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PUT NO TRUST IN YOUR OWN SELFAnd the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, Command Aaron and his sons, saying, This is the law of the burnt offering …." [Vayikra 6:2]
Rashi, quoting the Toras Cohanim, comments on the possuk's use of the strong term "command" instead of the usual milder term "tell." Hashem wanted to encourage and impel Aharon and all subsequent generations regarding the Korban Olah. Other sacrifices contain two elements, those parts which are burnt on the mizbeach (altar) and those parts of the animal which are eaten. The Olah, is unique. It is totally burnt on the mizbeach. Neither the owner, nor the Cohanim get any benefit from the meat of this offering. Superficially it seems like a loss of money. As Rebbi Shimeon said, "regarding loss of money, everyone needs encouragement."
Rav Eliyahu Lopian (Lev Eliyahu) questions this. The possuk is not talking to ordinary people. It is directed toward Aharon the Cohen and his descendants, pious individuals who dedicated their lives to the Holy Temple. How can the Torah even contemplate that they had to be especially encouraged to offer up the sacrificial offerings just because they went totally into the fire.
The answer is that the Torah is absolute truth. The Torah was written with everyone in mind. From small to great, all the mitzvos and prohibitions, in all of their details, are universally applicable. Everyone has the free-will to try and become a tzaddik like Moshe Rabbeinu, or a rosha like Yeravam ben Navat.
Hakadosh Baruch Hu told us, "I created the yetzer hora, and I created the Torah as its antidote (Bava Basra 17a, Kiddushin 30b). The greater a person is, the greater is his yetzer hora. A person has a constant battle, his entire life force his inclinations toward the good or the opposite. It is a never-ending battle.
Our Sages (Talmud Yerushalmi Shabbos 1:3) relate that a certain old pious man, who was very old, was wont to repeat Hillel's injunction (Avos 2: 5) with a slight change, "Trust not in yourself until old age", instead of, "until the day of your death". He was very pious and old and now felt he no longer had any link with worldly matters. Heaven was angered by this amendment and Satan was sent to appear before him in the guise of a woman of unheard of beauty.
When he raised his eyes and saw her he began to utter words which were completely out of character for a person of his stature. But he immediately regretted it and was so greatly distressed that his life was endangered. Being in fact a very saintly person, Heaven had mercy upon him, and ordered the spirit to cease and revealed to him that it had been sent especially from heaven to teach him never again to repeat, "Trust not in yourself until old age", but, "until the day of death".
Until the day of death no man can at all be sure of himself, but must invoke heavenly mercy that the Holy One should help him not to stumble. Our rabbis indeed explain the verse, "The wicked one (referring to the yetzer hora) watches the righteous, and seeks to slay him" (Tehillim 37:32). The evil impulse does not depart from any man and does not despair of tripping even the most righteous, but watches for the suitable opportunity and time to seize him and cause him to stumble. His victory is almost certain, for he is a hard opponent, were it not that, "the Lord will not abandon him to his power", i.e., were the Holy One not to help him, no man would be able to prevail (Kiddushin 30b).
Even on the day of death, when man lies on his death bed and knows that in a short while he will leave everything here and go to give judgment and account before the Supreme King of Kings the Holy One, even then he needs much mercy and must beseech the help of God. Rav Lopian writes, "Let me relate what happened in a certain town to a respected individual. He possessed many virtues, but, concerning lust for wealth, he was so steeped in greed that all his respectability would evaporate. An important aspect of vices is that unless one toils to uproot them they accompany one to the grave.
"This particular person fell sick and was about to die. His friends came to bid him farewell. He was intelligent and possessed many virtues, except where money was concerned. Those standing beside his death bed noticed him speaking softly and understood that he wanted them to listen. They paid attention and heard him say: 'I want to tell you something which will leach you sound counsel. See! I feel that my end is near and in a little while I shall be gone. Nevertheless if someone were now to give me money, I feel that I would be unable to restrain my hand but would take the money and put it under my pillow. To such a degree does the lust for money still dominate me. Listen to my words and learn from them musar.' Within fifteen minutes his soul departed and he went to his eternal world."
Rabbi Eliezer Parkoff
Yeshiva Gedolah Medrash Chaim
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