
In short, Korbanos afford the opportunity of regular, communication with G-d - both communal and personal, and of demonstrating one's gratitude to him for the numerous acts of Kindness that He continually bestows upon us. Above all, it is a means of coming closer to Him and inevitably, of increasing one's fear of Him, as the Torah writes in Re'ei (14:23, in connection with taking one's Ma'aser Sheini to Yerushalayim) "in order that you learn to fear Hashem".
Nowadays, when there is no Beis-ha'Mikdash and no Korbanos, Tefilah (the Avodah she'ba'Lev) replaces Korbanos - to a certain extent, to create the connection between us and G-d.
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The reason for the Mitzvah to remember what Amalek did, says the Seifer ha'Chinuch, is to impress upon us that an enemy of Yisrael is an enemy of G-d. The Torah in Re'ei (Devarim 12:1) describes Yisrael as "sons of Hashem", and it is perfectly understandable, that a father takes umbrage with those who set out to cause his children harm.
Alternatively, one might attribute the Mitzvah to the principle of not tolerating evil, as David ha'Melech writes in Tehilim (97) "Those who love Hashem hate evil". One cannot at one and the same time, accommodate evil and love G-d, who is the epitome of good.
This does not mean that one must hate all sinners. Not at all. The Pasuk after all, talks about hating evil, not evildoers. Firstly, because even sinners perform good deeds, in many cases their good deeds exceed their sins. Secondly, sinners have the potential of doing teshuvah, thereby elevating every sinner to the level of a potential Ba'al Teshuvah. And this is reason enough to be Mekarev him rather than to hate him, by which one will achieve nothing.
Amalek however, is different. The Torah is informing us here, like it will inform us later regarding the Cana'anim, that Amalek are inherently and irrevocably evil, branding him with the title "One who does not Fear G-d".
As Chazal, commenting on the Pasuk in Beshalach (17:16), explain; as long as Amalek exists, G-d's Name and Throne will not be complete, and the only way that this can be changed is by the erasing Amalek and all that he represents from the face of the earth.
Doubt, Pride & Bitterness
The Gematriyah of 'Amalek' (240) is equivalent to that of 'Safek' (doubt), 'Rom' (Haughty) and 'Mar' (bitterness).
Amalek is Yisrael's enemy number one, in the same way as the Yeitzer ha'Ra, the Amalek within, is enemy number one of each and every Jew. Indeed, the above three things describe the battle that Yisrael on the national front and each Jew on a personal level, has to fight.
Amalek's hatred of Yisrael stems from his extreme arrogance - evident from the fact that he chose to attack G-d's chosen nation, even as the rest of the world stood in awe of the miracles of Yetzi'as Mitzrayim and Keri'as Yam-Suf, that had only just taken place. And he attacks when Yisrael have doubts in Emunah ("Is G-d in our midst or not?" Sh'mos, 17:7). And all his achievements cause destruc-tion and leave bitterness in their wake.
And the same sequence is to be found in the strategy of the Yeitzer ha'Ra. He begins by inflating our egos and causing us to become proud. Then he sows doubts in our minds concerning G-d's Omnipotence and Divine Providence. And those who fall prey to his advances face a bitter end.
The combination of pride and doubts in Emunah result in serving G-d coldly, and this too, is hinted in Devarim (25:18), where the Pasuk writes, in connection with the same battle with Amalek, "asher korcho ba'derech", which can be trans-lated as 'who cooled you down on the way' (See Rashi there). This too, is a well-known tactic of the Yeirzer ha'Ra, to cause us to Daven and to perform Mitz-vos coldly, without any feeling of spirituality.
The antidote to this is to put feeling into our Avodah, to Daven and perform Mitzvos with enthusiasm. This is the way to keep Amalek away, both the external Amalek and the internal one!
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