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Peninim on the Torah

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Rabbi A. Leib Scheinbaum
Hebrew Academy of Cleveland


The Kohen from among his sons who is anointed in his place shall perform it; it is an eternal decree. (6:15)

There are two Korbanos Minchah, Meal offerings, that can be brought by a Kohen. One is offered the first time a Kohen performs the avodah, service, in the Bais HaMikdash. This is sort of an initiation korban for him. This korban applies equally to the Kohen Gadol, High Priest, the first time that he assumes his new office. The other Korban Minchah is offered every day by the Kohen Gadol. The Kohen Gadol continues to bring the exact same korban which he brought on his first day on "the job" - every single day during the duration of his tenure as Kohen Gadol. The korban he brings on the first day is called Minchas Chinuch, Induction Meal-offering, while the one which he brings every subsequent day is called Minchas Chavittin, a Pan Meal-offering. It is so named after the chavittim, pan, in which it is baked.

Horav Moshe Feinstein, zl, observes a noteworthy lesson to be derived from here. The Kohen Gadol continues to bring the same identical korban each successive day as the one he had offered originally during his induction as Kohen Gadol. This is because, although Hashem has granted him a lofty and exclusive status, he needs to function with humility. The Kohen Gadol should consider his position as a gift from Hashem, which is renewed every single day. True, Hashem gave this status to the Kohen Gadol and his descendants, but it becomes theirs only if they deserve it. The Kohen Gadol can be deposed by the Bais Din, or Hashem may cause him to be demoted as a result of a physical blemish, contamination with a ritually unclean object, or even death. The Kohen Gadol should not take his position for granted.

Neither should we. Every blessing which we receive from Hashem, every appointment which we are fortunate to receive, is a gift which we must continually earn. As recipients of Hashem's beneficence, we must contemplate why we have received it and what we must, in turn, do in order to continue receiving this good fortune. How quickly we forget our Benefactor. We pray for something that we need: a good position; livelihood; a child; the right spouse; success in Torah study, etc. As soon as we experience the blessing, we seem to find it difficult to express our appreciation continually. If this is true concerning a mortal benefactor, who is nothing more than a shaliach Hashem, the Almighty's agent, how much more so do we owe the Supreme Benefactor. The Kohen Gadol brought a sacrifice every single day. He started his day's duties by acknowledging and appreciating Hashem. So should we.

This is the law of the sin-offering; in the place where the Olah (elevation/Burnt-offering) is slaughtered, shall the sin-offering be slaughtered. (6:17)

The Torah details the various laws applicable to the korbanos, ritual offerings. One intriguing halachah that demands elucidation is that of the Korban Chatas, Sin-offering, which was slaughtered in the same place in the Chatzeir, Courtyard, of the Mishkan, as that used for the Korban Olah, Burnt-offering. The Olah was slaughtered b'tzafon, to the north, of the Mizbayach, Altar. This requisite generates two questions: First, why is the primary halachah that of the Olah being slaughtered in the north, with the "follow-up" being the Chatas? This implies that the need to have the Olah slaughtered in the north is of greater significance to the Olah than to the Chatas. Second, why does the Chatas merely "follow" the Olah? They are two distinct korbanos, with apparently no connection to one another. As such, why is the Olah pre-eminent, while the Chatas "follows" it?

The Shem MiShmuel quotes his father, the Avnei Nezer, who makes a profound observation concerning the Korban Olah. An Olah is brought to atone for sinful thoughts which did not conclude with any action. The Olah was slaughtered in the north. The Hebrew word for north is tzafon, which has the same root as the word matzpun, which means conscience or intellect. The Olah is, thus, slaughtered in the north, because the north represents man's intellect, the place where the sin requiring the Olah had occurred: the intellect/mind/conscience.

