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Rabbi A. Leib Scheinbaum
Hebrew Academy of Cleveland


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

In his Bircas Peretz, the Steipler Rav,zl notes that many mitzvos in the Torah are not obligatory. Rather, they are given over to man as optional mitzvos which he may - perhaps , should - perform at his discretion. These volitional mitzvos include the first contributions that were asked of the Jewish People, the nidvas lev, heartfelt contributions, for the construction of the Mishkan. This idea applies equally to most korbanos, such as: the Nedavah, free-willed offering; Olah, burnt offering; Shelamim, peace offering; Minchah, meal offering. The Korban Nazir is also not obligatory, but offered at the nazir's preference. We find this idea extended to other mitzvos, such as Terumah, which is given to the Kohen. Biblically, there is no designated amount that one must give to the Kohen. Indeed, even one stalk of wheat exempts an entire silo of grain. This idea applies as well to those contributions mentioned in the Mishnah in Peah, such as, Peah, leaving over a corner of the field for the poor, Bikurim, first fruit offeing, Reiyah, pilgrimage, and gemilas chassadim, acts of loving kindness.

The Steipler asks a noteworthy question: If these mitzvos are, in fact, important, why are they not obligatory. If they are not that compelling, why were they given to us? What is the idea behind discretionary mitzvos? He explains that hisnadvut, optional mitzvos, acting on one's own initiative, is a singular experience in avodas Hashem, service to the Almighty. It is the primary principle upon which love for, and awe, of the Almighty may be acquired. From the fact that we have a distinct command to love Hashem, it is indicated that it is within the grasp of each individual Jew to attain this goal. This is difficult to understand, since not all people are alike. Not everyone's heart is beating passionately with a deep and unabiding love for Hashem. How does one achieve this awesome height?

In the second perek of Hilchos Yesodei HaTorah, the Rambam writes that love for Hashem is achieved through analysis and a depth of understanding into the ways of Hashem and His greatness. The Chovos Halevavos adds that one should delve into Hashem's beneficence and His boundless kindnesses. This will engender within him great love for the Almighty. Regrettably, man's timtum ha'lev, occluded heart, does not always allow for these positive feelings to take root and inspire him.

The Mesillas Yesharim explains that just as one's inner-passion and intensity catalyze his physical alacrity toward carrying out an endeavor, so, too, in reciprocity, will his external alacrity inspire and awaken within him an intensity, passion and joy for this endeavor. Thus, one who acts selflessly and gives whole-heartedly will generate within himself a sense of love and yearning for what and for whom he is acting.

This sense of reciprocity works in relation to one's love for the Almighty. As inner-love causes the individual to contribute freely and selflessly, so, too, will acts of free-willed contribution give rise to greater love, cementing his relationship with the Almighty. Therefore, the more one contributes on a discretionary and voluntary level, the greater and more concrete will be his love for Hashem. This applies in all areas of endeavor in which one serves Hashem. It may occur during Torah study, in which one delves deeper and expends more time and effort to understand and master the Torah. The greater the effort, the greater will be the love that is engendered within him. Others might manifest their overextending themselves in the area of tefillah, prayer. This intensity and alacrity, the passion and fervor, is beyond the scope of the common prayer service. This self-sacrifice for tefillah will be reflected in the individual's inner love for Hashem. Yet others, will choose gemillas chesed, acts of loving-kindness, for their opportunity to contribute of themselves to Hashem. Kindness takes on many guises, whether it be financial, or giving up time to help those in need, those that are ailing, those who are spiritually deficient, with the list continuing on. As much as one gives up, commensurate with his ability to concede and renounce, he will gain for himself a deeper and more abiding love for Hashem.

The Steipler suggests that this might be the reason that the Torah has included korbanos nedavah, free-willed discretionary sacrifices. These sacrifices elevate one's level of love. Had they been obligatory, the end result of increased love for the Almighty would not have occurred as readily.

