Volume 32, No. 23
1 Nissan 5778
March 17, 2018
Nathan and Rikki Lewin
in memory of her father,
Harav Eliyahu Moshe ben Yitzchak Dov Gordon a”h
Rabbi and Mrs. Barry Greengart
on the yahrzeit of his mother
Yuta bat Yosef a”h
Harold and Gilla Saltzman
in memory of his father,
Yosef Noach ben Yitzchak Isaac a”h
A significant part of the Book of Vayikra, which we begin this week, is devoted to Korbanot / sacrificial offerings. R’ Aharon Bakst z”l Hy”d (1869-1941; rabbi of Suvalk and Lomza, Poland; killed in the Holocaust) writes in the name of his teacher, R’ Simcha Zissel Ziv z”l (1824-1898; the Alter of Kelm): There are those who claim that the prophet Yeshayah was opposed to Korbanot. After all, he said (Yeshayah 1:11), “‘Why do I need your numerous sacrifices?’ says Hashem. ‘I am satiated with olah-offerings of rams and the choicest of fattened animals; and the blood of bulls and sheep and he-goats I do not desire’.” However, says the Alter, Yeshayah was not rejecting the idea of Korbanot. He explains:
In day-to-day life, if one person does a kindness for another, the beneficiary says, “Thank you.” If the favor is a significant one, the beneficiary feels more indebted and may present the other person with a bouquet of flowers. If the favor is greater still, the thanks may take the form of an expensive piece of gold tableware.
Expressing thanks is an inborn human need. In the desert, after the Exodus, Bnei Yisrael saw every day that Hashem exists and that nothing exists independently of Him. They saw clearly that their existence was entirely dependent on Hashem, and they needed an outlet to express their immense appreciation to Him. Therefore, Hashem gave them the opportunity to offer Korbanot to Him. Bringing sacrificial offerings allowed them to feel that they were thanking him and, thereby, gave them some peace of mind.
The Alter concludes: By the prophet Yeshayah’s time, approximately 700 years after the Exodus, Korbanot had lost their meaning. People no longer brought offerings to express their heartfelt thanks to Hashem; rather, bringing Korbanot had become a social or cultural convention. Therefore, declared the prophet Yeshayah, it was a ritual without value.
R’ Bakst adds: The same concept can apply to reciting Tehilim. If a person picks up a Tehilim book and recites a few chapters in a pleading tone, perhaps with tears, that has true value. Such a recitation can lift a burden off a person’s shoulders and fill him with a feeling of salvation. [R’ Bakst leaves the alternative unspoken.] (Lev Aharon p.134)
“He called to Moshe . . .” (1:1)
Midrash Shocher Tov comments: From here we learn that Tzaddikim are greater than angels, for when angels hear Hashem’s voice, they tremble, whereas Hashem called to Moshe, and Moshe was not harmed at all. [Until here from the Midrash]
R’ Yeshayah Halevi Horowitz z”l (the Shlah Ha’kadosh; Prague and Eretz Yisrael; died 1630) writes: What makes the Jewish People greater than the angels is our Torah study and good deeds. Mankind was the last of G-d’s creations, but was the first one contemplated. Mankind was created in the “image” of G-d in order to “establish G-d’s honor” in the world through the actions specified in the Torah; specifically, by doing them with pure thoughts and intentions. And, man was given all of the powers necessary to accomplish this, for that was Hashem’s Will from the beginning. (Shnei Luchot Ha’brit: Asarah Ma’amarot, Ma’amar Sheni)
Rashi z”l writes: Our verse implies that the Voice was heard by Moshe, and by no one else.
R’ Moshe Sofer z”l (1762-1839; the Chatam Sofer; rabbi and rosh yeshiva in Pressburg, Hungary) writes: This suggests an answer to a question asked by Ramban z”l. We will read in two weeks that Aharon’s sons Nadav and Avihu entered the Mishkan on their own initiative and were killed by Hashem. What were they thinking?
