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Rabbi A. Leib Scheinbaum
Hebrew Academy of Cleveland


Command Aharon… this is the law of the Olah, Elevation-offering. (6:2)

Rashi cites Chazal who explain that the more emphatic term tzav, command, implies that the Torah is urging the Kohanim to be especially zealous in performing the Olah service. It also implies that this enjoinment must be repeated constantly to future generations. Rabbi Shimon adds that this exhortation is especially relevant to mitzvos that involve a financial loss, such as the Korban Olah. Simply, this is because the Olah is completely burned so that no part of the animal goes to the Kohanim. The commentators offer various other reasons for the monetary loss incurred in a Korban Olah. Veritably, the Olas Hatamid, which is the korban in question here, was a korban tzibbur, communal-offering. Thus, it was purchased from communal funds. Since this is the case, what great monetary loss was involved? Each Jew contributed a few coins to the treasury. Does this represent such a great financial loss that it must be emphasized and repeated to future generations?

Horav Moshe Shapiro, Shlita, notes that Hashem has designed human nature so that a person finds it difficult to part with his money. Chazal tell us that righteous individuals care as much about their material possessions as they do about their bodies. We find Yaakov Avinu risking his life to return for a few small jars. Why is this? What allure is there to money that it is held in such high esteem? He explains that whatever money one has amassed comes at the expense of time expended, and nothing is as valuable as time. In fact, those who spend their money freely, do not value the time they put into earning it. This does not mean that one should not spend money, or, even worse, that one should refrain from giving tzedakah, charity. Indeed, one may spend whatever his heart desires, as long as it is well thought out and a necessary expenditure. For example, if a person spends a huge sum of money for a home, it should be a home that he feels that he needs, so that whatever he spends is worth the investment. The primary consideration is that one should value his money, because he values the time he has expended earning it.

Rav Moshe cites Horav Sholom Schwadron, zl, who related an incident he had heard from the Ponevezer Rav, zl. When the Ponevezer Rav, zl, studied in Kollel Kodoshim in Radin under the leadership of the Chafetz Chaim, zl, his chavrusa, study partner, was Horav Elchanan Wasserman, zl. One day, they wanted to look up a sefer which the Chafetz Chaim cited in his Shaarei Tzion. They went to the Chafetz Chaim, who, after greeting them and listening to their request, replied that he did not possess the sefer in question. They were taken aback to hear this, for, after all, the Chafetz Chaim had cited the sefer. The Chafetz Chaim explained that when he needed the sefer, he borrowed it and had since returned it. When he finished speaking, the Chafetz Chaim put his head against his bookcase and groaned. Observing this action, Rav Elchanan, said, "Rebbe is probably upset that he does not possess the sefer." "No," replied the Chafetz Chaim. "it is just that when I look at my bookcase filled with sefarim, I wonder if there is any sefer that I really did not need. This sefer costs money, which represents time, and, if so, I have wasted valuable time. This is why I groaned," continued the Chafetz Chaim.

This is how one should view his possessions. To waste money is to waste time, and time has the greatest value.

This is the law of the feast Peace-offering… if he shall offer it for a Thanksgiving offering. (7:11,12)

Someone who has survived a life-threatening situation brings a Korban Todah, Thanksgiving-offering, to express his gratitude to Hashem. David Hamelech says in Tehillim 50:23, "He who offers confession, honors Me." Every other korban is brought for a sin that the individual has committed. He brings the Korban Todah out of a sense of appreciation, a feeling of gratitude for the Almighty's rendering of his good fortune. The Korban Todah honors - and pays tribute to - Hashem. This is the essence of hakoras hatov, appreciation: recognizing the good fortune that one has received from Hashem. One perceives that his good fortune was not simply "good luck," but rather, he believes that Hashem has protected him during his period of crisis.

Chazal tell us that four categories of people who have survived a near disaster are required to bring a Korban Todah: These include one who has survived: a desert or any other potentially hazardous journey; a dangerous imprisonment; a serious illness; a sea voyage. In each of these circumstances, Hashem has taken the person out of the abyss of danger and protected him. How does he repay Hashem? He brings a korban honoring the Almighty for his beneficence.

In the Talmud Sanhedrin 94a, Chazal say that originally Hashem had planned to designate Chizkiyahu Hamelech to be the Moshiach, until the Middas HaDin, Attribute of Strict Justice, charged that Chizkiyahu had never sung Shirah, a song of praise, to Hashem. Incredible! No one prior to Chizkiyahu achieved such distinction - not even David Hamelech! Chizkiyahu had it all. He could have ascended to the zenith of spiritual leadership - to become Moshiach Tzidkeinu, to put an end to all our suffering, to prevent millions of Jews throughout the millennia from suffering, deprivation and death. But, as Horav Baruch Mordechai Ezrachi, Shlita, notes, he had one failing: he did not offer his gratitude to the Almighty for the many miracles that had sustained him.

