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   by Jacob Solomon

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PARASHAT PINCHAS 5773: D'VAR TORAH


The details of the obligatory communal daily, Sabbath, and Festivals offerings end with:

These are the (obligatory communal )offerings that you shall make for G-d at the appointed times, apart from your (voluntary offerings including) vows, free-will offerings, burnt-offerings, grain-offerings, drink-offerings, and peace offerings (29:39).

The Talmud brings the tradition that Balaam's offences were of such great magnitude that he would never have a share in the World to Come (Sanhedrin 105a).

The details of individual and voluntary offerings extend through the first eight chapters in the Book of Leviticus. The details of the communal daily, and additional Sabbath and Festivals offerings are given in this parasha. What is the strength of tagging the communal offerings with the individual offerings?

Rashi explains that this connection illustrates the notion that the Festivals are the best time of the year to bring personal offerings. This is especially true of vows made during the year. Otherwise people would have had to make a special trip to the Temple in Jerusalem for the purpose of offering an animal specified by means of a vow, to avoid transgressing 'you must not delay it' (Deut. 23:22).

In addition, the putting the individual offerings at the end of the communal offerings illustrates a principle valid for all time - with or without Temple worship. In Temple times, the communal unity during the Festivals gave a context, an atmosphere, where individual offerings would be all the more meaniful.

For non-Temple times: the exiled-to-Babylon Prophet Ezekiel communicates the following message to the Jewish people:

'Therefore, so says G-d! In dispersing you amongst nations in different lands, I will be a mikdash me-at - a small sanctuary' (Ez. 11:16).

Rashi, the Radak, and other commentators understand mikdash me-at as the beth ha-knesseth - the synagogue. The idea is embryonic after giving of the Ten Commandments: 'Wherever I (G-d) have caused my name to be mentioned, I will come to you and bless you' (Ex. 20:21, see Ethics of the Fathers 3:6).

The synagogue thus functions as a mikdash me-at - 'a 'small temple'. Indeed, its artifacts: the ark with the Scrolls of the Law, the eternal light, and even the segregation of men and women are parallel to Temple worship. However, its procedures are manifestly different: prayer replaces the offerings - in line with 'our prayers replace offerings of cattle' (Hos. 14:3).

Prayer, however, comes in two forms - like the Temple sacrifices; regular communal and voluntary individual. There are the standard daily prayers - shacharit, mincha, and arvit. These reflect the daily Temple morning and afternoon offerings (c.f. 28:4), and the all-night burning of the remains of the offerings (c.f. Berachot 2a). There is also the mussaf - additional service - explicitly recounting the content of the Sabbath and Festival communal offerings. Like in the Temple, these services are the framework of worship. Whether one is in the mood to pray or not in the mood to pray, these prayers are said. As Moses put it to the Israelites: 'Beware less you forget G-dů and you say to yourself: 'I am as wealthy as I am because of my own strength and power' (Deut. 8:11,17). G-d is not to be approached just when you need him - with voluntary, personal prayer (the second type of prayer), but within a framework of regular worship, preferably in the communal framework. And it is that regular timetable of prayer that places the voluntary individual prayer - 'when you are desperate to cry out to G-d' - in stress, sickness, or in feelings of despair into a meaningful contextů

For those looking for more comprehensive material, questions and answers on the Parasha may be found at http://www.shemayisrael.com/parsha/solomon/questions/ and on the material on the Haftara at http://www.shemayisrael.com/parsha/solomon/haftara/ .

Written by Jacob Solomon. Tel 02 673 7998. E-mail: jacobsol@netvision.net.il for any points you wish to raise and/or to join those that receive this Parasha sheet every week.

Parashiot from the First, Second, and Third Series may be viewed on the Shema Yisrael web-site: http://www.shemayisrael.com/parsha/solomon/archives/archives.htm

Also by Jacob Solomon:
From the Prophets on the Haftara

Test Yourself - Questions and Answers

e-mail: jacobsol@netvision.net.il

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