With this week's parashah, we begin the laws of the
korbanot/sacrifices. Our sages struggled to understand the
purpose of animal sacrifices. On the one hand, does Hashem need
our gifts? On the other hand, if man has sinned against G-d,
should it be sufficient that he offer a sacrifice in order to be
Ramban (13th century) and others explain that a sinner brings a
sacrifice to help him visualize what should happen to one who
dares transgress the word of the Creator. Hopefully, the fear
that he will thus experience, combined with his gratitude for the
fact that Hashem, in His kindness, has spared the sinner, will
cause the sinner to repent.
This idea, that the sinner must visualize that by rights he
should be the sacrifice, can be carried further. R' Moshe
Alshich z"l (16th century) observes: There is a sacrifice (i.e.,
a chatat) to bring when one commits a sinful act, albeit without
premeditation. There also is a sacrifice (i.e., an olah) to
bring when one thinks sinful thoughts. Why then is there no
sacrifice to bring for a premeditated sin, when both thought and
deed are present?
For such a sin, R' Alshich explains, a sacrifice is too small a
gesture to be an atonement. Atonement for such sins can be
attained only on Yom Kippur. Not coincidentally, the midrash
teaches that Yom Kippur is the day that our Patriarch Yitzchak
was bound on the altar as a sacrifice. Perhaps that which one
cannot accomplish by seeing an animal on the altar, he can
accomplish by "seeing" Yitzchak on the altar. (Torat Moshe)
"When a man/adam among you brings an offering to Hashem
. . ." (1:2)
Commenting on this verse, Midrash Rabbah states: "'Adam' is an
expression of love, an expression of brotherhood, an expression
of friendship." What is this midrash teaching?
R' Aharon Lewin z"l (the "Reisha Rav"; died 1941) explains:
There is a dispute among the Rishonim/early commentaries as to
the purpose of animal sacrifices. Rambam z"l writes that when
Hashem gave the Torah, He did not attempt to wean His people
entirely from the idolatrous ways with which they were familiar.
Rather, He instructed Bnei Yisrael to direct to Him the service
that they otherwise would have performed to idols. Many other
commentaries disagree vociferously and offer other
In particular, R' Yitzchak Arama z"l (the "Ba'al Ha'akeidah")
explains that Hashem recognized man's emotional need to repay his
debts. Therefore, Hashem instructed us regarding an order of
sacrifices, and He acts as if man is thereby giving Him a gift.
There is a wide gulf between the explanations of Rambam and the
Ba'al Ha'akeidah. According to the former, the inclusion in the
Torah of a sacrificial service indicates the lowliness of man;
according to the latter, it indicates G-d's love for man.
R' Lewin continues: In light of this dispute, we can understand
the above midrash. Do not think, says the midrash, that the
inclusion in the Torah of a sacrificial service indicates the
lowliness of man. No! "It is an expression of love, an
expression of brotherhood, an expression of friendship."
(Ha'drash Ve'ha'iyun: Vaykira, No. 1)
The Midrash Tanchuma states: "In the future, there will be no
sacrifices." R' Avraham Yitzchak Hakohen Kook z"l (1865-1935;
first Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi of Palestine) explains:
The Arizal taught that Hashem will bring about a change in
nature in the future such that animals will be capable of
attaining spiritual levels equivalent to what man can attain
today. That being the case, R' Kook writes, it is plain to see
why man will no longer bring animal sacrifices in the future.
For the present, however, writes R' Kook, man should not be
concerned about animals' rights. Man himself is on too low a
spiritual level to concern himself with that. Indeed, it is
disgraceful and is destructive of man's own stature when he acts
hastily and rashly in pressing these issues! So long as man
needs meat, he not only should eat it, but should sanctify it
[e.g., through sacrifices, when the Bet Hamikdash was standing,
and by using it at Shabbat and Yom Tov meals]. The sacrifices
were a means for man to express his gratitude to Hashem, and
having the ability to express gratitude is itself a lofty
(Afikim Ba'Negev, reprinted in Otzrot Ha'Rayah p.754)
"The more that one tells about the story of the Exodus, the
more praiseworthy he is."
(From the Haggadah)
Why is it necessary for the Haggadah to tell us this? Would we
have thought otherwise? R' Avraham Shmuel Binyamin Sofer z"l
(the "Ketav Sofer"; 19th century Hungary) explains as follows:
The gemara (Shabbat 118b) teaches: "One who recites Hallel
every day is a blasphemer." Why? R' Sofer explains that Hallel
praises Hashem for the supernatural miracles of the Exodus.