Perhaps this is why geirim, converts, and baalei teshuvah, those who have returned to the fold, stand on a higher spiritual plane. They have come to mitzvah observance on their own volition. No one has compelled them to do what they are doing. They were inspired and took the initiative, coming forward to join the ranks of Torah Judaism. They often exhibit greater passion, intensity and conscientiousness in carrying out mitzvos assiduously and punctiliously. They have come on their own and, therefore, have developed a deeper bond with the Almighty.

The Rokeach comments that chassidus, piety, is never again the same as it has been during its inception. Simply, as time goes on, the passion diminishes, the fervor wanes, the intensity dissipates. The Steipler adds that at its inception, piety is an act of hisnadvus, free-willed subscription of one's self to become closer to the Almighty. Hence, the baal teshuvah manifests passion and religious fire. After awhile, his piety becomes a part of his life. He obligates himself to act piously. Once his piety becomes an obligation, it can no longer generate that same inner love and passion as it had at the point of its inception.

The lesson for us is simple: A parent that wants to see his child address his Torah studies with love and enthusiasm should see to it that he is encouraged to turn to these studies of his own volition, out of free-willed, heartfelt desire - not because he is compelled to study. A child that is forced to learn will soon lose his sense of joy and his desire to achieve. Torah study will become something that he must do, he must get it out of the way, a way of life that he is duty-bound to maintain. These feelings of negativity produce negative students and unhappy Jews. Optimism generates initiative, which, in turn, breeds love and enthusiasm about one's work. For what more can one ask?

And when any soul will offer a meal-offering to Hashem, his offering shall be of fine flour…and he shall bring it to the Bnei Aharon, the Kohanim, and he shall take from it his handful. (2:1,2)

The Talmud Megillah 16a relates an intriguing incident that took place during the Purim miracle. Haman was dispatched by Achashveirosh to find Mordechai, dress him in royal garb and parade him throughout the city. Haman went and discovered Mordechai teaching a class about the laws of Kemitzah to his students. The evil Haman asked the students, "What topic are you studying?" They replied, "When the holy Temple was still in existence, one who pledged a Minchah offering would bring a fistful of flour and gain atonement through it." After hearing this, Haman told them, "Your fistful of flour has come and pushed aside my ten thousand talents of silver."

When Mordechai noticed Haman approaching the study hall, he was gripped with fear. The evil man could only be coming with a single intention, one that would not bode well for Mordechai and his young students. Immediately, Mordechai instructed his students to disperse, lest they be captured with him. He feared the worst was about to occur.

Mordechai was acutely aware of the ingredients necessary to prevail over the Hamans of every generation: Adherence to Torah and mitzvos. Had the Jews maintained their fidelity to the Almighty, they would not have had reason for concern. Regrettably, they had not. Against sound advice, they had attended Achashveirosh's party, indicating that their moral and spiritual posture was seriously declining. Many had already drifted away from the traditions maintained by their ancestors. Assimilation was rampant, to the point that only a small group of dedicated individuals still clung strongly to the Torah and mitzvos. Their rebbe was Mordechai, and they were staunchly committed to him. The question was: Can such a small group of dedicated individuals make a difference? Could they stop the gaping breach in observance which the majority had accepted? What could this small group achieve?

Suddenly, at the point of hopeless despair, Mordechai studied the laws of Kemitzah, the fistful of flour. Here he was able to sense a glimmer of hope. A spark of faint sunshine was penetrating the darkness and gloom that had suddenly enveloped him. The Kohen consumes the entire measure of flour after a small fistful is placed upon the altar. We see from the law of Kemitzah how a small representative amount, which is consecrated for the fire, exempts the entire sacrifice. The incredible effect of this small measure is far-reaching.

Horav Mordechai Rogov, zl, explains that Mordechai derived a powerful lesson from the Kemitzah. If only a fistful of flour can have such a compelling effect, then a handful of sincere students committed to Torah and mitzvos can have the power to consecrate the entire Jewish community in Persia! These dedicated few could have the power to atone for the many who had strayed. Mordechai understood that he should not be overcome with fear, for his students would atone for the others. Their dedication would have the power to dispel the ill effects of Haman's decree.