The middah of hakoras hatov is of critical importance. It must be an intrinsic component of an individual's personality. He must recognize every bit of good that he receives, acknowledge its source and offer his gratitude. One who does not do this, regrettably, does not perceive Hashem in every aspect of his life. Moreover, one who recognizes Hashem's guiding hand in his life can never be bitter. Everything emanates from Hashem. He gives you life and health - and if He does not - at least you know the decree is from Him. It is His decision.

Rav Ezrachi cites Rashi's commentary in Devarim 32:6. The pasuk reads: "Is it to Hashem that you do this, O vile and unwise people?" Moshe Rabbeinuquestions how Klal Yisrael could have been so vile and unwise as to sin against Hashem, Who did everything for them. How could they be such ingrates? They were vile in their lack of gratitude and unwise in not considering the future, the dire consequences of rebelling against Hashem. Sin results from one of two causes: a lack of acknowledgment of the past, or a lack of realization of the consequences in the future. One who appreciates Hashem's favor would never repudiate the Almighty. Likewise, one who thinks about the outcome of his actions would never sin against Hashem. It all boils down to hakoras hatov, recognizing, acknowledging, appreciating everything that Hashem does for us.

There is no doubt that Chizkiyahu thanked Hashem for each and every miracle of which he was the beneficiary. He did not, however, spring forth spontaneously with a song of praise. Hakoras hatov is a constant awareness of Hashem's tov, goodness and favor, which should result in an immediate and instinctive unrestrained reaction of praise. The Moshichiyus that would have been Chizkiyahu's was never actualized because his reaction was delayed. Our exile continues as a dire consequence. The greater one's spiritual stature, the more that is expected of him. The Middas HaDin prevailed against a king who had achieved so much distinction.

There were gedolei Yisrael whose lives consisted of perennial celebrations of Hashem's beneficence. Horav Simcha Wasserman, zl, exemplified this ideal. He had a special appreciation for the Gaon m'Vilna's commentary to the pasuk in Mishlei 15:15, "All the days of the poor are bad, (while) those of good heart (find life) a constant party." The Gaon explains that this is consistent with Chazal's axiom in Pirkei Avos, "Who is rich? He who is satisfied with his lot." The poor man in Mishlei is a reference to one who is greedy, who is never satisfied with what he has. All of the wealth and pleasures in the world are not sufficient for fulfilling his perceived needs. Thus, throughout his life, he suffers from discontent. Someone who is content with his lot, who finds satisfaction with everything Hashem bestows on him, is always in a state of joy. He is in a constant state of euphoria, achieving on a regular basis what the malcontent feels only when his insatiable avarice is temporarily satisfied.

Rav Simcha was a person who was always in a state of celebration of life. He had no ambition for wealth and luxury, but he was always fulfilled. He devoted himself to his mission of Torah dissemination, caring about nothing else. He and his rebbetzin were unfortunately not blessed with children of their own. His rebbetzin's attitude summed up his life's endeavor: "If Hashem did not give us children, it is for the sake of what you are doing. You must continue with what you are doing until you are able to influence people in the way you want to influence them, until you are able to educate them in the way you want to educate them. And you should continue your work until many yaldei Yisrael, Jewish children, are our children."

He never considered himself as a "giver." Instead, he always recognized each and every person's gift to him. If someone had given time or effort, he always gratefully acknowledged that fact. In fact, his last two words to a close talmid who conveyed his best wishes for a speedy recovery were, Ah dank, a groisen dank, "Thank you, thank you so much." This was the essence of his life.

In a classic narrative about hakoras hatov under the most grueling and questionable situations, I cite a famous incident that occurred concerning the Bluzhever Rebbe, zl, in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp towards the end of World War II. In preparation for Chanukah, the female inmates smuggled shoe-dye that could serve as fuel out of the camp factory. They pulled threads out of sweaters and spun them into wicks. On the first night of Chanukah, the Rebbe led a secret Minyan for Maariv. Scores of Jews, risking their lives, joined together for the lighting of the Menorah. The Rebbe recited the three berachos, blessings, and lit the Menorah.

Included in the crowd was a non-believing Jew, a Polish Bundist, who had long ago become alienated from belief in a Torah way of life. He turned to the Rebbe and asked, "Rabbi Spira, how can you utter the words of the Shehechiyanu blessing, saying, 'Blessed are You… for having kept us alive, sustained us, and brought us to this season?' How can you pay gratitude for having been kept alive for this time of death, torture and hunger? Is this life? Are you not making a mockery of our suffering?"