However, one who focuses too much on G-d's supernatural miracles
doesn't notice His everyday wonders. Man is obligated to see
Hashem as much in his daily life and in nature as in His
supernatural acts, and therefore man is forbidden to recite
Hallel every day.
R' Sofer adds: This is the meaning of the verse (Mishlei 3:6),
"In all your ways know Him and He will smooth your paths." In
all of your ways, in whatever you do on a day-to-day basis, know
Him. Know that He is the source of your day-to-day success, and
then He will indeed smooth the path before you.
In light of the above, one might think that he should downplay
the story of the Exodus. No, the Haggadah tells us, on the Seder
night one should elaborate as much as possible on the Exodus.
(Haggadah Shel Pesach Ketav Sofer-Shir Ma'on, p.10b)
Exactly what is the extent of one's obligation to retell the
story of the Exodus? R' Shimon Sofer z"l (1850-1944; son of the
Ketav Sofer) answers:
The Haggadah relates that Rabbi Eliezer, Rabbi Yehoshua, Rabbi
Elazar ben Azaryah, Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Tarfon (all sages of
the Mishnah) sat together during the entire night and discussed
the Exodus. In apparent contrast to this, the Shulchan Aruch
(481:2) states: "One is obligated to busy himself with the laws
of Pesach and [the story of] the Exodus and to relate the
miracles and the wonders that G-d did for our ancestors until he
is overpowered by sleep."
In reality, there is no contradiction, R' Sofer explains. One
is, in fact, obligated to discuss the Exodus (and/or the laws of
Pesach) all night. However, the Shulchan Aruch recognizes that
most people cannot accomplish this, and it therefore states that
one's obligation continues until he falls asleep. This means,
however, R' Sofer writes, that one may not do things that will
cause him to fall asleep sooner. For example, one may not drink
any wine after the fourth cup and one should not overeat at the
Seder meal. In addition, if one does fall asleep and he happens
to awaken before dawn, he is obligated to resume his discussion
of the Exodus until morning.
This coming week marks the shloshim of R' David Povarsky
z"l, one of the Roshei Yeshiva of the Ponovezh Yeshiva in
Bnei Brak. R' Povarsky passed away on the 6th of Adar at
the age of 97 after almost 55 years of teaching at Ponovezh.
R' Povarsky was born in White Russia and was a leading
student of R' Yerucham Levovitz z"l, the famed Mashgiach of
Mir. [A yeshiva's mashgiach is the faculty member charged
with molding the students' characters.]
The following is from a lecture delivered by R' Povarsky
on 23 Adar 5739 (March 22, 1979).
Chazal have instructed us, "Every single day, a person must see
himself as if he participated in the Exodus." How is this
There are certain facts and concepts upon which a Jew is
expected to reflect until they become ingrained in him, until
they become "real". One of these is the Exodus. Why does Hashem
care whether a Jew possesses a tiny morsel of chametz on Pesach?
The Mashgiach of Mir explained that laws such as this are
intended to awaken a person and cause him to reflect upon the
We are taught, "Who is wise? One who can see the consequences
of his actions." Chazal carefully chose the word "see" to
indicate that the consequences of good deeds and bad deeds must
be so real to a person that he can "see" them.
The fact that the mitzvot must be ingrained in a person is
reflected in the gemara (Sukkah 52a) which teaches: "In the
future, Hashem will slaughter the yetzer hara and bring it before
the righteous and the wicked. To the righteous, the yetzer hara
will appear as a mountain and they will say, 'How did we conquer
that great mountain?' To the wicked, the yetzer hara will appear
as a hair and they will say, 'How did we fail to conquer that
hair?'" The righteous will be surprised by the size of the
yetzer hara because they have trained themselves to the point
that even hard mitzvot are easy. The wicked will be surprised
because they have lowered themselves to the point where even easy
mitzvot are hard.
Pesach illustrates that a mitzvah can become ingrained in a
person. To see this, one need only look at the number of people
who make no effort to keep kosher but who would never knowingly
introduce chametz into their homes during Pesach.
(Mussar Va'da'at III p. 294)
Rikki and Nat Lewin
in memory of her father
Rabbi Morris Gordon
(Harav Eliyahu Moshe
ben R' Yitzchak Dov a"h)