While this addresses why the Korban Olah was brought in the north, it creates a new difficulty. Since the Olah was brought to atone for sins emanating from the intellect or "intellectual sins," those which involved no physical action - only evil thoughts - it was suited for the north. This was, so to speak, the intellectual corner of the Courtyard. If so, why was the Chatas brought in the same place? The Sin-offering was a korban brought to atone for an accidental sin - a sin which was carried out - without deliberation. Had any of these sins been performed with deliberation, they would have incurred a punishment of kares, Heavenly excision. The Chatas represents sinful behavior without intellect, [a sinful act without sinful aforethought]. The mind was not engaged when the body carried out the sinful act, diametrically contrasting the Olah, which is a sinful thought without an act. Why, then, should they be so closely intertwined to the point that both offerings have to be slaughtered in the same place? Furthermore, it seems as if the Chatas derives its laws from those of the Olah.

The Shem MiShmuel feels that we must first delve into the nature of inadvertent sin, the precipitator of the Korban Chatas. Why does one sin inadvertently? On a simple level, one either forgets that it is Shabbos and acts the way he would during the week - precipitating a number of transgressions; or, he is aware that it is Shabbos, but has forgotten that a particular activity is prohibited on Shabbos. In either event, he acted without malice and aforethought. Indeed, he acted without thinking - period. He is obliged to bring a Korban Chatas to atone for his action.

Why does this happen? Should we view inadvertent sin as a mere accident, totally unpreventable? The Shem MiShmuel does not seem to think so. In fact, he feels that when a person sins, his action reflects more than mere chance. We all have our desires, our likes and dislikes. When the Torah prohibits a certain activity, a specific food, it does not mean that we no longer have any interest in it or that the activity no longer is something we enjoy doing. In reality, our desire still exists, but it is harnessed. We refrain from actually doing the prohibited act because the Torah forbids it. Our consciousness of Hashem's will prevails over our physical desire to act, to eat.

Thus, despite the fact that one is controlling himself, his desire for the act creates a connection to the psyche, which controls him from carrying out the forbidden deed. The consequence of this interplay between psyche and deed is that, while he would never consciously perform the transgression, when his guard is down - for whatever reason - if he is not thinking rationally, his reflex will be to transgress. This is the true act of aveirah b'shogeg, inadvertent sin: one in which were he to be mindful and in control, he would never act sinfully; but when he is not mindful, it just "slips" out - not on purpose - not with malice - just "slipping."

We now understand the connection between the Olah and the Chatas. The commonality between them is that they are both sins of the mind. Inappropriate, sinful thoughts are the springboards for sins which obligate each individual offering. In the case of the Korban Olah, the thoughts remained on hold, while in the case of the Korban Chatas, the thoughts led to action or inadvertent sin. As such, both sacrifices are slaughtered in the north, the place which emblemizes the power of the intellect.

The question remains: Where do we go from here? Are we to train ourselves to dislike that which is prohibited? Should we stop wanting those things for which we have a natural proclivity? Perhaps, but this path seems to contrast a statement of Chazal in Toras Kohanim, "One should not say: 'I do not want to wear Shatnez; I do not want to eat pork; I do not want to commit immoral acts.' Rather, he should say, 'I want to, but what can I do? My Father in Heaven has decreed upon me otherwise.'"

Clearly, Chazal do not demand us to have an attitude that goes against our natural tendencies. We are to reject sin due to a single factor: Hashem forbids it. This might be fine and well, but it contradicts our previous hypothesis concerning inadvertent sin, in which we postulated that inadvertent sin is the result of allowing one's guard to be momentarily down. Thus, accidental sin is far from blameless. Why? A person is only following his basic nature.

The Shem MiShmuel cites a well-known explanation of the Ibn Ezra, which paves the way for our understanding of prohibitive mitzvos. The last of the Aseres HaDibros, Ten Commandments, is Lo sachmod, "Do not covet your friend's wife, his servant, his maidservant, his ox, his donkey, or anything which is your friend's." (Shemos 20:14) This is a very difficult mitzvah to grasp. How is it possible for one not to desire that which his heart, by nature, finds attractive, or that which his eyes find desirable. One can be told to distance himself from any of the above, but not to covet: that goes against his basic nature.

