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Rabbi A. Leib Scheinbaum
Hebrew Academy of Cleveland

Parshas Vayikra

And He called to Moshe (1:1).

Sefer Vayikra is composed primarily of halachos, Jewish laws -- very difficult and demanding laws. Limited narrative appears in the text. It is, therefore, interesting to note that this Sefer specifically has traditionally been used as the starting point for a child's educational journey. Commentators suggest many explanations for the significance of exposing a child to Sefer Vayikra. Is this starting point consistent with educational guidelines? Pedagogues and psychologists offer the critique that confronting such difficult material at a young age is self-defeating. A child should be taught stories, tales, and legends, but not dry halachah -- or should he?

While, undoubtedly, textbooks for young children focus on the simple narrative, the Torah is not merely a textbook. It is the Jew's blueprint for life. Hence, it is important to lay down the rules immediately at the onset of a child's educational development. A child must know that life is not comprised simply of stories and games; rather, life consists of commitment, action and service to the Almighty. Rules and regulations govern a Jew's life. We are not free to do what we please. There are rules to live by, obligations to fulfill, and observances to perform. This perspective might sound overwhelming, but it depends on the way it is perceived. If parents and educators transmit the idea with a positive expression, with excitement, enthusiasm and joy, then the child will respond accordingly. If he cannot present the orientation in this manner, then that person should not be teaching. Life should be vibrant; Torah gives meaning to this vibrancy.

And He called to Moshe (1:1).

Moshe Rabbeinu personified humility in the truest sense of the word. Despite being able to speak to Hashem face to face, Moshe would still not enter the Kodesh Hakodashim, Holy of Holies, unless he had been called. Chazal derive from Moshe's behavior that a talmid chacham, Torah scholar, who does not possess daas, knowledge, manifests a lesser value than an animal's carcass. Chazal's use of the word "daas" begs elucidation. We are addressing Moshe's derech eretz, manners, not his knowledge. Why do Chazal critique the scholar who lacks daas, rather than the one who is deficient in his derech eretz?

Responding to this question, Horav Mordechai Gifter, Shlita, first defines "daas." The concept of daas is usually found in conjunction with the terms of chochmah, binah, daas -- wisdom, understanding and knowledge. The three represent ascending levels of knowledge, of which daas is the most eminent. Chochmah and binah are both levels of understanding which are restricted solely to the mind. In other words, one may have chochmah and binah, but these attributes may not necessarily be integrated into his lifestyle. The wisdom and understanding that they project are exclusive of their behavior. Daas has a different connotation. Indeed, the English translation for daas, knowledge, does not provide an accurate description of this concept. One who achieves daas possesses a knowledge that governs his every move. It becomes part of one's psyche, as it transforms his personality. Hence, when one comprehends an idea on the level of daas, he will surely live by it.

Moshe Rabbeinu's derech eretz was the result of his daas. It was not etiquette, but rather the manifestation of a profound level of Torah knowledge that governed every aspect of his life. Thus, Chazal emphasize that a Torah scholar elevates his Torah knowledge to the level of daas, so that it controls and directs his every action.

This is expected of man, for man is the only creature capable of achieving such a level of knowledge. This is his purpose and goal in life. If he fails, he is worse off than an animal whose potential is not as high. The animal that does not have daas can still fulfill its potential. A man who lacks daas has failed in his primary goal in life. Hence, such a person is worse off than an animal's carcass. The animal, at least, attains his own potential.

When a man among you brings an offering to Hashem: from animals (1:2).

Horav Shlomo, zl, M'Radomsk, renders this pasuk homiletically. A man who goes about his way with limited closeness to the Almighty, may take a lesson from an animal that becomes consecrated as a sacrifice by virtue of man's utterance. A man points to an animal and says, "Harei zu Olah," "This shall be an Olah sacrifice." He, thereby, sanctifies this animal, designating it to be a Korban Olah merely by the words that exit his mouth. The animal has not changed one iota. It is man's expression, his articulation of his intentions regarding this animal, that effect its spiritual transformation. What does that tell us about man's dibur, power of speech? Imagine how holy his words of Torah or tefillah, prayer, are. Speech is but one aspect of the human condition. It is probably the most powerful of his capabilities, since it distinguishes him from the animal world, but it remains only one dimension of his essence.