The answer, writes Chatam Sofer, is that our parashah is a continuation of the “story” begun in last week’s parashah, i.e., Moshe assembled the Mishkan on the first of Nissan (see Shmot 40:2), and then Hashem called to him to enter. Thus, the “calling” to Moshe in our verse took place on the same day that Nadav and Avihu entered the Mishkan uninvited–the first of Nissan. No one but Moshe heard the call; therefore, when Nadav and Avihu saw Moshe enter, they thought that he had entered uninvited, and they reasoned that doing so was permitted. (Torat Moshe)
R’ Chaim Vital z”l (Tzefat and Damascus; 1542-1620) writes: This verse illustrates our Sages’ teaching that Hashem elevates a person who humbles himself. We read at the end of last week’s parashah, “Moshe could not enter the Ohel Mo’ed, for the cloud rested upon it, and the glory of Hashem filled the Mishkan.” This does not mean that Moshe Rabbeinu was physically unable to enter the Ohel Mo’ed; after all, he had stood on Har Sinai in the presence of Hashem’s Glory. Rather, he humbled himself and did not enter “Hashem’s house” until he was invited, as our verse says, “He called to Moshe.” And what does our verse say next? “Hashem spoke to him from the Ohel Mo’ed, saying.” Hashem told him: the purpose of this structure is to be a Tent of Meeting in which to speak to you. (Etz Ha’da’at Tov)
“Speak to Bnei Yisrael and say to them, ‘When a man among you brings an offering to Hashem — from animals, from the cattle or from the flock shall you bring your offering.” (1:2)
Among four-legged animals, only the cow, sheep and goat families are fit for sacrificial offerings. Why were these species chosen?
R’ Yitzchak Abarbanel z”l (1437-1508; Portugal, Spain and Italy) offers several explanations:
(1) By their natures, temperaments, and diets, these are the finest of all four-legged animals.
(2) These are the most widely-available of all animals. [The two preceding explanations are offered by R’ Abarbanel in the name of R’ Levi ben Gershon z”l (Ralbag; 1288-1344; Provence, France)].
(3) These three animals allude to the merits of the three Patriarchs. About Avraham we read (Bereishit 18:7–when Avraham “fed” the three angels), “Avraham ran to the cattle, took a calf, tender and good . . .” About Yitzchak we read (Bereishit 22:13), “Avraham went and took the ram and offered it up as an offering instead of his son [Yitzchak].” Finally, about Yaakov we read (Bereishit 27:9), “Go now to the flock and fetch me from there two choice young kids of the goats.”
(4) The Jewish People are compared to these three species in many verses, including: “For Yisrael has strayed like a wayward cow” (Hoshea 4:16); “Yisrael is like scattered sheep” (Yirmiyah 50:17); and “I will put an end to the pride of the mighty / ‘azim’ [same spelling as ‘izim’ / goats]” (Yechezkel 7:24). When we offer animals of these three species, Hashem views it as if we have sacrificed ourselves to Him. (Peirush Al Ha’Torah: Hakdamah L’Vayikra)
“Rabbi Eliezer says, ‘The world was created in Tishrei.’ Rabbi Yehoshua says, ‘The world was created in Nissan’.” (Rosh Hashanah 10b)
R’ Yisrael Hofstein z”l (1737-1815; chassidic rebbe, known as the Maggid of Kozhnitz) writes that there is no dispute about when the physical creation of the world took place. Rabbi Yehoshua, who says that the world was created in Nissan, is merely observing that, like a fetus concealed within its mother, Hashem’s dominion over the world was not recognizable until the Exodus, which occurred in Nissan.
R’ Michel Zilber shlita (rosh yeshiva of the Zvhil yeshiva in Yerushalayim) explains: In fact, the world was not created in Tishrei or in Nissan, but rather on the 25th of Elul. What occurred on the first day of Tishrei was the creation of man. Why, then, does Rabbi Eliezer say the world was created in Tishrei? Because, until there was a being (man) capable of recognizing the Creator, the purpose of the world’s creation was unrealized.
Given that the purpose of Creation was not fulfilled–in a sense, Creation had not yet occurred–if Hashem was not recognized, Rabbi Yehoshua says that Creation cannot be said to have been until Nissan. Before the Exodus, Hashem was hidden. Man could, and did, erroneously attribute divine powers to heavenly bodies and forces of nature. Only the miracles of the Exodus changed that so that Hashem was known and the purpose of Creation was realized. (Haggadah Shel Pesach Ba’yam Derech p.9)