Haman was no fool. He realized the underlying message of the day's lesson, and he understood its validity. Even the evil Haman recognized that the key to Jewish survival was the existence of a remnant that was untainted and committed to Torah, regardless of its size. As long as this group of young people was prepared to defend the values and virtues of the Torah, then Klal Yisrael would not be lost. This "handful" would consecrate the rest of the nation. That is the lesson of the Kemitzah.

The power of the Kemitzah is the power that comes with dedication, with commitment, with self-sacrifice. These qualities take the power of "one" and give it greater strength and greater meaning. It is not what we do or how many are actually involved in carrying out this activity; it all depends on how we act, the sincerity, the determination and the commitment. Rabbi Yechiel Spero writes about Horav Gershon Liebman, zl, legendary Rosh Yeshivah of Novordok in France. Even as an inmate in the infamous concentration camp of Bergen Belsen, he continued his regimen of Torah study and mitzvah observance to the best of his ability, exhibiting almost superhuman powers of devotion and self-sacrifice. His spirit never waned, his devotion never faltered.

It was the first day of liberation, and understandably the camp and its prisoners were in a state of turmoil. The Nazis had shut off the water supply and taken the last morsels of food, causing the deaths of thousands more. Those who still had a modicum of strength left in their bodies went around scrounging for whatever morsels of food they could find. There was one person who, despite all that was going on around him, had curled up in a corner with a Talmud Bava Kamma that he had miraculously obtained and was studying. An American Jewish soldier came upon this sight and was stunned. "How could you be doing this after all your suffering?" he asked.

"We have wasted enough time over the past six years. I have decided to establish a yeshivah - the first yeshivah in Bergen Belsen," Rav Gershon replied.

"Who will be the Rosh Yeshivah?" the soldier asked.

"I will," Rav Gershon responded.

The soldier thought that certainly the frail rav was a victim of his suffering and had lost it. "Who will be the yeshivah's fundraiser?" he jokingly asked.

"That's no problem. I will be the fundraiser," was the quick retort.

"O.K. So you have a Rosh Yeshivah and a fundraiser, but what about students? A yeshivah must have a student body to survive."

"I will be the student," was his emphatic reply. Rav Gershon stood up and explained the following to the young soldier, "When someone seeks to achieve, he must not worry about who, what or when. He must do and trust in the Almighty. Our goal is to be marbeh kavod Shomayim, increase the honor of Heaven. By opening this yeshivah, I am doing just that! There is no question in my mind that the particulars will all follow." Shortly thereafter, the soldier joined Rav Gershon in his yeshivah. That is the power of the Kemitzah.

If he cannot afford two turtledoves or two young doves, then he shall bring as his guilt offering for that which he has sinned, a tenth of an eiphah of fine flour for a sin offering. (5:11)

The Korban Olah V'Yoraid, variable offering, was unique in that it had no designated shiur, measure, for its composition. It basically depended upon the financial status of the makriv, the sinner who brought the offering. If he were wealthy, he would be required to bring a sheep or a goat for his atonement. If these were beyond his means, he could carry out his obligation with two turtledoves or two young doves. If he could not afford even these, he could then bring a tenth-eiphah of flour, and this would be sufficient to earn forgiveness for him.

It is important that we understand what type of misdemeanor catalyzed this need for atonement. It was for one of three sins: One who observes a situation that led to a monetary dispute, then denies that he saw this occurrence and swears falsely to this fact, only to admit to the truth later on, brings such a korban. Another instance is one who enters the Bais Hamikdash or eats kodoshim, sanctified food, when he is in a state of ritual impurity. Last, is he who swears falsely concerning something that he either will or will not do or regarding something that either did or did not occur.

In these three cases, the choice of the korban is determined by the sinner's financial portfolio. Chazal teaches us in the Talmud Kerissus 28a that if a wealthy man were to bring the Korban Oleh V'Yoraid designated for a poor man, he is not yotzei, has not fulfilled his obligation. Furthermore, it is considered as if he has brought chullin, unconsecrated flesh, in to the Azarah, Sanctuary, which is a serious violation. The Chafetz Chaim,zl, derives from here that in contemporary times, when we do not have a Bais Hamikdash, we contribute tzedakah, charity, in lieu of certain sacrifices. Hence, just as in ancient times a wealthy man could not absolve himself with a korban reserved for a poor man, so, too, a wealthy man may not acquit himself with the tzedakah that a poor man would normally give. One must give in consonance with what one has. To give based upon the financial status of one who has much less than he does, would be gross chutzpah.