The Rebbe looked deep into the disenchanted Jew's eyes and replied lovingly, "I, too, was wondering how I could joyfully say these words, but then I looked around at the assembled Jews. Despite the terrible suffering, they insist on remaining active Jews, participating in mitzvos even at the risk of losing their lives. Have you ever in your life witnessed such courage and faith? For that alone, to be able to witness such incredible people, such amazing conviction, we thank the Creator. No! We Jews do not give up! We are proud and grateful to have lived to see thousands of Jews who have not given up, who will never give up, who are living proof that we will one day rebuild anew."

To be able to recognize and acknowledge the good when others see only the negative is hakoras hatov at its zenith.

When one brings his feast Peace-offering to Hashem, he shall deliver his offering to Hashem from his feast Peace-offering. (7:29)

This pasuk seems to be redundant. If one brings a feast Peace-offering, obviously he will deliver his offering from his feast Peace-offering. After all, what else should he bring? There is one offering and one "bringing." Furthermore, what is the meaning of the phrase, "He shall deliver his offering to Hashem from his feast Peace-offering"? It should have said simply, "He brings his offering to Hashem." What is the meaning of "from" his Peace-offering? Does he not bring the Peace-offering all at once?

The Sifsei Kohen explains that one who brings a Peace-offering to Hashem should not assume that he has fulfilled his entire obligation to pay gratitude to Hashem. No! It his only "from" his Peace-offering. It is only part of his obligation. Indeed, one who has been spared from a crisis should reflect every day on his good fortune. It is not a one-time deal; it is a commitment for life. This is emphasized by David Hamelech in Tehillim 116:12, "How can I repay Hashem for all His kindness to me?" There is no end to what we owe Hashem. Every moment that we are alive we owe Him again and again.

How do we repay Hashem now that we have no Bais Hamikdash and no opportunity to offer korbanos of thanksgiving? The Kav HaYashar posits that it is incumbent upon any person who has been saved from a crisis either to correct something in his life or to initiate a good deed or endeavor that will be noticeable, so that people will be aware that he is expressing his gratitude to Hashem in place of a korban.

Moshe brought Aharon and his sons forward and he immersed them… He placed the Tunic upon him… he dressed him in the Robe… (8:6,7)

If we peruse the Chumash, we note that six pesukim are devoted to Moshe Rabbienu dressing and preparing Aharon and his sons for their investure into the Kehunah. There is no question that we attribute sanctity and meaning to the manner in which the Kohanim were dressed and prepared. Was it necessary, however, for Moshe, the leader of Klal Yisrael, to perform this function? It seems that such an elementary endeavor as dressing the Kohanim could have been performed by someone other than the most distinguished member of Klal Yisrael. Although it might have been important for Moshe to do the anointing of the Mishkan and its vessels, why "trouble" him to dress the Kohanim?

Chazal teach us that the vestments worn by the Kohanim have great significance. In fact, without the Bigdei Kehunah, Priestly vestments, they are considered like zarim, regular Jews. One would assume that the vestments must have had a significant element of kedushah, holiness, to them. Horav Baruch Mordechai Ezrachi, Shlita, posits that while this was certainly true, there was an added factor to this kedushah - the manner in which they were dressed. When one has been dressed by Moshe Rabbeinu, it becomes an entire new experience.

We seem to ignore this part of our daily function. We arise, get dressed and continue on with the day. There is a procedure for getting dressed, which shoe to put on first, when to tie the shoelaces; don the right shoe, don the left shoe, tie the left shoe, and then tie the right shoelace. All this is spelled out in the Shulchan Aruch - for a reason: The way we get dressed makes a difference. Likewise, the individual who dresses the Kohanim creates a difference. When Aharon or his sons prepared to perform the avodah, service, in the Sanctuary, it made a difference that they were dressed by Moshe, rather than by someone else. They would realize that not only were they wearing the holy vestments, but, they were actually being dressed by Moshe Rabbeinu!

This dressing represented a form of chinuch, dedication, for the Kohanim, similar to the anointing of the Mishkan and its vessels prior to their being used. This was Moshe's invocation of the Kohanim.