"When a man among you brings an offering to Hashem": When a man seeks to bring himself closer to the Almighty - "from animals" - he can learn a lesson from the manner in which an animal becomes holy - through his own speech. When a man realizes the power vested in him, he will become closer to Hashem. Our greatest deficit is our lack of self-recognition, our unawareness of our own unique spiritual qualities.

He shall remove its crop with its innards, and he shall throw it next to the Mizbayach (1:16).

Rashi notes that regarding the Olah, burnt offering of an animal -- which eats only from the feeding trough of its owner -- the Torah states that the innards are washed and placed on the Mizbayach and burnt. Regarding a fowl, however -- which generally takes it sustenance from that which has been stolen -- the Torah demands that its innards be discarded. Hashem does not want to derive any pleasure/benefit from a forbidden object or from something that has been realized through inappropriate means.

In its mussar shmuessen, ethical discourses, Yeshivas Bais Sholom Mordechai cites a number of sources to substantiate this thesis. In the Talmud Megillah 12a, Chazal state that the Jews in Persia during the reign of Achashveirosh were indicted by the Heavenly Tribunal for the pleasure they derived when they participated in the king's feast. While they were compelled by the law of the land to join in the festivities, no one dictated that they had to enjoy it! While attending the feast of a wicked anti-Semite might be necessary, having a "good time" and partaking in the festivities as if one "belongs," is a grave sin.

Descending Har Sinai, Moshe Rabbeinu observed the Golden Calf together with the revelry that accompanied it. His response was swift and decisive; he broke the Luchos, Tablets containing the Ten Commandments. The Torah seems to emphasize that the Golden Calf alone did not prompt Moshe's action; it was also the revelry, the music and dancing. What does the revelry add to the Golden Calf that intensities the iniquity? How does one "add" to a sin of such magnitude? In accordance with our thesis, we may suggest that a person may fall prey to his evil-inclination, his mind may even sustain a momentary loss of seichel, common sense. How can one, however, enjoy the fruits of his error? When one obtains benefit, when he has the gall to celebrate his iniquity, he takes the transgression to a new low, to the nadir of depravity and ingratitude. The contemptuousness of his actions is magnified by the enjoyment he sustains.

During World War I, a great hunger reigned throughout Europe. Indeed, people were dying from malnutrition. The leading rabbis at the time permitted people to eat whatever they could, even if the food was not kosher, so great was the famine. The story is told that the Chofetz Chaim once noticed a Jew who, due to extreme hunger, was compelled to eat a piece of non-kosher meat. When the person finished the meat, he proceeded to suck the marrow from the bones. The Chofetz Chaim turned to him and said, "It is permitted to eat the meat, but to suck the bones dry is forbidden." At times we are forced to engage in, or to be sustained by, forbidden foods. This is merely a temporary dispensation due to the extenuous circumstances. It does not give the individual license to take pleasure and derive benefit from it.

In summation, in certain circumstances we are forced to act in a manner which otherwise would be considered inappropriate. We must view these situations as beyond our control. We must, therefore, act in a manner which bespeaks our coerced/negative attitude. Otherwise, it might even seem that we were waiting for such an opportunity.

For you shall not cause any leavening or fruit-honey to go up in smoke as a fire offering to Hashem… you shall salt your every meal-offering… you shall offer salt on your every offering (2:11,13).

Horav Mordechai Gifter, Shlita, offers a profound, yet practical, explanation for the difference between leavening, honey and salt. These condiments have a varied effect on food. Leavening and honey add a foreign taste to food. Salt, on the other hand, enhances food by bringing out the taste of the food itself. Food that has been enhanced by leavening or honey has an artificial taste. Not so food that has been treated with salt. Its own inner taste is brought forth, enhancing it internally. The Torah teaches us to serve Hashem in a manner mimicking the characteristics of salt. Rather than seeking external, artificial means for expressing our avodas Hashem, service of the Almighty, we should conjure up our own unique qualities to serve Him. These inner qualities and talents might be lying dormant, imbedded in our psyche, waiting for that opportunity when they may attain their full potential. It is our duty to "salt" them, so that they achieve their complete potential.

