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by Rabbi Yisrael Pesach Feinhandler
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Command Aharon and his sons, saying, "This is the law of the burnt-offering, which shall be burning upon the altar all night unto the morning, and the fire of the altar shall be burning on it."
The winter of 5765 (1915) was replete with pain and sorrow for the Jews of Lomza. The streets were full of Jews that had been cruelly driven from their homes. The Russian soldiers were wild, robbing and attacking the Jews.
Rabbi Yehuda Leib Gordon, the rabbi of Lomza, did not find rest in these days. He was constantly defending the Jews and trying to help them in any way possible.
A few hours before the beginning of the Pesach holiday, forty one Jews were caught by the Kozaks and conscripted for the difficult task of constructing fortifications. Immediately, Rabbi Gordon arrived before the commanding officer, to plead on behalf of the Jews. He claimed, "Why do you have to take the Jews that now have their holiday. There are many Poles that have no work, and if you pay them, they will be glad to work for you."
But the officer was stubborn and would not listen. Only after Rabbi Gordon offered him the sum needed to hire the polish workers, plus another subtantial sum that would remain in the officer's pocket, did he agree to free the Jews. The actual release would only take place after the entire amount was received by the officer.
By the time that the conversation ended, it was already Yom Tov.
Rabbi Gordon hurried from the Kozak's headquarters to a synagogue where he knew there were some wealthy Jews. Once there he informed the congregants that he would not allow the evening service to begin until the redemption money had been collected, even though it was Yom Tov. He then put on the table his personal donation towards the needed money. Then, he declared that everyone should go home and bring back with them their donation. [Rabbi Gordon evidently felt that some of the Jew's lives were in danger because of the harsh work.]
Everyone went home, and Rabbi Gordon sat and waited. Slowly they began to return, each one putting his donation on the table as he entered. When the rabbi saw that the required amount had been amassed, he sent the money to the officer. And only once he verified that the last Jew was free, did he sit down to make the Seder.
Rabbi Gordon showed his tremendous concern for his fellow Jews through his selfless effort. In marriage we should also endeavor to put our spouses' needs before our own.
"This is the law of the burnt sacrifice."1 'Rabbi Abba bar Yuden said, "There is a parable of a king, who, was honored by his dear friend with a barrel of wine arid a basket of figs. The king said to him, 'Is this a present fitting for a king?' "He answered,' My master, the king, I have honored You temporarily. But when you shall enter the palace, you know that I shall honor you properly.'
Similarly, G-d said to Moshe,' This is the law of the burnt offering, this is the burnt offering.' 2 Moshe said to Him, 'O, Master of the Universe, I have brought a temporary sacrifice, but when it shall be Your will, then,' You will do good to Tzion, and You shall build the walls of Jerusalem; then You shall desire rightful sacrifices, burnt offerings etc.' " 3
Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochal taught, "The burnt offering comes only when someone sins with his thoughts."
Rabbi Assi said, "Why do children start learning with Toras Cohanim? [the book of Vayikra that describes the laws of the sacrifices] They should start from Bereshis. G-d said, "Since the children are pure and the sacrifices are pure, let the pure be busy with the pure."
How can we call the burnt offering a temporary offering, when this is what the Torah tells us we must bring? What will we bring in the future that will surpass the present offering? Why does someone who sins with his thoughts need to bring a burnt offering? What is the meaning of "let the pure be busy with the pure", when it would seem better educational practice to start teaching a child something more tangible than sacrifices in the Temple?
Concerning the question why we call the burnt offering a temporary offering when this is what the Torah tells us to bring, the idea here is to have the right attitude when bringing the burnt offering to the Holy Temple. One might think that bringing a burnt offering represents the greatest piety, since the one who makes the offering receives no meat from it at all but it is all burned on the Altar. But rather the midrash is teaching us not to feel complacent that we hall fulfilled our obligation when we have brought the burnt offering. You should rather feel that you are giving some dates and wine to an awesome king, and you should really be giving much more. G-d wants us to feel humble.
The midrash tells us that in the future we will bring much more than the burnt offerings we bring today. This does not necessarily mean that those offerings will be greater in quantity, but rather in their spiritual quality. At that stage we will be much closer to Him, which is what He really wants from us. We will no longer be distracted by our present concerns and everyone will have a great yearning to be close to G-d. The Rambam writes about this stage in the following words, "And the whole world will have nothing to do except to know G-d." 4 Thus a sacrifice brought with such heightened spiritual awareness will be much more acceptable to G-d.
Sinning with your thoughts requires a burnt offering. This might be explained in the following way. A burnt offering leaves no room for imperfection, since it is all completely burnt on the Altar. But in other sacrifices where meat is being eaten, some physical desires might be aroused. That is also the idea of sinning with one's thoughts. Even though an earthly Court can only judge a person for his words and not for his thoughts, yet G-d judges us for our thoughts, too, since He can read our thoughts and he demands perfection. That is why the burnt offering is the proper atonement for sinning with one's thoughts, because it is complete and no meat (i.e., no impure thought) is left over, but all is consumed in its cleansing fire.
Referring to the question why a child begins learning about the sacrifices in the Holy Temple first before learning something more tangible, the idea is that a child's mind and personality are molded by what he absorbs in his early years. An important element in the child's education is the search for the truth. The child must feel that everything that he is taught is entirely true and sincere. That is the reason why Parents must be very careful to be consistent and truthful in what they say to their children, since otherwise the child will feel that his parents have not told him the truth.
This is the idea behind beginning the child's learning of Torah with the sacrifices. Here the child can feel the absolute truth of what he is learning, since in bringing sacrifices, one can have no other motivation but to find favor in the eye, of G-d. In transactions between human beings, on the other hand, motives can arise for doing the mitzvah other than what the Torah has commanded. That is why the child should begin his learning with something entirely pure, whose motivation cannot be doubted. In this way the absolute truth of the Torah will be instilled in him from the very start.
The idea of feeling that what a person brings as a sacrifice is not really enough can be extended to a successful marriage. However much we do for our spouses, we should never feel that it is sufficient and that we are perfect; but we should rather feel that we still are not doing enough. If one feels that he has reached perfection, then he will never improve, and our goal is to constantly improve.
The spouse should express these feelings verbally. Say to your spouse, "I wish I could afford an even more beautiful present to give to you". "I am trying to work on my temper so that I will not become angry or raise my voice," I am sorry that I don't help you enough."
Even if you are not perfect, if you express your awareness of your shortcomings and your will to improve, and if you speak with humility, this will make your spouse love an appreciate you even more. If you are haughty your spouse will begin to detect your many faults, but if you are humble, your spouse is more likely to think you are perfect. Similarly, we can apply the idea of purity (which the child learns) to married life, since marriage must be based on absolute truth. When a person lies to his spouse, this will eventually be found out, and trust between husband and wife will be lost. This element of absolute trust is an indispensable Ingredient in any marriage. Mutual trust between spouses gives the comfortable feeling that they have nothing to worry about. But when even the first lie is told, that feeling disappears forever. For a married couple to live constantly in an uncomfortable atmosphere is very difficult and eventually destroys the marriage.
Our Sages say, "This is the punishment of the liar: even when he tells the truth he is not believed."5 Thus it is never worthwhile to tell a lie, because then nothing you say will ever again be believed. That is why just as the child needs to be taught purity, so must one learn purity and absolute truthfulness in his marriage.
1. Vayikra 6.2
This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network