We can take this idea a bit further. While the content of our children's education, and the manner of instruction, are certainly of primary significance, we must also recognize the extreme importance of the individual who imparts the lesson: the rebbe. There are many ways to define a rebbe: his character, ability and mission, Since, however, Moshe Rabbeinu was the first rebbe, so to speak, since he was the one who first taught Torah to Klal Yisrael, we should use him as the paradigm of the quintessential educator. Moshe is known by the title of Rabbeinu, our teacher, incorporating in this title his role and position as leader of Klal Yisrael and also alluding to the mission of those who would follow after him. Horav S.R. Hirsch, zl, notes that the Hebrew language employs a number of terms which describe the art of education. They are: lameid, learning by practice and habituation; shanein, the terse, precise and incisive manner in which a teacher impresses upon his pupils the ideas he wants them to acquire; lekach, focusing on the students' taking, retention and grasping of the subject matter, understanding that a student can only grasp what the teacher himself has been able to "take" for himself; horeh, the root of the words moreh and Torah, which defines the work of teaching as a spiritual act, indicating that the role of the teacher is to be one who enriches the spiritual organism of each student with seeds that will develop and yield fruit as the student matures; last, rabbah, from which we yield the term rebbe or rabbi, from the root to increase or to multiply.

With regard to learning, this last term might imply that the teacher is one who is more or greater than his students. In Torah education, however, it is a term which focuses on the teacher's mission: to increase or multiply the student's knowledge. Rav Hirsch goes one step further. He feels that a rebbe must seek to reproduce himself in his students, to mold the character and spirit of the students in his own image. Obviously, this implies that a rebbe who takes his work seriously makes it his first objective to work ceaselessly upon his own mind and his own character. He must mold himself to become the sort of person - both intellectually and spiritually - whose reproduction would be desirable in order to add to human well-being. Thus, the true "rebbe" works to improve himself, because he sees himself as a conduit to transmit the Torah in the same manner as Moshe Rabbeinu.

What was Moshe's manner of teaching? Chazal teach us in Pirkei Avos: Moshe kibeil Torah m'Sinai u'mesarah l'Yehoshuah, "Moshe received the Torah from Har Sinai and transmitted it to Yehoshua." He did not inject himself into the Torah. He gave it over pristine, pure and unadulterated, in the same manner that he received it. He made sure that he maintained himself as the proper keili, vessel, conduit, for this transmission. That is why he was the humblest man on the earth. He saw himself as the transmitter, the medium, the conduit between Hashem and Klal Yisrael. He maintained his character, because if the vessel is soiled, the water inside it will likewise become tainted.

The devoted mechanech, educator, who is both morally and intellectually suited for his calling, understands that his profession, more than any other, is directly involved in shaping and molding the spiritual and moral future of Klal Yisrael. His partnership with the student's parents contributes to his student's moral and spiritual success in life. Wherever his student will one day present himself worthily in theory and practice, it will be the "rebbe's" character and work that is rabbah, "reproduced" in his student. Thus, he will thus continue to grow through his students long after he himself has been removed from the picture - just like our quintessential rebbe, Moshe Rabbeinu.

Va'ani Tefillah

Karasa es shemo Yisrael v'Yershurun - You named him Yisrael and Yeshurun.

Focusing in on the two names Hashem gave to Yaakov Avinu, we refer first to Bereishis 32:29, where Yaakov is given the name Yisrael because of his ability to overcome all obstacles and because he had been successful in disseminating Hashem's Name throughout the world. We do not, however, find the name Yeshurun given directly to Yaakov, only to Klal Yisrael, his progeny who are known by his name, Yisrael.

Horav Shimon Schwab, zl, gives a noteworthy explanation for this name which also defines Klal "Yisrael's" mission in this world. In the Talmud Megillah 18a, Chazal interpret the pasuk in Bereishis 33:20, "He called him 'Keil,' the G-d of Yisrael," that Hashem called Yaakov Avinu "Keil." What does this mean? How could Yaakov be referred to as G-d - by Hashem, no less? He explains that the word Yeshurun is derived from yashar, which means straight, correct, or proper. The idea is that Yisrael is to follow the straight and correct path, doing the proper thing in the eyes of Hashem. The problem is that the correct grammatical term that should have been used is yashran. The word "Yeshurun" is the plural form, which connotes the idea of "having been made straight." This would suggest that Yaakov/Yisrael is Hashem's representative in this world, similar to the function played by an ambassador representing the king or the president of a country. He has a "direct" connection to his leader. Likewise, Hashem says to Yaakov, "You are My Yeshurun, My ambassador, who is directly connected to Me. I, therefore, call you 'Keil,' because you represent Me in the world." Yaakov and his progeny are obligated to convey Hashem's message to the world.

l'zechar nishmas
R' Yehuda Leib ben Chaim Mordechai z'l
Dr. & Mrs. Daniel Norowitz

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