Ibn Ezra makes an analogy to a simple villager who sees a beautiful princess. In his right mind, he will not desire her, because he knows that a relationship with her is impossible. Likewise, this person does not have a craving to sport wings and fly or to marry his mother, because he knows from "day one" that she is forbidden to him, so that he no longer has a desire for it. So, too, every sane, intelligent person is acutely aware that a beautiful woman or an incredible sum of money does not come to him as a result of his acumen or knowledge, but because Hashem has so deemed it. Once a person realizes that his friend's wife is forbidden to him by Hashem, she becomes an impossible object to obtain. She is more distant than the princess from the villager, because she has been restricted to him by Hashem.

Ibn Ezra concludes with positive counsel that one should rejoice in his lot and not set his heart on something which is out of bounds. He should understand that Hashem does not want him to have it, and, thus, it is impossible for him to obtain it by force, guile or manipulation. He should lift up his eyes to Hashem with trust, knowing that the Almighty will sustain him and provide him with all that is suitable for him in His eyes.

Let us return to Chazal's statement, which seems to imply that we should desire those things which Hashem has prohibited. The correct way to understand this is, had Hashem not decreed a certain relationship or food to be prohibited, nothing would have been intrinsically wrong with it. Hashem looked in the Torah and created the world. Thus, every item in the world is best created for its use by the Torah system. This means that the nature of a given item is deemed suitable or dangerous by its permissibility or prohibition. Therefore, since pork is prohibited by the Torah, it has become a dangerous item and, thus, undesirable.

When Chazal suggest that we should desire the prohibited item, it is a reference to the theoretical situation; the item is not intrinsically bad, and, had the Torah not prohibited it, it would have been entirely acceptable to crave it. Ibn Ezra, however, addresses reality: Since in its current form the Torah does prohibit it, we should view it not only as undesirable, but regard it as so removed from our lives that it is completely impossible to obtain. Therefore, we have absolutely no desire whatsoever for it.

And the flesh of his feast thanksgiving offering must be eaten on the day of its offering. (7:15)

The Korban Todah, Thanksgiving-offering, is a sacrifice to which we can all relate. Regrettably, we all too often forget how much we owe Hashem. The Todah is a Korban Shelamim , Peace-offering, but, unlike all of the other Shelamim - which are eaten for two days and one night - the Todah is eaten for only one day. The Netziv, zl, suggests a practical reason for this halachah. The Korban Todah is accompanied by forty loaves, called the Lachmei Todah. This is a considerable amount of food to consume - especially in so short a time. Therefore, the subject of the korban will have to invite his family and friends to share in his korban, a practice that will engender an opportunity for discussing the miracle which originally precipitated the korban. Thus, Hashem's beneficence will be publicized to a larger crowd. The Imrei Emes observes that the Korban Todah is offered by an individual who has personally experienced a Heavenly miracle. Truth be told, this is a daily occurrence for each one of us. Waking up in the morning and having the ability to function is a miracle - which we take for granted! Since every day is a new miracle, presenting renewed reason for offering our gratitude to Hashem, how can we today eat the bread of yesterday's miracle today?

The Gerer Rebbe's exposition should strike home for all of us. We do not have to think long and hard to conjure up the constant miracles in our own individual lives. Since we take so much for granted, however, we often fail to acknowledge and, certainly, appreciate all that we owe to Hashem. It takes someone else's experience to awaken within us the realization that if not for the grace of G-d, things could have been much different.

The following story is probably one of many which we all have either heard or experienced. Nonetheless, reading it again might create that slight difference between complacency and awareness. In 2003, a terrible bus accident occurred in Eretz Yisrael in which a bus filled with frum passengers left Beit Shemesh for Bnei Brak only to go over a cliff and slide down into a wadi. There was a tragic loss of life. One young man who had distinguished himself as a yarei Shomayim, a G-d -fearing man, was saved because he did not take the bus. This is, of course, no great novelty. It is why he did not take the bus that is strikingly significant.

