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PARSHAS VAYIKRAHe called to Moshe. (1:1)
The Baal HaTurim notes that, in this verse, the summons to Moshe, Vayikra is spelled with a diminutive aleph. From afar, it appears as vayikar, not Vayikra. In his great humility, Moshe Rabbeinu wanted to describe the way in which Hashem appeared to him in much the same manner as He appeared to Bilaam. G-d's prophecy to Bilaam is introduced as vayikar, without the aleph. This word connotes chance and spiritual contamination. Hashem, however, instructed Moshe not to ignore the aleph. Our quintessential leader had great difficulty accepting this. He acquiesced, of course, and wrote the aleph - but in miniature. The Kli Yakar adds, "The aleph of Vayikra is written in miniature. The word aleph is related to Torah study as we find V'aalfa chochmah, 'And I will teach you wisdom'" (Iyov 33:33). This alludes to the notion that, in order for one's Torah study to endure, he must belittle himself. Humility is the key to "growth" in Torah. Arrogance is antithetical to Torah study.
In a drashah, homiletic rendering, of the prayer V'eineinu meiros ka'shemesh v'cha'yareich, "And our eyes are as brilliant as the sun and the moon" (Tefillas Shabbos, Nishmas), the Bobover Rebbe, zl, the Kedushas Tzion, asks a practical question. If we are blessed to have our eyes illuminated by the sun, whose brilliance is the actual source of the moon's light, why would we need the light of the moon? He explains that eineinu, our eyes, is not a reference to our personal ability to see, but rather to the einei ha'eidah, the "eyes of the congregation," the gedolei Yisrael, Torah leaders. These visionaries of our People have penetrating insight and vision which extend beyond the normal capabilities of the average person. We express that although these illuminaries shine like the sun, they nonetheless personally consider themselves to be like the moon. They downplay and even negate their own brilliance, so great is their humility. Just as the moon receives its ability to illuminate from the sun, so, too, do the Torah leaders of each generation feel that their ability to shine is the direct result of the merit and virtue of their generation.
Indeed, the Brisker Rav, zl, found support for the humble demeanor manifest by Torah giants from a verse at the end of Megillas Esther. The Megillah cites Mordechai's acceptance by all Jews, his distinction in the eyes of all people, Ki Mordechai haYehudi mishneh lamelech… "For Mordechai HaYehudi was (appointed as) second to the king…" v'doveir shalom l'chol zaro, "And he would speak peacefully to all of (Hashem's) offspring" (Megillas Esther). The Brisker Rav added a new "flavor" to the interpretation of this pasuk, "Despite the fact that Mordechai had quickly risen to the exalted and available position of mishneh lamelech, this did not deter him from acknowledging his brethren." He did not become aloof, ignoring the "guy on the street," the amcha, simple Jew, who could not aspire to such distinction.
Yes, it does happen. An individual achieves a position of power. He either rises through the ranks or is simply in the right place at the right time. He is catapulted over his friends and colleagues to a position of significance. Suddenly, he no longer "remembers" who his friends "were." Not so Mordechai. He always remembered his roots; he never ignored his brethren. Perhaps this is why he is called HaYehudi. He never considered himself special. He was just "another Jew."
Horav Sholom, zl, m'Sassov was once questioned concerning why the position of the baal gaavah, arrogant person, is denigrated more so than any other baal aveirah, sinner. Indeed, it is only concerning the baal gaavah that Hashem declares, Ein Ani v'hu yecholim la'dur b'kefifah achas, "I and he are unable to live together in one domain." Hashem distances Himself from he who is arrogant. We do not find this concerning any other type of sinner.
The Rebbe explained that, wherever there is purity and righteousness, no semblance of spiritual contamination or evil can be found; they just do not mix together. Evil and impurity are aware of their places. They are just too "uncomfortable" in the proximity of holiness. Gaavah, arrogance, does not have this "restriction." It attaches itself to anyone, under any condition. The only way to prevent this vile character trait from infesting a person, from worming itself into the most sublime, the most virtuous, is by decree that it is a persona non grata. Arrogance has no place in the proximity of G-dliness.
In describing the requirements for the Parah Adumah, Red Heifer, the Torah (Bamidbar 19:2) writes: Asher ein bah mum, asher lo alah alehah ol, "Which is without blemish, and upon which a yoke has not come." The Koznitzer Maggid, zl, interprets this homiletically as a reference to the moral and spiritual deficiency associated with gaavah. For a man who arrogates himself, saying that "he has no blemish," he is perfect, it is a clear sign that "Upon (him) a yoke has not come." The yoke of Torah does not prevail upon this individual. Otherwise, he would never claim to be unblemished. This idea is consistent with a statement made by the Chovas Halevavos: "A person who is free of all sin is at risk of the greatest character defect: to consider himself a tzaddik, righteous person."