Interestingly, the Chafetz Chaim writes that one can make the same remark concerning two different people, and, in one instance, it is considered innocuous, while in the other case, it constitutes a violation of lashon hora, slanderous speech. For example, if one were to comment that an individual who is involved in commerce spends four hours a day learning Torah, this would be considered exemplary. If the individual had made the same remark concerning a kollel fellow whose vocation in life is to study Torah all day, it would constitute a lashon hora violation.

In his commentary on Chumash, Horav Avraham Pam, zl, anthologized by Rabbi Sholom Smith, says this same idea applies to tzedakah. To report that a wealthy man who is capable of contributing on a grand scale gave a donation worthy of a poor man violates the laws of lashon hora. It is not how much one gives that is conclusive, as much as the donation's consistency with the benefactor's ability to give. If one gives less than he is able to give, this remark would be far from complimentary.

What about a poor man who squeezes out every penny that he possesses in order to bring a korban fit for a wealthy man? Has he fulfilled his obligation? One would think that he has. The Sefer HaChinuch (123) cited by Rav Pam disagrees, explaining that since Hashem has taken pity on the poor man and hasd permitted him to satisfy his obligation with a tenth-eiphah of flour, it is improper for him to overextend himself by bringing more than he can afford. Rav Pam explains that a person must learn to live within his means. When one spends more than he can afford, he flirts with disaster. Eventually, he will be compelled to satisfy his desire for spending by doing something illegal. One who habitually seeks more than he can sustain has a habit that will most likely destroy him.

Rav Pam feels that the Sefer HaChinuch's remarks--written in a different time and addressed to a different generation-- still carry tremendous weight today. We should underscore their relevance for contemporary society. American Jews have enjoyed a sense of prosperity and standard of living unlike any generation preceding us. There are many wealthy Jews who live a lifestyle which sixty years ago was but a distant dream. Yet, by constrast, many Jews are poverty-stricken or hardly able to make ends meet. Their dire circumstances are compounded by their neighbors and friends who have "made it." Sadly, envy is alive and well in the Jewish community. People go out of their way to go into debt, so that they can keep up with others. They purchase luxuries they do not need, for which they remain in debt for years to come. Many of us know firsthand the overwhelming stress placed upon us by financial insecurity. Yet, we continue to overextend ourselves, with no regard to the dire consequences. The Korban Oleh V'Yoraid teaches us an important lesson: live within your means. Do not spend your hard-earned money on foolishness or trivial items that will not enhance the tranquility of your life. Spend within your means and spend on those items that make a difference in the quality of your life.

Va'ani Tefillah

Glory and majesty are before Him, might and splendor are in His place.

The Malbim defines hod as the intrinsic glory, which is the true essence of Hashem. Hadar is the external majesty, which is visible to the observer. The Chafetz Chaim, zl, cites the Zohar Hakadosh who writes that when a person does a mitzvah, the action merits for him Gan Eden l'matah, below, in which he enjoys pleasures which are of a physical nature. For the appropriate machshavah, thoughts, devotion and intention connected with the act of carrying out the mitzvah, he receives Gan Eden l'maalah, above, which is like the machshavah, a spiritual form of pleasure. Therefore, explains the Chafetz Chaim, those who merit pleasure in the Gan Eden of above will enjoy hod v'hadar, the light that shines from Hashem's Presence. Those, however, who are privileged only to share in the Gan Eden of below will enjoy the might and splendor that is in His Place. They do not get into the close proximity of lefanav, before Him.

The Kedushas Levi notes that the word hadar in Aramaic-Hebrew means to return. Thus, he interprets the pasuk in the following manner: Hashem is generous in bestowing vitality and hod, glory, upon all of His creatures. In gratitude, all of His creations reciprocate and praise Him, reflecting glory back to Him. The glory which they reciprocate is called hadar. This is the glory that comes from lefanav, before Him - the glory which we return to Hashem.

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