As a student in one of the Kollelim in Beit Shemesh, he was traveling to Bnei Brak to visit his parents. When the bus pulled up to the bus stop, he ascended and reached into his pocket for the thirteen shekalim he had prepared to pay the fare. He was shocked to discover that he only had three shekalim in his pocket. It did not make sense. He himself had no clue how - or to where - it could have disappeared. Ten shekalim in not an outrageous amount of money. Anyone would have lent him the necessary amount, but he had accepted upon himself never to ask for a loan. He would return home and return with the necessary fare. This was not the only bus to Bnei Brak.

As soon as the bus pulled out of the station, he met one of his neighbors who "happened" to be driving to Bnei Brak. He would be happy to offer him a ride. They were driving behind the bus when they saw it miss the turn and take a fatal plunge down into the wadi! Understandably, they were shocked by the sight of this tragedy unfolding right before their eyes. The young man who was short on change was shaken beyond belief. After all, he should have been on that bus.

The young man began to cry - for those who had perished, as well as for himself. He was spared because he did not have his ten shekalim which somehow had disappeared. After he calmed down, he reached into his pocket to take out his handkerchief to wipe the tears off his face. He almost passed out when he discovered within the folds of his handkerchief: ten shekalim.

When was the last time we had kavanah, proper intention and devotion, when we recited the words: v'al nisecha she'bchol yom, "and for Your daily miracles"?

He placed the Breastplate upon him; and in the Breastplate he placed the Urim and Tumim. (8:8)

This is a seemingly innocuous pasuk, but Chazal feel that much is to be derived herein. This "happens" to be the middle pasuk of the entire Torah. That alone should engender some curiosity. Why this pasuk? The Torah is referred to as Toras chesed, the Torah of kindness, and from this pasuk we derive the meaning of the central quality of chesed. Chazal wonder what particular merit Aharon HaKohen had which merited that he be given the Breastplate to wear over his heart. They reply that this was his reward for the way he acted when Moshe Rabbeinu was charged with leading Klal Yisrael out of Egypt. Aharon was the older brother; therefore, he had reason to feel a sense of envy. Yet, not only was he not jealous, he was overjoyed at his younger brother's good fortune. The Torah attests to his magnanimity. "When he sees you, he will rejoice in his heart" (Shemos 4:14).

Having said that, we should now delve into the meaning of the phrase, "heart's rejoicing." Horav Meir Bergman, Shlita, cites the Rambam in Hilchos Yom Tov 6:17,18 who gives us insight into the Torah's idea of rejoicing. "During the seven days of Pesach and the eight days of Succos, along with all of the other Festivals, mourning and fasting are prohibited, and one is obligated to be happy and good at heart during (these days) And when one is eating and drinking he is obligated to feed the stranger, the orphan, and the widow, together with other sorts of poor and piteous people. But if someone locks the doors of his house and eats and drinks with his wife and children, and does not feed the poor and bitter at heart, this is not (considered) a mitzvah - rejoicing, but the celebration of his belly."

The Rambam is teaching us that good-hearted generosity is a critical component of true rejoicing. Indeed, he concludes by quoting the Torah's exhortation to "serve Hashem with joy and gladness of heart" (Devarim 28:47), two terms placed side by side in the same pasuk, which clearly indicate that benefitting others should be an essential part of one's own joy.

This, explains Rav Bergman, was at the crux of Aharon's "rejoicing of the heart." Only an individual whose spirit of generosity is such that he willingly shares what he has with others, allowing them to have what otherwise might have been his, understands the true meaning of joy. This joy, which is the by-product of goodness of heart, the desire to give, to share with others and rejoice with them, is at the center of the Torah. The Torah begins with chesed, with Hashem clothing Adam and Chavah. It ends with chesed, with Hashem burying Moshe Rabbeinu. The Torah accompanies man from birth to death.

Chassidus is the experience in which one gives away freely for the sake of others. He allows them to share in something that is rightfully his own, so that their needs can also be fulfilled. The chasid cannot tolerate another person's loss. Only once in the Torah is the word chasid mentioned in relation to a human being. In Devarim 33:8, Moshe Rabbeinu says, Tumecha v'urecha l'ish chasidecha, "Your Tumim and Urim are (given) to the man who is Your chasid." The Torah confirms what we all know: the individual who is deserving of the Urim v'Tumim resting on his heart, is the one whose heart encompasses all of Klal Yisrael: Aharon HaKohen. He is the one who exercised chassidus in a manner unprecedented and unparalleled by anyone else. He - not only willingly, but joyfully - deferred to his younger brother.

