Parshas Tzav/Parah 5757 - 1997
Outline # 29
by Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein
Merit and Obligation
The parsha continues on the subject of the sacrifices. The beginning
states: "Command Aharon and his sons..." Rashi quotes the Medrash, "The word
'Command' implies urgency." There are multiple explanations of the necessity
for "urgency" here.
The Rebbe Reb Heschel of Cracow cut through all the lengthy explanations
with a fundamental concept. The Talmud in Kiddushin contrasts the merit of
the person who fulfills an obligation to one who simply volunteers, without
being obligated. "Greater is the one who is commanded -- and fulfills --
than one who was never commanded." Tosafos provides the logic: The one who
volunteers, fulfills his own will, but the person ordered to perform has
an inclination to disobey. By his overcoming tremendous obstacles, and submitting
to orders, he deserves greater credit.
Therefore, it is a general idea for the entire Torah: "Command" will
always need special urgency, because there will certainly be a great obstacle
-- the natural inclination to disobey. (Chanukas Hatorah)
Coercion at Mount Sinai
At the receiving of the Torah, the Jews were asked if they desired to
have the commandments. They answered affirmatively: "Everything that Hashem
says we will do." The Rabbis, however, mention that G-d held the mountain
over their heads and threatened them with extinction if they would not accept.
The source of the Rabbis' commentary, and reconciliation with the simple
verses (which indicate the opposite), is a major issue. See, for example,
Medrash Tanchumah, Parshas Noach.
With the above discussion, however, the Rabbis' words become simple and
necessary. Surely the Jews accepted the Torah, as the verses indicate. However,
they had only volunteered. The major thrust of the Torah would be 'mitzvah'
-- command. This would be for the Jews' good, of course, because it is greater
to be commanded and perform, than to do so voluntarily. The greatness of
being commanded, Tosafos had explained, was due to the difficulty of overcoming
the tendency to rebel. Now we see the meaning of the Rabbis' words: Even
though the Jews had accepted willingly, when they heard the commandments
in terms of orders, and punishments for violations, they were actually being
coerced with threats of extinction. (The Maharal already explained that "turning
the mountain over them," was not meant literally.) There is no inconsistency
with the voluntary attitude expressed in the verses, and the Rabbis' description
of coercion. When you purchase with credit, you 'volunteer' to pay. Later,
however, your creditors will 'force' you to pay -- in court, if necessary!
Chametz in the Sacrifices
The Torah prohibits Chametz -- leavened ingredients -- from the altar.
Although the sacrifices involve flour, the flour must be unleavened. At the
same time, one of the sacrifices uses chametz. The Todah -- thanksgiving
offering -- has forty loaves of bread, including loaves of chametz. There
is no contradiction,because the loaves are not brought to the altar, but
are consumed at home. Still, why is chametz an important ingredient in one
sacrifice, although proscribed ordinarily?
Chametz alludes to the evil inclination; the service of Hashem should
include an aspect of purification of humanity. We must, therefore, isolate
evil tendencies and not allow them to mix in with the purification process.
However, as Maharal explains, the Todah is different. It is an example
of the Shlamim (whole offering), which has the connotation of peace and
completion. Completion does not exclude, but is all-inclusive.
As the Todah is offered in thanks, we need to express appreciation for
the evil, as well. The Torah only comes because of the evil inclination.
We know that the angels complained when the Torah was given: "Why should
lowly mankind receive it, and not the angels?" The answer: "They have the
evil inclination, and you do not." (Maharal: Drush L'shabbos Hagadol, quoted
in Peirushei Maharal al Hatorah)
Man becomes greater than the angels when the Torah is fulfilled. This
is, once again, the same idea -- "Greater is the one who is commanded --
and fulfills -- than one who was never commanded."
The First Question
Chasom Sofer explained the 'ersta kasha' from the Four Questions of the
Seder. "Why is this night different from all other nights? All other nights,
we eat chametz and matza. Tonight, only matza."
Since when do we eat chametz and matza every night? Rather, the question
is a brilliant difficulty. It is referring to the thanksgiving offering,
the Todah. Every day, the Todah offering has, by law, chametz and matza.
Although the Pesach lamb is also a thanksgiving offering, it only has the
matza... This is the question: Why does the Todah have chametz and matza
every day, but upon eating the Pesach Todah we only find matza? This is an
excellent question, and the answer is not presented in the Hagadah!
Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein
1 Babbin Court
Text Copyright © 1997
Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein
and Project Genesis, Inc.