In this week's parashah, we begin to read of the sacrifices that were
offered in the Mishkan, and later in the Bet Hamikdash. R' Moshe Chaim
Luzzato z"l (Ramchal; 1707-1746; kabbalist and prolific author, best known
for Mesilat Yesharim) writes about the purpose of sacrifices:
The kohen who sacrificed an offering would have in mind to honor Hashem by
bringing together and offering to Him a sample of each level of creation.
[R' Chaim Friedlander z"l (mashgiach ruchani in Yeshivat Netivot and the
Ponovezh Yeshiva who re-popularized many of Ramchal's writings; died 1984)
explains that every item in creation has a unique purpose, and the
complete revelation of G-d occurs only when all creations work together.
Sacrifices further this goal by including a mineral (salt), a vegetable
(flour, wine and incense) and an animal (cow, sheep, goat or bird).]
Another aspect of this work of unifying the creation in the service of G-d
was to be able to approach Hashem on behalf of all of the Jewish People.
Kohanim had to have great wisdom in order to accomplish this task, as it
required knowledge of deep concepts. The general idea, however, is to
unify all creations - lower ones and higher ones - in giving honor to the
One Above. [R' Friedlander explains: The degree to which the world merits
to see the Shechinah revealed depends on the degree to which the world
realizes that the very purpose of creation is so that we may serve
Hashem. (This apparently was the knowledge that Ramchal refers to as
being required of the kohanim.)] (Da'at Tevunot p.178)
"Vayikra / He called to Moshe . . ." (1:1)
Why doesn't the verse say, "Hashem called to Moshe"? R' Moshe
Soloveitchik z"l (rosh yeshiva in Switzerland) answers that Hashem
sometimes calls to a person without identifying Himself. Only if a person
listens carefully will he understand that he is being given a message.
He adds: We read regarding Moshe and the "Burning Bush" (Shmot 3:3-
4), "Moshe thought, `I will turn aside now and look at this great sight –
why will the bush not be burned?' Hashem saw that he turned aside to see;
and G-d called out to him from amid the bush and said, `Moshe,
Moshe'. . ." Says R' Soloveitchik: This teaches us that a person has
moments of great opportunity, but they are lost if he does not seize
them. Only because Moshe turned to examine the bush that miraculously was
not consumed did he merit that Hashem spoke to him. (Quoted in
Otzrotaihem Shel Tzaddikim)
"When a man / adam among you brings an offering . . ." (1:2)
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 Eretz Yisrael) 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 so-called "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 spiritual
level. (Afikim Ba'Negev, reprinted in Otzrot Ha'Rayah p.754)
"If one's offering is an olah from the cattle, . . . the sons of
Aharon, the Kohanim, shall . . . throw the blood on the Altar . . ."
An olah may be brought from four-legged animals or from fowl. Likewise, a
chatat / sin offering can be brought from four-legged animals or from
fowl. The Mishnah (Kinim 1:1) teaches that the blood of a bird-chatat and
an animal- olah are placed on the lower half of the altar's wall, while
the blood of an animal-chatat and a bird-olah are placed on the top half
of the altar. Why?
R' Amram Zvi Gruenwald z"l (dayan in Oyber-Visheve, Hungary and rabbi in
the Fernwald D.P. camp) observes that a four-legged animal usually is
brought by a wealthy person, while a bird usually is brought by a poor
person. A chatat is brought to repent for a sin; although a poor person's
repentance also is desired by Hashem, the repentance of a wealthy person
who humbles himself is more beloved. Therefore, in the case of a chatat,
the blood of the rich man's offering is brought to the top of the altar
and the blood of the poor man's offering is placed lower down.
In contrast, an olah is a voluntary gift offering. Whose gift is more
beloved by Hashem - the rich man's or the poor man's? Obviously, the poor
man's, as it entails a greater sacrifice. Therefore its blood is placed
at the top of the altar, and the blood of the rich man's olah is placed
below. (Zichron Amram Zvi)
Our Sages tell us that the nation of Amalek demonstrated its particularly
evil nature by attacking Bnei Yisrael immediately after the entire world
witnessed the wondrous miracle of the splitting of the sea. However, asks
R' Shlomo Brevda shlita, this seems to be contradicted by another teaching
of Chazal, i.e., that only one person - Yitro - was moved to convert to
Judaism as a result of the miracles that occurred. Were the nations of
the world other than Amalek impressed by the miracles, or were they not
R' Brevda explains: The Gemara (Shevuot 41b) teaches that people do not
notice things in which they have no interest. Yitro was already a truth-
seeker before the Exodus. Thus, hearing about the Exodus moved him to
take action. The other nations of the world at that time were not moved in
the same way because they were not truth-seekers to begin with.
Nevertheless, the miracles that occurred did make some impression on them,
as the Torah relates (Shmot 15:14-15), "Nations heard - they were
agitated; terror gripped the dwellers of Philistia. Then the chieftains
of Edom were confounded; trembling gripped the powers of Moav; all the
dwellers of Canaan dissolved." Amalek, however, was an exception.
Amalek was so far removed from any trace of subservience to G-d that the
miracles of the Exodus and the splitting of the sea made no impression on
them at all. (Kiyemu V'kiblu p.18)
This week, we present an excerpt from Megillat Ta'anit / The Scroll of
Fasts, one of the earliest written halachic works – dating from long
before the Mishnah was set down in writing. Notwithstanding its name,
Megillat Ta'anit is not a list of fast days, but rather of days on which
fasting and/or eulogizing were prohibited because of miracles that
occurred for our ancestors. The Gemara (Rosh Hashanah 18 & 19) discusses
whether these prohibitions remain in effect today, and concludes that, for
the most part, they do not. As a result, most of the festivals mentioned
in Megillat Ta'anit have long since been forgotten.
Some of the dates listed in Megillat Ta'anit are not festivals but simply
significant dates. One such day falls during this coming week. We read:
The 12th day [of Adar] is the "Day of Toryanus." He [Toryanus] arrested
the brothers Lulianus and Papus in Ludkiyah. [Some say that these two
brothers confessed to a murder that they did not commit in order to avert
a pogrom. Others say that the brothers were commanded to participate in a
pagan ritual and they refused.] He said to them, "If you are from the
people of Chananiah, Mishael and Azaryah, let your G-d come and save you
from me as he saved Chananiah, Mishael and Azaryah from Nevuchadnezar."
They replied, "Chananiah, Mishael and Azaryah were tzaddikim and
Nevuchadnezar was a worthy king; thus, they were appropriate tools for G-d
to use in performing a miracle. But you are evil, and it would not be
fitting for you to be connected with a miracle. Furthermore, we deserve to
die, and if you don't kill us, Hashem has many other agents. He has many
bears, lions, snakes and scorpions with which to strike at us. On the
other hand, if you do kill us, the Holy One, Blessed is He, will avenge
our blood from you." Tradition records that no sooner had Toryanus left
that spot when two Roman officers came and killed him.
The editors hope these brief 'snippets' will engender further study
and discussion of Torah topics ('lehagdil Torah u'leha'adirah'), and
your letters are appreciated. Web archives at Torah.org start with 5758 (1997) and
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