Rav Bergman cites the Midrash which emphasizes the magnitude of Aharon's sacrifice. When Moshe originally refused to lead the Jewish People out of Egypt, he used the following argument: He said, "Before I could even stand up, my brother, Aharon, was prophesizing to the people in Egypt, and this continued for eighty years! Shall I now encroach upon my brother's territory and cause him pain?" We learn from Chazal the fact that Aharon, up until now, had been Klal Yisrael's prophet, leader, liaison with Hashem. For eighty years he had been their mentor and guide through life's vicissitudes, and now he was pushed aside for his younger brother. Is there any question concerning who should continue to lead the Jewish People? Is there a measuring stick available to calculate Aharon's pain in being told, "It is over, your younger brother is taking over the reins of leadership"? Eighty years for what? So that the pinnacle of leadership - the moment for which he had strived - should be given away to Moshe?

Hashem disagreed with Moshe. "You are wrong. When Aharon sees you, he will rejoice in his heart - not only in his mouth, but internally, in his heart. It is a real sense of joy. His chassidus is true - it is real - it is self-less. This is why he was destined to wear the Breastplate.

People act with chassidus, but only Hashem knows for certain who truly is a chasid and who is only acting kindly. When Horav Elazar M. Shach, zl, eulogized Horav Moshe Feinstein, zl, he quoted the following Midrash. When Moshe Rabbeinu left this world, he was mourned both by the heavens and the earth. "The Heavens wept and said, 'The chasid is gone from the earth.' The earth wept and said, 'And there is none just among men.'" Why did the earth not offer the same lament as the Heavens? Why did the Heavens say that the earth had lost its chasid? This is something that earth should have said. Rav Shach explained that on earth people only comprehend that man is just; he has integrity; he has a sterling character. As for who is truly a chasid, that is known only to Heaven. On earth, people are not equipped to value such things properly. Various motivations catalyze acts of kindness. We are only human; thus, we are incapable of discerning the real chasid. Hashem does that. He knows who is really a chasid in his heart, who really cares, who is truly happy with his friend's good fortune. Aharon HaKohen showed us the way. He remains forever the shining example of true chassidus.

Va'ani Tefillah

La'asos nekamah ba'goim, tocheichos ba'leumim.
To effect revenge against certain nations, admonishments against certain states.

In his Yaaros Devash, Horav Yehonansan Eibeshitz, zl, asks us why the nations who serve only as Hashem's agents for punishing the Jewish people should be punished for performing their function. These wicked nations are nothing more than Hashem's "sword." He uses them to punish us. If so, why are they punished? After all, they are only doing their job. This is similar to a remark made by Nero, "Hashem wants to destroy His House and to take revenge against the one who carries out His bidding" (Gittin 56a).

Rav Yehonasan compares this to a father who becomes angry with his son. He instructs his servant to flog him as punishment for his misdeeds. The servant is acutely aware that the king will not remain angry at his son for long. This is nothing more than a reaction to the prince's misbehavior. Later, when all is forgiven, the prince will complain to his father concerning the painful flogging he had received. Thus, the smart servant stalls in carrying out the king's decree in the hope that the king will retract his decision. If, however, the servant is not endowed with a modicum of common sense, he will immediately set about doing the king's bidding. He will see to it that the prince is flogged within an inch of his life. What this servant does not realize is that the king does not really want his son to suffer. He is angry and frustrated, venting his anger. When his anger calms down and he sees what has happened to his son, he will surely seek retribution from the foolish servant.

This is what David HaMelech tells us. Hashem punishes those nations who carry out His decrees against Klal Yisrael, because they should have been more astute in executing their mission. They seemed to enjoy thoroughly what they have been doing, so they now must pay for their enjoyment.

Peninim on the Torah is in its 18th year of publication. The first fourteen years have been published in book form.

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