Actually, this is not the first instance in the Torah in which we find Hashem calling Moshe. In Parashas Yisro (Shemos 19:3,20), the Torah writes Vayikra eilav Hashem min ha'har, "Hashem called to him (Moshe) from the mountain"; Vayikra Hashem l'Moshe el rosh ha'har, "Hashem summoned Moshe to the top of the mountain." Why does the Torah not write the miniature aleph in these earlier places? Horav Yitzchak, zl, m'Vorka explains that, in order to be humble, one must act with modesty in private. Public humility is subtle arrogance. When Moshe was summoned to the mountain, it was in the presence of the entire Jewish nation. It was no secret. It would then be no kuntz, trick, to be humble. The true test of Moshe's humility is in our parsha, at the point when he was called to the Ohel Moed. Rashi writes, ''The sound of Hashem's voice was powerful. Yet no one other than Moshe heard it." For Moshe to conceal this awesome summons was a test of true humility.
The blood of the Korban Olas Nedavah, Free-Will-offering from an animal is sprinkled on the lower half of the Mizbayach, Altar. The blood of a Korban Chatas, Sin-offering, is sprinkled on the top of the Mizbayach. The process changes obversely when the offering is a fowl offered by a poor man. The blood of the Olas Nedavah is sprinkled on top of the Mizbayach, while the Chatas is on the bottom. Why?
Horav Meir Shapiro, zl, offers a practical explanation. A wealthy person who brings a Korban feels good about himself. He can afford the best, and he demonstrates his fiscal ability. The Torah has a problem with such deep-rooted arrogance/ pride being part of a korban. Therefore, the blood of this animal is sprinkled on the bottom of the Mizbayach. This curbs some of the man's haughtiness. When this man brings a Sin-offering, however, he is already depressed. The sin has knocked him down a tad, as he is now filled with humility and remorse. In order not to add insult to injury, the Torah has him sprinkle blood on top of the Mizbayach.
A poor man cannot afford to bring an animal as a korban. If he could afford a cow, he would have it for dinner. Instead, he scrapes together his meager earnings, the leftovers of his begging, and he purchases a small bird as a korban. He wants to thank Hashem for His benevolence. Regrettably, this is all he can afford. The Almighty accepts his offering with love, and, as a caveat, has him sprinkle the blood on top of the Mizbayach. When the poor man comes to the Altar with a Sin-offering, it is an entirely different story. Since this offering is obligatory, he sprinkles the blood on the bottom of the Mizbayach. It is all about humility and one's emotions. Hashem exalts he who denigrates himself. One need not be brilliant to complete the other half of the hypothesis.
In his later years, the Steipler Gaon, Horav Yaakov Yisrael Kanievsky, zl, would give his annual shiur, lecture, in memory of his brother-in-law, the Chazon Ish, to an assembly of thousands of Jews. To observe this scene was to experience an incredible Kiddush Hashem, sanctification of Hashem's Name. One evening, following a shiur that had seen an unusually large crowd, the Steipler, in his great humility, said, "It is only because the shiur is given only once a year that I have such a large crowd. If I were to give this lecture on a weekly basis, I would be lucky to have a minyan to say Kaddish D'Rabbanan," the Rabbinical Kaddish recited following public Torah study.
One Purim, an especially large contingent of young children were brought by their parents to the Steipler to receive his brachah. The Steipler commented, "The large crowd is the result of their day off from cheder. Children are home, and the mothers have to occupy them with something to do. The easiest avenue is to bring them to an old man for a blessing." This reflected the humility of the gadol hador.
When a man among you brings an offering to Hashem. (1:2)
In the Talmud Chullin 60a, Chazal teach that the bull offered by Adam HaRishon as a korban, sacrifice, was quite unique. Its horns appeared before its hooves. They derive this from the pasuk in Tehillim 69:32, V'sitav l'Hashem mishor par makrin mafris, "It shall be more pleasing than a yearling bull with horns, with hooves." Apparently, the primordial bull, first shor to be created, was fashioned fully grown from the earth, with it rising from the earth the way it stands. Thus, its horns materialized prior to its hooves. Indeed, as the Talmud continues, Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi said, "All of the works of Creation were created in their full stature, with their consent, and according to their wish." Therefore, the bull was created standing straight up. When it emerged from the earth, its horns preceded its hooves, then its body emerged, with its legs and hooves being the last component of the bull to emerge.
