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Haftarah: Yirmiyahu 7:21-8:3, 9:22-23

MARCH 30-31, 2012 8 NISAN 5772


The first service performed in the Bet Hamikdash every morning was the separation of the ashes (terumat hadeshen). The Kohen would scoop up a shovelful of the ashes that had accumulated on the altar from the various sacrificial parts that had been thoroughly burned the day and night before. He would place these ashes on the floor of the courtyard, on the eastern side of the ramp of the altar.

Which Kohen gets to do this misvah? It is decided by a lottery. But, it wasn't always that way. Originally any Kohen who wanted to do it would do it. However, if two or more wanted it, it would be given to the first Kohen who reached the top of the altar by running up the ramp. One time it happened that one Kohen pushed another Kohen off the ramp and the victim broke his arm. From then on they used the lottery.

Rabbi Avraham Pam zt"l says there is a profound lesson here. A person always has to weigh his actions to see if they are truly what Hashem wants. A person may think he is performing a misvah while in reality he is violating severe Torah prohibitions. Or he might be doing a misvah but along the way he is causing hurt to others, and disqualifies the misvah (see Mesilat Yesharim chapter 20).

The tradition in many communities was that after completing their own Pesah Seder, the people would come to the Rav's home to observe how he performed his Seder. When the people of Jerusalem came to the home of their new Rabbi, R' Shemuel Salant, they were surprised to find the house dark and the Seder long concluded. The returned home puzzled and disappointed. The next day one of the people came over to the Rabbi to ask what had happened. The Rabbi answered that on Pesah he has to deal with some of the most complex halachic questions of the year. If would lead a long Seder well into the night, how could he hope to have a clear mind the next day to be able to decide the complicated issues brought to him. Therefore, his responsibility to the community compelled him to curtail his own Seder so he could better serve those who would present to him these questions.

A person must always weigh and analyze his actions. Parashat Sav is usually read on Shabbat Hagadol. Pesah, more than any other period of the year, is a time when there are many such situations due to the great stress of preparing for the holiday, with its many stringencies. Extra care must be taken not to provoke argument and anger with well intended actions which in reality might not be the misvot they seem to be. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah

"The Kohen shall wear his linen tunic…and he shall remove the ash" (Vayikra 6:3)

The Kohen who did the service of separating the ashes from the altar would first change his clothing, and then remove the ashes outside the camp. This second part of the service seems to be a menial task, and as such, he was not supposed to do it with his regular garments. Yet it seems that it was the same Kohen who would take out the ashes, just that he had different clothing for this less glamorous task.

The lesson we can learn is that in the eyes of Hashem, any service, however menial it seems to be, is important and is given over to the same Kohen who does the regular sacrifices. In a king's palace, we will have a cook, waiters, busboys, cleaning help, etc. - each with a higher or lower level job. In the service of Hashem, any time we serve him, we are doing HIS WILL. Therefore, the same Kohen will do all aspects since they are all ways to serve Hashem. We should remember this whenever we do misvot which may not seem so glamorous! Shabbat Shalom.

Rabbi Shmuel Choueka


"The flesh of his feast thanksgiving peace-offering must be eaten on the day of its offering; he shall not leave any of it until morning." (Vayikra 7:15)

One who has survived a life-threatening experience brings a Korban Todah, Thanksgiving-offering, as an expression of his gratitude to the Almighty, Who is responsible for his survival. The Korban Todah is basically a Shelamim, Peace-offering - with two distinctions: the Todah is eaten only for one day and night, while the Shelamim is eaten for two days and one night; the Todah is accompanied by the Lachmei Todah, forty loaves of bread of which thirty are matzah and ten are hamess. Otherwise, these korbanot are very much alike. Horav Zev Weinberger, Shlita, suggests a rationale for including hamess/leavened breads, in this korban, unlike any other korban, and for explaining why the Todah must be eaten in one day.

The Korban Todah is a thanksgiving-offering in which one acknowledges Hashem's role in his continued existence. He understands that his presence here today is the result of a miraculous intervention. When a person acknowledges an overt miracle, his mind comes to the realization that the phenomenon to which we refer as teva, nature, is really a miracle. There are overt miracles and covert miracles. The term which we commonly apply in reference to a covert miracle is - nature. Yes, nature is a miracle. It is concealed under a cloak of nature, but a miracle no less. This is the lesson that one should derive as a result of his offering a Korban Todah.

The hamess bread encouraged this line of thinking. We think that when flour and water mix together, it is only natural for the dough to rise after a certain amount of time. This is inaccurate. The dough rises because Hashem has made it rise. It is an overt miracle. One whose cognitive abilities serve him well during his korban experience will recognize this significance and continue thinking, to the point that it finally dawns on him that all of nature is, in effect, a miracle.

This is why the Shtei HaLechem, Two Breads, brought in honor of Shabuot, the festival celebrating the Giving of the Torah, are also made of leavened dough. It is through Torah study that one's eyes open up, so that he is finally able to perceive the truths: Nature is miracle.

