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Rabbi A. Leib Scheinbaum
Hebrew Academy of Cleveland

Parshas Vayikra

And He (Hashem) called to Moshe and He spoke to him from the Ohel Moed. (1:1)

The Yalkut comments that actually Moshe had been given ten names, each expressing a different attribute. Yet, Hashem called him by one name--Moshe. The Almighty chose the name that was given to Moshe by Bisyah bas Pharaoh, which refers to her drawing him from the water: "ki min ha’mayim meshisihu," "for I have drawn him from the water." This became the name by which Klal Yisrael’s quintessential leader, the Almighty’s eved ne’eman--faithful servant, was to be called. Why? Was there no other name that described Moshe’s character, devotion, self-sacrifice, leadership ability, teaching skills, etc.? Also, the name "Moshe" does not really apply to Moshe; rather, it focuses more on Bisyah and her act of drawing Moshe from the water. Should not Moshe have a name that reflects his essence, rather than one that emphasizes the means of his rescue?

Horav Baruch Mordechai Ezrachi, Shlita, posits that the name "Moshe" does define Moshe Rabbeinu’s unique personality more than it describes Bisyah’s courageous act of saving him. While the miracle of Moshe’s rescue is significant, it pales in distinction to the name’s other implication. The name "Moshe" serves as a constant reminder that Moshe is alive only due to miraculous intervention. Moshe is able to be the leader of Klal Yisrael only because he was drawn from the water. Moshe will go throughout his life remembering, reflecting, realizing until his very last breath, that he could have been left in the basket--if not for Divine assistance.

Moshe was not like so many of us. He did not forget! All of his life, he remembered himself in that little basket, hanging on precariously to life. He would always be grateful to Hashem and His agent, Bisyah, for drawing him out of the water. Moshe’s entire essence was comprised of chesed, kindness. He should not have been alive. He lived only as a result of chesed. His name personified this emotion that accompanied him throughout his life. It shaped his perspective. He understood that if not for the grace of the Almighty, he would not be here. That is the principle upon which he based his life.

This is a compelling thought. Can each of us assert that we look at life in the same manner? How often are we reminded of our mortality only to forget very conveniently that we owe an overwhelming debt of gratitude to the Almighty just for being here? That is why Moshe was unique. Is it any wonder that the name "Moshe" has such eminence associated with it?

Speak unto the Bnei Yisrael and say to them, A man from you who will bring close an offering to Hashem. (1:2)

Rashi explains the Torah’s emphasis upon the word "adam", man, as an allusion to Adam Ha’Rishon. His korban did not have a tinge of impropriety connected to it, since everything belonged to him. So, too, may we not offer any korbanos from that which is not rightfully ours. We may question the Torah’s choice of word--adam--as the point of reference for teaching us that we may not use that which is stolen. Throughout the Torah, we derive the prohibition from using that which is gezel, stolen, from the word "la'chem," yours. That which we use for a mitzvah must belong to us.

Horav Ze’ev Weinberger, Shlita, suggests that herein is implied a significant lesson with regard to the definition of sin. When an individual employs his G-d-given attributes and uses them for the purpose of offending Hashem by committing a transgression, he is stealing. He is stealing that which Hashem gave him for the purpose of performing mitzvos and good deeds, instead using it for sin. Is there a more blatant form of theft from the Almighty?

He cites the Chiddushei Ha’Rim, who notes that the pasuk which addresses the concept of viddui, confession, as the integral component in teshuvah is written in Bamidbar 5:7, "And they shall confess the sin which they did," in regard to the aveirah, sin, of stealing. He explains that when one confesses his sin, he must realize that he has stolen from Hashem. He has used Hashem’s gift and sinned. With this in mind, he explains Chazal’s dictum regarding the dor ha’mabul, generation which perished during the Deluge. They say the fate of this generation was sealed as a result of gezel, thievery. Is this true? The people certainly did more than steal. Their perverse behavior, their immoral activities and their wanton acts of violence, were definitely sins that represented greater evil. Why was stealing considered their ultimate act of rebellion, the sin for which they could effect no forgiveness? He explains that all of the sins committed by that generation originated in stealing. One who sins is stealing from Hashem.