Every bull that followed was born with its hooves first and its horns growing in later. The primordial bull was the only bull whose horns were created before its hooves. This is the meaning of the term makrin mafris - its horns (makrin) preceded its hooves (mafris).
Makriv mafris is an unusual term. The perasos, hooves, carry great significance vis-?-vis the bull, due to the fact that they comprise one of the signs of a kosher animal. A kosher animal must have split hooves. We, therefore, understand why the Torah places great focus on the animal's hooves. What about the horn carries such significance that the Torah not only mentions the fact that the primordial bull had horns, but that it preceded the hooves?
Horav Yaakov Kamenetzky, zl, elucidates this anomaly, explaining why emphasis is made on the unusual creation of the primordial bull. Cattle go through life serving mankind, and they do so with just about every fiber of their body, except their horns. They shlep/pull a wagon and a plow; they breed; their females are our source for milk. When they die through the medium of ritual slaughter, their bodies become the source for our meat. None of these benefits, however, are connected with the animal's horns.
The Rosh Yeshivah notes that, while the horns do not serve us, they do, however, serve the animal. They enhance its power and beauty. A bull is resplendent with its horns; it lends it "dignity." B'chor shoro hadar lo, v'karnei re'eim karnav, "His firstborn bull is his grandeur, and its horns are like the horns of a re'eim" (Devarim 33:17). Since the horns do not benefit mankind, why is it necessary for the Torah to state that they were a part of the korban of Adam HaRishon?
Rav Yaakov explains that horns give the animal a sense of power, a feeling of pride and glory, an appearance of grandeur. They grant it the ability to attack or defend itself if the need arises. It is this aspect: the pride that we offer upon the Mizbayach as part of a Korban Olah, Elevation/Burnt-offering. With the use of the word Adam, invoking the name of Adam HaRishon, Adam ki yakriv mikem korban l'Hashem, the Torah recalls the first sacrifice offered by the progenitor of mankind. It was the only animal of its kind - ever, for it was the only animal whose horns appeared prior to its hooves. This alludes to glory and pride preceding usefulness. As it was slaughtered as part of the Divine service, every individual who offers a korban is aware, understands, and demonstrates that he, too, is prepared to sacrifice his gaavah, pride, for the Almighty.
He shall offer an unblemished male; he shall bring it to the entrance of the Ohel Moed, voluntarily. (1:3)
The Midrash relates the story of a recaltricant ox whose owner wanted to bring it as a korban. The ox, however, refused the honor. No matter how many people the owner sent to move the ox, they were unsuccessful. The ox was not budging. A poor man came along and noticed the owner's predicament. He walked over to the ox and produced a single blade of grass from his pocket. He waved the blade of grass in front of the ox's nose, causing the ox to give a mighty sneeze. As the ox sneezed, it coughed up a needle that had been lodged in its throat. Once the needle was out, the ox went along obediently to be slaughtered in the Bais Hamikdash. Had the ox not expelled the needle, such that had he been slaughtered in its present state, the korban would have been invalidated, since a needle in he esophagus renders an ox treifah, unkosher. The korban was saved by the "sneeze."
There is, however, more to it. The Midrash Shmuel employs this story to interpret the above pasuk, Tamim yakrivenu, "Complete and perfect it should be offered." If one wants to be assured that his korban will not be blemished, yakriv oso lirtzono, "He should offer it with the animal's free will." When one observes an animal willingly proceeding to the Mizbayach, Altar, it is an indication that it is kosher. An unkosher animal would not willingly advance to the Mizbayach. In his Chinuch Malchusi, Horav Mordechai Hominer writes that a similar approach will prove effective in successfully educating our children. To educate a child, one must do so in conjunction with the child's free will. To force-feed a child academically will only cause the child to regurgitate its lessons. An educator's function is to coax the child, to encourage and empower him, while he removes the obstacles that stunt his ability to learn. He does not force the child. Otherwise, one might produce a child that is a treifah, a wounded child, who has no desire to learn Torah, and, often, even less desire to remain frum, observant.
I must add that it is not necessarily what one says, but how one expresses himself. Attitude, emotion and sincerity play crucial roles. The quintessential teacher, the individual who is probably most responsible for making Torah-She'bKsav, Written, and She'Baal'Peh, Oral Law, available to generations of Jews is Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki or - as he is popularly known - Rashi. Our great teacher was obviously born with incredible potential, but his mother's self-sacrifice encouraged and empowered his vast erudition. She did not coddle her only son. A single parent, she raised Rashi with a deep reverence for Torah.