We experience nes, miracle, every day. In fact, we acknowledge this reality in our Amidah. In the Modim prayer, we say, V'al nisecha she'b'chol yom imanu, "And For Your miracles which are with us everyday." This refers to nes nistar, covert miracles, such that we are not even aware of them. Hazal state, Ein baal ha'nes maker b'niso, "The one who has sustained a miracle is (often) unaware of it." Our daily lives are filled with hidden miracles. One could have contracted a serious illness had he gone to a physician to have it diagnosed. Often, the illness just dissipates, and the individual is none the worse for it. What has happened? A miracle has taken place, and he has been cured. The greatness is that he never knew that he was sick or that he had been healed. He just went along his natural way, unaware that he had just been spared by Hashem. This is what should course through our minds when we recite modim. We could have had a car accident; we could have fallen ill; we could have been in the wrong place at the wrong time - but we were not, and we did not - because Hashem has spared us.

Daily miracles occur which we acknowledge and for which we pay gratitude to Hashem. We now understand the significance of she'b'chol yom, everyday, and why the Korban Todah must be consumed in one day. It is the one day - each day - everyday, that is to be underscored. It is not a one-time Korban Todah; it is a constant daily expression of gratitude. (Peninim on the Torah)


"What is left over from the flesh of the feast-offering shall be burned in fire on the third day." (Vayikra 7:17)

The Sefer HaChinuch considers the imperative to burn notar, left-over flesh from a Korban, as the Torah's allusion to the significance of having bitahon, trust in Hashem. The Torah disapproves of a person refraining from finishing his portion of the korban for fear that he might not have what to eat tomorrow. Such behavior shows a lack of trust in the Almighty. Hashem will provide him with food for the next day as well. He need not worry. The ba'al bitahon, one who trusts in Hashem, does not worry about tomorrow's portion. Furthermore, the individual should not concern himself by wasting time and effort searching for other means of support. One should turn only to Hashem, Who is the Source of all sustenance. This does not mean that one should not be mishtadel, endeavor, to provide for himself and his family. He should, however, not make this an obsession. Remembering that Hashem is the only One to Whom we can turn - and the only One Who can bring his hishtadlut to successful fruition - is perhaps the only tool to assure that his endeavors will bear fruit. How often do we go out of our way by begging, cajoling, even selling ourselves, figuratively, so that we can get the "in" on a deal in order to place ourselves in a better position for success? All of these avenues are wasteful; it is only to Hashem that we should turn and to no one else.

Horav Yitzchak Zilberstein, Shlita, underscores this idea with a powerful analogy. A benevolent king who had an intense love for his citizens would look for opportunities to shower them with his generosity. He was a sagacious ruler, creative in devising somewhat unconventional projects for them to earn his many gifts. His latest gambit was truly brilliant, but otherwise quite simple. A brook flowed in the palace garden. Its waters were clear, but quite deep. The king called his community together and showed them that at the bottom of the brook lay a large chest filled with diamonds and precious jewels. "Whoever succeeds in descending to the bottom of the brook and brings up the chest may keep its contents."

The entire town was buzzing with excitement. They knew their king. If he gave them the opportunity to retrieve the chest, then it certainly was feasible. They knew his penchant for the dramatic and uncommon. There was probably a simple solution to this challenge. Everybody made an attempt to salvage the valuable chest, but to no avail. The citizens were certain that somehow it could be done, because they knew that the king was a kind-hearted person who truly wanted to enhance their lives with his largesse. Thousands tried their luck, but none succeeded in their attempt. The king was disconcerted over the feeble attempts of his citizens. The project was just not moving forward in the manner in which he had anticipated.

One wise member of the community, a laid-back fellow, waited until everyone else had made his attempt. It bothered him that no one had succeeded. The king would never present an impossible challenge. He visited the brook, saw the chest at the bottom, and began to ponder the situation. He looked around the brook at the surrounding area for some clue, until finally he thought he had a way of unraveling the mystery of the submerged treasure chest.

He approached the king and asked, "My lord, is one of the conditions for retrieving the chest that the person becomes soaking wet, or is it possible to salvage the chest and still remain bone-dry?" When the king heard the question, he understood that the wise man had solved the mystery. He replied, "No, he does not have to get wet."

When the person heard this, he quickly obtained a ladder and climbed the tree whose branches overshadowed the brook, and, from in between the branches, he retrieved the chest! He had determined that the king was seeking ingenuity, someone who could figure out that the chest was not in the water but, rather, up in the tree directly above the water. What they were seeing was nothing more than a reflection of the real thing. The wise man knew to look up. He knew where the diamonds were really located.

The lesson to be derived from this analogy is clear: The answer to all of our questions is up Above, Hashem, the compassionate Father Who never forsakes His children. In order to catalyze this abundance one must look up, to the true location of the chest of diamonds. When Jews look up to Heaven and obligate their hearts to their Father in Heaven, they succeed in accessing Hashem's beneficence. (Peninim on the Torah)

* * * * *

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