All too often, people get "turned on," inspired, to Torah observance through artificial means. While there is no dispute that different people respond to different methods, it is essential that the artificial not be transformed into reality. These means exist to serve one purpose - to awaken and arouse the Pintele Yid, the Jewish soul that lays dormant, concealed under layers of assimilation and indifference. Once it has been laid bare and given the opportunity to thrive, it should be exposed to bona-fide observance through Torah study and mitzvah performance.

We may add that Horav Gifter's thesis applies equally to Torah chinuch, education. The teacher should arouse the student's inner qualities and abilities. He should be inspired to use his mind, to think on his own, to take the rebbe's lesson as a springboard for greater depth and understanding of the Torah. A teacher should focus on enhancing the student's mind, as he challenges his acumen and aptitude, thereby motivating him to achieve his full potential.

When a person will sin unintentionally from among all the commandments of Hashem that may not be done (4:2).

The Toras Kohanim states that the phrase, "From all the commandments of Hashem," includes an eishes ish and a niddah, married woman and a menstruant. They add that a married woman is different from a niddah in the sense that an eishes ish is at least permitted to her husband, while the niddah is permitted to no one. It seems that according to the Toras Kohanim, the heter, dispensation, permitting a married woman to her husband is a kula, leniency, in regard to the issur, prohibition, of eishes ish. This is supported by the Talmud in Gitten 83a. How are we to understand this? A married woman is considered a married woman to other men, but not to her husband - or is she?

Horav Moshe Shternbuch, Shlita, cites the Rogatchover Gaon, zl, who explains that when a woman marries, she is designated to a life of kedushah, holiness. She is permitted to her husband only because this is the purpose of her holiness. During those times in which she is ritually unclean, she is thus prohibited to her husband as if she would be an eishes ish. She is in a holy state once she gets married, and she is permitted to her husband only during those times in which she is tahor, ritually clean. Otherwise, she remains in a state of kedushah as an eishes ish. The Rogatchover applies this exposition to explain why in the Sefer Hapardes, Rashi says that if one were to have relations with his wife during the time that she is a niddah, the resulting child would be a mamzer, illegitimate. Most other poskim, arbitors of Jewish law, dispute this, claiming that one is not illegitimate if he is the product of a niddah. According to the previous thesis that a woman is considered an eishes ish even in regard to her own husband, one who has relations with his wife when she is a niddah is also in violation of the prohibition of eishes ish.

Despite the fact that most poskim disagree with this theory, there is, nonetheless, a profound and novel lesson to be derived from here. We have an understanding of the Torah's mandate regarding the husband/wife relationship. It boils down to one word: kedushah, holiness. The act of marriage is called keddushin, because it renders the woman holy. She is holy to everyone. She is, however, permitted to her husband during those times that she can enhance her kedushah through physical relations. The purpose of marriage is to elevate kedushah. That is what Judaism is all about.


1) How many times are statements in the Torah made to Moshe and Aharon together?

2) How many times are statements made to Moshe, exclusive of Aharon?

3) A. May one bring an offering from that which is stolen?

B. May a Yisrael slaughter a korban?

4) When the Torah says that honey cannot be offered on the Mizbayach, what is the meaning of honey?

5) What is the "azkarah" of a Korban Minchah?

6) A Korban Chatas is brought for a sin whose intentional violation is prohibited by a ____ ______ and is punished by ______. Its unintentional violation must be atoned for by a Korban _______.


1) Thirteen.

2) Thirteen.

3) A.Yes. The Kohen's domain begins with the kabollas hadam, receiving of the blood.
B. No.

4) Anything sweet which comes from fruit is referred to as honey.

5) This is a reference to the "Kemitzah," three finger-full scoop of flour that is separated.

6) a) Lo Sa'asei. b) Kares. c) Asham.

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