Rashi was orphaned of his father at a young age. His mother was all alone in the world. Thus, she could easily have demanded that her prodigious child remain home with her until he was age-ready to enter the family business. One does not become Rashi, however, with a mother like that. She sent him to Worms, Germany, to the yeshivah of the gadol hador, the pre-eminent Torah leader of the time, Rabbi Yaakov ben Yakir. What she told him as she sent him off should inspire us; "My son, you are going off to study in the yeshivah of the gadol hador. If you do not return from there an accomplished Torah scholar, replete in your thorough knowledge of the Torah - I will not be happy to see you!"
Such a statement might ruffle the sensitivities of some contemporary Jewish mothers - and fathers. I guess Rashi's mother knew what she was doing. She knew her son's unusual capabilities. These words were engraved in the heart of the young scholar-to-be. His commentary, as well as the teachings of his distinguished grandsons, the early Tosafists, are the result of this admonition. All this came about in the merit of a Jewish mother who did not fear telling her young son that she demanded excellence in return for her sacrifice.
We often sugar coat an incident, mollify an experience, in order to present it in a more appealing manner. While, at times, this may be necessary, it can backfire and destroy an exceptional inspirational occurrence. A young boy's world is pure and pristine. He has no 'shtick' in his perception of an incident. He sees black and white, and he reacts accordingly. At times such as these, it might be best to allow for the child to perceive the experience according to what he sees - without us attempting to soothe the situation. The following incident is a prime example. A young man was davening in shul with his four-year-old son standing next to him… watching. Suddenly, the father became so overwhelmed by the meaning of the words he was reading that he began to weep. The quiet sobs became loud crying, as a torrent of tears began to roll down his cheeks onto the table where he was hunched over. What does a four-year-old boy do when he sees his father weeping bitterly? He also begins to cry. Now there were two people weeping bitterly - a father and his son.
A man observed what was taking place. As a "good neighbor," he was not minding his own business, so he attempted to convince the boy that his father was not crying for any serious reason. He had just been overcome with emotion. One does not have to cry during davening. This individual meant well, and he soothed the child's fears. Nothing was wrong. The boy's father got a little "carried away" during davening. Think nothing of it. He was not crying as a result of the davening. No emotion is to be connected to prayer. His father was just overtired and overreacting. While this worked for the child, the kindly man, who truly meant no harm, just blew the opportunity for a once in a lifetime inspirational lesson: Yes, people do cry when they daven! That is what tefillah is all about. One speaks with Hashem, and when he really gets into it, he expresses his emotions. Regrettably, it was too late for the child. The experience and its positive vibes vanished.
He shall wash its innards and its feet with water; and the Kohen shall cause it all to go up in smoke on the Altar - an elevation-offering, a fire-offering, a satisfying aroma to Hashem. (1:9)
In the Talmud Menachos 110a, Chazal state the following: "We find that the Torah says regarding a bulky ox brought as an offering, that it is ishei reiach nichoach, 'A fire-offering, a satisfying aroma'; and in regard to a Minchah, it likewise says, 'A fire-offering, a satisfying aroma.'" The same expression is used each time to teach you that, Echad ha'marbeh, v'echad ha'mamit, u'bilvad sheyichavein es libo l'Aviv she'ba Shomayim, "Whether one gives a lot, or one gives a little, his offering is equally pleasing to G-d, provided he directs his heart towards his Father in Heaven." Horav Gamliel Rabinowitz, Shlita, derives an important lesson from these pesukim. Hashem does not demand that we exceed our innate abilities. Each and every one of us is blessed with capabilities, talents and potential coinciding with these abilities. He just wants us to be ourselves. A man has to do what he can - as long as his attitude is l'shem Shomayim, for the sake of Heaven.
We find this inconsistency in all disciplines. In the yeshivah world, many young scholars are blessed with brilliant minds and an uncanny ability to grasp the most difficult treatises in record time. To them, learning is often a "walk in the park." We see another extreme: the student who does not have an exceptional acumen, who must toil and slave to grasp the most elementary shtickel Torah, but who will do anything to succeed in Torah scholarship. As far as Hashem is concerned, each one is measured in accordance with his ability and concomitant devotion to the subject matter. It is not how much one knows, but rather, how much one invests in his Torah study. The diligence, effort, toil and devotion are what count. The knowledge will be granted as Hashem's gift.