An individual who brings a korban from gezel, who has the audacity to offer a sacrifice from stolen merchandise, demonstrates his lack of understanding regarding the aveirah of theft. He has not risen above the level of an animal. Only he who perceives the significance of mitzvos, who understands and observes Jewish law, is permitted to partake of meat. Only he is on a higher plane than the common animal. One who does not understand the gravity of stealing has no right to offer a korban from an animal. Adam Ha’Rishon fully understood his purpose on this world. He was aware of his obligation. He accepted his responsibility. He had earned the right to bring a korban.

We derive an important lesson from here. Everyone is blessed with specific abilities and attributes. In one way or another, we are all beneficiaries of Hashem’s gifts. We are to make use of these gifts for the purpose that Hashem has outlined for us. When we squander our talents for the wrong goals or waste them on foolishness, we are guilty of theft--from the Almighty. Veritably, everyone will agree with this. The only point of contention is what constitutes the correct goals and the definition of foolishness.

Horav Avigdor Halevi Nebentzhal, Shlita, offers three reasons as to why a korban which is brought from gezel is shunned by Hashem. First, we find a number of instances in which a positive mitzvah literally pushes aside a negative commandment, where one mitzvah transcends another. In these cases, however, the mitzvos between man and Hashem are "moved around." Hashem can do as He pleases. When he distinguishes one mitzvah over another, He affects no one other than Himself. Shatnez, Shabbos, Yom Kippur, to mention a few, are all overridden under certain conditions--in the Bais Hamikdash. As mentioned above, no one other than Hashem is affected. Theft hurts another Jew. Hashem does not permit His mitzvos to be observed if it means another Jew will suffer. We learn from here the importance of considering others during our personal quest for spiritual advancement. It is important to grow spiritually, but never at the expense of another Jew.

A second reason which Horav Nebentzahl mentions is people’s attitude towards stealing. For some reason, people "seem" to find heteirim, dispensations, to permit certain types of stealing. Of course, we never refer to it as theft. We always use a more dignified word to describe what really is nothing more than common theft. Many people to whom the thought of stealing is absolutely repulsive are not adverse to accessing funds for themselves under questionable circumstances. In order to discourage indifference to what is considered a grave sin, Hashem emphasized that He will not accept any offering that was stolen.

The third reason is a practical one. The word korban is derived from "karov," "to be close." The purpose of korbanos is to bring a person closer to Hashem. Hashem is the source of all giving. He gives us everything and takes nothing. So, too, we bring ourselves closer to Him via the medium of giving. We distance ourselves when we take. Every time we give and share with others, we are G-d-like and, consequently, become nearer to Him. Taking, regardless of the circumstances, distances one from Hashem. A korban from gezel does not fulfill the purpose of a korban. In fact, it represents its antithesis. It distances one from Hashem rather than bringing him closer. A person whose nature has become accustomed to taking might even come to believe that is the way it is supposed to be.

Horav Nebentzahl notes that the only place in the entire Tanach in which we find written that Hashem "smelled the pleasant aroma," "reiach nichoach," of a korban, is in reference to the korban offered by Noach after he was saved from the Flood. Why should this be the only place that receives this distinction? Were there no other tzaddikim whose korbanos were acceptable? He responds that this was the only korban that was entirely pure of any form of "taking." The world’s inhabitants had drowned. Noach owned everything. Furthermore, Noach had just spent an entire year "giving," performing kindness in the Ark, to all the animals. His korban was the paragon of "giving" and consequently, rendered a "pleasant fragrance."

A soul that will offer a meal offering to Hashem. (2:1)

Rashi comments that the word "nefesh," soul, is not mentioned in regard to any Korbanos Nedavah, free-willed offerings, except for a Korban Minchah, meal offering. This is because usually the one who brings a meal offering is a poor man. Hashem says that He considers the poor man’s offering as if he had offered his soul as a korban. Simply put, this is because the poor man, regardless of the minimal value of his offering, contributed relatively more than his wealthy counterpart. Consequently, his korban represents a more significant sacrifice.

