Back in the early years of your elementary school experience, you
undoubtedly learned about the singular and plural forms of expression.
When grading your papers, teachers would invariably correct any sentences
where singular and plural words were inappropriately blended. (An example
of an incorrect merge would be, “I spoke to a men”.) Certainly in our
Torah where every word is so carefully written, there must be a distinct
message if we were to find a pasuk that begins in the singular mode and
switches to a plural expression.
We find a pasuk with these two forms of expression in the very beginning
of Parshas Vayikrah, as Hashem instructs Moshe and the Bnei Yisroel about
the halachos pertaining to korbonos. “Adam ki yakriv michem korban …
takrivu es korbanchem – When a man among you brings an offering … shall
you bring your offering (Vayikrah 1:2)” In this pasuk, the Torah moves
from singular to plural without a clear reason for doing so, as the words
indicate “Adam [singular] ki yakriv [singular] michem korban … takrivu
[plural] es korbanchem [plural].
Rashi offers an explanation for the blend of expressions in this pasuk. He
maintains that the Torah is informing us that although bringing a korban
is intended to be an individual expression of devotion to Hashem, it is
permissible and proper for several individuals to pool their resources and
collectively offer a sacrifice to Hashem. To illustrate this point, the
Torah begins in the singular, as it is the usual practice to bring a
korban individually. Then, the Torah switches over to plural form to
indicate that a korban can also be presented as a joint contribution.
Giving of Ourselves
I would like to suggest an alternative explanation for the switch to the
plural form. My chaver Mark Grunwald often mentions that the three pillars
that support the world –Torah, avodah, and gemilus chasadim (learning
Torah, serving Hashem through prayer, and committing acts of kindness, see
Avos 1:2) cannot be ‘outsourced’ to others. In order to bring spirituality
to our lives and fulfill our mission in this world, we must engage in
these mitzvos ourselves.
Bringing a korban is a very important and meaningful mitzvah. In the broad
scheme of things, however, it is only one component of our overall service
to Hashem. Our ultimate goal is to give of ourselves – to dedicate our
passion and creative energy to Torah, avodah and gemilus chasasdim.
My great rebbi, Rav Pam z’tl, always encouraged us to contribute our time
and energy to help others. He often asked us to donate ten percent of our
time to help weaker classmates, as he maintained that we should give
ma’asar (one tenth) from all the gifts that Hashem gave us. My rebbi would
tell us that helping our classmates with their work was not to be viewed
as bitul Torah (spending time unproductively), but rather as an integral
part of our growth as b’nei Torah and contributing members of K’lal
Perhaps this is the poignant message of the duality of the singular and
plural forms of expression. As we begin discussing the topic of korbonos
in sefer Vayikrah, we are informed at the onset, “Adam ki yakriv
mi’chem.” The Torah is teaching us that a person must give of him or
herself. This quintessential form of service to Hashem is personal and all
encompassing. It speaks to the notion that each of us need to devote
ourselves to the service of Hashem. Once we are introduced to theme of
personal sacrifice, we then move on to the topic of korbanos, which can
and often should be brought as part of a group – as the pasuk
continues, “Min habehemah … takrivu es korbanchem.”
Rabbi Horowitz is the founder and dean of Yeshiva Darchei Noam in Monsey, NY, as well as the founder and Program Director of Agudath Israel's Project Y.E.S. (Youth Enrichment Services), which helps at-risk teens and their parents. He is a popular lecturer on teaching and parenting topics in communities around the world, and is the author of several best-selling parenting tape and CD sets. For more information on Rabbi Horowitz's parenting tapes, visit http://www.rabbihorowitz.com/ or call 845-352-7100 X 133.