The Almighty Dollar
Rabbi Pinchas Avruch
This week's parsha continues the instructions for the service in the Mishkan
(Tabernacle) that Moshe is to relate to his brother Aaron, the Kohen Gadol
(High Priest). But in contrast to prior directives where G-d has Moshe
"tell" the procedures, with these orders he is to "Command Aaron"
(Vayikra/Leviticus 6:2). Rashi explains that "command" implies stimulation
to respond enthusiastically, a needed action given the financial loss
associated with the elevation offering being discussed, since the elevation
offering is completely consumed by fire, with no remaining meat to be
enjoyed by the priests or the owner. Nachmanides (R' Moshe ben Nachman,
1194-1270, of Gerona, Spain, one of the leading Torah scholars of the Middle
Ages; successfully defended Judaism at the dramatic debate in Barcelona in
1263) challenges this understanding: the priest, who is the one commanded,
did not lose anything, as it was never his own animal being consumed!
Numerous commentators on Rashi remove this question, pointing out that the
priest counted on the remaining meat of the sacrifices for his and his
family's sustenance. The lack of remaining meat, which he would have had
with a different sacrifice, constitutes a loss. Additionally, his
participation in the service in the Mishkan precluded the opportunity to
earn a living. Thus, the priest suffered a financial hardship with this
sacrifice and needed the additional stimulation that came with a command to
ensure sincere and complete fulfillment of the charge.
However in Bamidbar/Numbers 8:1, Rashi notes the juxtaposition of the
preceding narrative of the Dedication of the Mishkan with that verse's
discussion of Aaron's responsibility to kindle the eternally burning lights
of the Menorah. Aaron and his tribe of Levi were not included in the
Dedication Rites, causing Aaron to be despondent. G-d advised him that his
mandate of the Menorah, which would belong to his offspring forever, was the
greater mitzvah. It is readily apparent that Aaron's treasure in life was
the opportunity to serve G-d and that he saw the true, superior value of
these opportunities over the temporal value of gold and silver. So why did
Aaron, who did not ascribe any true value to material wealth, need
additional stimulation to properly fulfill the elevation offering, the
financial cost of which was trivial?
Rabbi Alter Henach Leibowitz (Rosh Yeshiva/Dean of Yeshiva Chofetz Chaim in
Forest Hills, Queens, New York) deduces from this the innate, natural draw
that humans feel toward wealth, such that even an Aaron could slack off in
some minute way in his Divine service because of a trivial loss. For all of
Aaron's knowledge of the inherent emptiness in material possessions, so
great is the human urge that the stirrings in his heart of heart would cause
a laxity in his alacrity in his most treasured service of G-d. This
deficiency was remedied by the additional stimulation of the "command",
G-d's safeguard instituted for Aaron and his children. How much more
vigilant we must be with our precautions in the course of our everyday
Have a good Shabbos!
Copyright © 2002 by Rabbi Pinchas Avruch and Project Genesis, Inc.
Kol HaKollel is a publication of the Milwaukee Kollel Center for Jewish
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