Horav Eliyahu Meir Bloch, zl, supplements this idea.. When the wealthy man brings his korban, he feels that his large gift earns him total penance. The poor man, however, knows that he gives very little and that his korban pales in quantity, compared to that of the rich man. He feels that he has not given enough to Hashem. He, therefore, offers his nefesh together with his korban as a way of entreating Hashem to accept the little that he offers. There is a sense of humility that accompanies the poor man’s korban. He feels that he does not give what he should. The emotion and the attitude that goes hand in hand with the korban transforms it into a supplication to Hashem. One should feel that he never fully gives Hashem what he should--only what he can.

When a ruler sins...unintentionally, and becomes guilty. (4:22)

Rashi notes that the pasuk which addresses the sin committed by the Nasi/leader of the people begins with the word "asher," whereas the previous pesukim began with the word "im," if. He cites the Sifra that says that the word "asher" alludes to "ashrei," fortunate. This implies that a generation whose leadership is concerned and seeks atonement -- even for their unknown sins -- is truly fortunate. The Noam Elimelech gives insight into the "good fortune" of the generation whose leader atones for the sins. A distance, an insurmountable breach, exists between the tzaddik, the righteous, pious man, and the common Jew who from time to time, falls prey to sin. How is the tzaddik to help his lost brother? How is he to reach out to him and bring him back? It may be compared to one who has fallen into a pit filled with dung and filth. As he sinks deeper and deeper into the quagmire that is slowly swallowing him up, he cries out for help, pleading for his life. In order to pull him out and save him, the rescuer must himself become slightly dirty. He must bend over into the pit and reach out to help his friend in need.

It is the same with regard to helping a fellow Jew who is drowning in sin. The tzaddik has to reach in and, at times, get himself dirty. Hashem facilitates the tzaddik by having him err unintentionally, by availing him a sin that is insignificant by common standards. Suddenly the tzaddik is no longer on an untouchable pedestal. He has gotten his feet slightly dirty in the pit. Now, however, he is in the proximity of the Jew who has sunken into the pit. He can now reach out and help. Since the common Jew is not able to attain the tzaddik’s spiritual distinction, it is up to the tzaddik to "bend down" and lift up his fellow man.

We find tzaddikim who are willing to relinquish their portion in Olam Habah in order to save another Jew from spiritual and even material loss. There is a story told about Rav Baruch M’Meziboz, who was sitting at a festive meal surrounded by his chassidim, when unexpectedly the door opened and a famous wealthy member of the community entered, seeking the Rebbe’s advice. Instead of greeting the guest with the usual respect accorded to distinguished visitors, the Rebbe disparaged the man mercilessly, denigrating and humiliating him in front of the assemblage. He ended his tirade by having the man thrown out of the house. Needless to say, all those who witnessed this occurrence were dumbfounded in disbelief at the Rebbe’s actions. One of those assembled gathered up enough courage to ask the Rebbe for an explanation. After all, do Chazal not say that if one publicly embarrasses another Jew, he loses his portion in Olam Habah? The Rebbe responded that when the wealthy man entered his home, he saw a cloud of severe punishment hovering over him. To spare him the pain and anguish that he would suffer, the Rebbe humiliated him unsparingly, hoping to eliminate this terrible gzar din, decree. He was willing to surrender his own portion in Olam Habah in order to help another Jew. It is truly tragic when we realize how frequently people humiliate someone for much less significant cause.


1. May a chayah, wild beast, be offered for a korban?
2. May two partners offer a korban together?
3. May one bring a treifa, which will not live twelve months, as a korban?
4. If a person has made a vow to bring a Korban Olah and now reneges on his word, what does Bais Din do?
5. In what way is a Minchas Solas different from other menachos?
6. Where in the Azarah must the Kemitzah be made?
7. Why is the Korban Shelamim given this name?


1. No, it must be brought from bakar or tzon, cattle or sheep.
2. Yes
3. No
4. Bais Din forces him to keep his word.
5. Concerning the other menachos, the Kemitzah is made after the baking.
6. Anywhere in the Azarah.
7. A. It brings shalom, peace, in the world.
B. It brings peace to all involved in its offering, since everyone--the Kohen, owner and the Mizbayach--receive a portion of its flesh.


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