A man once came to the Steipler Gaon, zl, and commented that, at present, he does not have much in the way of material abundance. If he will be blessed with a large windfall, he promised to give a considerable percentage to tzedakah. Therefore, he asked the Gaon for a brachah, blessing. The Steipler replied that this is not how it works with Hashem. The contribution of he who possesses only one dollar and gives half of it to charity is greater and more beloved by Hashem than the individual who has ten thousand dollars and gives half of it away. The Almighty does not need money. He has it all. Hashem wants to see how far one will go with what he has. The fellow that is left with only fifty cents in his pocket has given a greater contribution than the one who still has five thousand dollars in the bank. It is not how much one gives. It is the "dent" it creates that determines the significance of his charitable endeavor.
She'yichavein libo l'Aviv she'baShomayim, "That one direct his heart to his Father in Heaven" is much more than a lofty goal. Indeed, it defines the act of giving, and determines the nature of the contribution. Do we give: to satisfy our guilt; to yield to the pressure of the beneficiary; for public acclaim; or in an attempt to satisfy and please the Almighty? It is a powerful question which many of us refuse to answer.
When a person offers a Meal-offering to Hashem. (2:1)
The Torah uses an unusual term to describe the person who brings a Korban Minchah, Meal-offering, to the Mizbayach. He is a nefesh, a soul. Chazal explain that the Torah is teaching us an important lesson. Usually, the individual who brings a Korban Minchah is poor. Otherwise, he would have brought something more expensive, like a sheep or even an ox. The poor man has very little, and he offers a paltry gift from his pitiful possessions. Hashem understands what is transpiring in the poor man's mind. He has so very little, what can he really give for Hashem? A Korban Minchah represents the poor man's scraping, saving and struggling to demonstrate his gratitude. To us, the poor man's korban may not look like much, but to Hashem it is priceless. He is offering his nefesh, soul. This is how the Almighty views this poor man's devotion.
Horav Shimshon Pincus, zl, posits that though the Bais Hamikdash is gone, we still have a korban ashir, rich man's offering, and a korban ani, poor man's offering. How pathetic does it appear when a man comes to shul supposedly to learn after a long, hard day, but he can hardly keep his eyes open. He tries to focus on the shiur, but the words keep disappearing, as his eyes begin to shut.
While such a person may seem to be spiritually weak in our eyes, Hashem loves him. He is sacrificing his entire being. Sure, he would rather be home relaxing or taking a nap; yet, with his last ounce of strength, he drags himself to the bais ha'medrash to attend a shiur. It may neither be the best, nor is it the biggest - but it is all that he has. To Hashem, this counts for very much.
V'keiravtanu Malkeinu l'Shimcha Ha'Gadol selah b'emes l'hodos lecha u'l'yachedcha b'ahavah.
And You have brought us close to Your great Name forever in truth, to offer powerful thanks to You, and proclaim Your Oneness with love.
In the Talmud Chullin 91b, Chazal state that Klal Yisrael is more beloved by Hashem than even the Heavenly Angels. They support this from the fact that we recite Hashem's Name after only two words, while the Angels precede His Name with three words. We say: Shema Yisrael - Hashem: They say: Kadosh, Kadosh, Kadosh - Hashem. The Chasam Sofer observes that we find Klal Yisrael preceding the Holy Name with two words in three other instances. They are: Torah: Bereishis bara - Elokim; the blessing of hodaah, thanksgiving to Hashem, Baruch Atah Hashem, and yichud, declaring the unity of Hashem, Shema Yisrael - Hashem.
The Chasam Sofer says that these instances are alluded to with the above phrase which concludes the Ahavah rabbah prayer that precedes Shema Yisrael. V'keiravtanu l'Shimcha, "We should come closer to the Hashem, the Name." This occurs through the following four venues: b'emes, with truth, alluded to by Bereishis bara Elokim, the last letters of these three words spell out emes, truth; through l'hodos lecha, through thanksgiving, with the brachos Baruch Atah Hashem; u'l'gachedcha, by unifying Your Name, Shema Yisrael; b'ahavah, through love, v'ahavta es Hashem.
As we get closer to Hashem in these four instances, we prepare to accept the yoke of Heaven upon ourselves through the Shema Yisrael.
Rabbi Dr. Avrohom Yitzchok Wolf
Rebbetzin Anna Moses
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Ari and Rivky Wolf and Family
Abba and Sarah Spero and Family
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