These divrei Torah were adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissocher Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Tapes on the weekly portion: CD #1069 – Should Yeshiva Bochrim/Kollel Members Say Korbonos? Good Shabbos!
We Follow the Torah’s Teaching, Whether It Makes Scents or Not!
The pasuk in this week’s parsha says, “When a soul will bring a meal-offering to Hashem, his offering shall be of fine flour; he shall pour oil on it and place frankincense on it.” [Vayikra 2:1] The Korban Mincha needed to contain three ingredients: It needed to contain sol’es [fine flour]; it needed to contain shemen [oil]; and it needed to contain levona [a type of spice that makes it sweet smelling]. The Torah then adds [Vaykira 2:11] “Any meal offering that you offer to Hashem shall not be prepared leavened, for you shall not cause to go up in smoke from any leavening or any honey as a fire-offering to Hashem.” All Mincha offerings must be made as matzah – therefore any seor [a leavening agent] and any devash (not literally bee’s honey but any fruit juice or any sweet ingredient like honey) may not be part of the recipe.
Parshas HaKetores, which is part of the morning prayer’s preliminary recitations, contains the teaching of the Tanna Bar Kappara that not only are we prohibited from adding devash to a Korban Mincha, but we are also prohibited from adding it to the daily incense offering (the Ketores) in the Beis HaMikdash. “Had one put a kortov (a trace amount) of fruit-honey into it, no person could stand (in the Temple Courtyard) because of its (malodorous) aroma.” The Ketores is made up of eleven difference spices. Bar Kappara teaches that if someone were to add devash to any of the different spices, it would make such a bad scent that no one could stand it. (This is the explanation according to some commentaries.) The Braisa there finishes off “And why did they not add thereto devash? It is because the Torah teaches, “For any leaven and any devash, you are not to burn from them a fire-offering to Hashem.”
This seems to be a very peculiar statement. The Braisa just got finished saying that a person cannot add fruit-honey because if someone did, no one would be able to take the smell. Then the Braisa says, “Why don’t they in fact add devash? It is because the Torah said not to!” We have two disparate reasons given here – each of which would seem to make the other reason totally redundant.
I believe this is an example of the well-known Sifrei, which teaches that a person should NOT say “I do not like (the taste of) pig.” We are living in the great State of Maryland which is world famous for its crabs. If you have ever smelled crabs cooking – which I have – one can truthfully say “No one can stand there because of its (malodorous) aroma.” It is the worst smelling thing. I sometimes pass by the fish aisle in the supermarket and see the lobsters, the shrimp, and the oysters. They are ugly! And yet everyone talks about the delicacies of shellfish. I have heard Baalei Teshuva tell me that the hardest thing for them to give up when they became Torah-observant was not chazer [pig]. The hardest thing for them to give up was shellfish. So even though I am tempted to say “I cannot stand crabs” according to the teaching of Sifrei, I am supposed to say, “I would desire them, I love crabs but what can I do? My Father in Heaven decreed upon me that I am not allowed to eat them.” This is the correct attitude.
This teaching of Bar Kappara is an example of the same principle. In fact, if someone added fruit-honey to the Ketores, we would not be able to stand there because of the scent. However, the reason why we do not add fruit-honey is because the Torah prohibited it and therefore we would not do it even if it smelled fantastic.
Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetsky connects a very cute little story to this idea. There was a ShopRite supermarket in Lakewood for many years. At this ShopRite, there was a frum woman standing in line behind a non-Jewish woman, who was shopping with her little son. As we all know, supermarkets put candy right next to the checkout counters and the non-Jewish woman’s son started throwing a temper tantrum because his mother would not buy him a certain candy bar that he saw in the checkout aisle. Finally, the woman said to her son, “It is not kosher!” The boy said to his mother “What do you mean ‘It is not kosher’? — It says on the wrapper that it is delicious.”
At that point, the woman turned to the frum woman behind her and said, “I do not understand something. Every time when you people go into the store and your children want something at the checkout counter, you say ‘It is not kosher’ and that is the end of the discussion. Does that not just mean that it does not taste good?” The frum woman explained to her that kosher has nothing to do with how it tastes. It is just that we are allowed to eat kosher and we are not allowed to eat non-kosher. This was a difficult concept for the non-Jewish person to understand. It says explicitly on the label that it is delicious, so what kind of problem is it that “it is not kosher”?
This is the interpretation of Bar Kappara’s “bottom line”: We do not add fruit-juice to the Ketores because the Torah teaches ‘Don’t sacrifice from it a fire-offering to Hashem.’ End of discussion. It does not matter if the smell is malodorous or irresistible — That is academic. We do as the Torah commands us.
Putting Aside the Attribute of Silence as Necessary
There was a certain Jew who gave the shirt off his back to any and all comers. This person went to see the Rebbe Reb Bunim of Pishische. The Rebbe told this person that he should not act that way. The Rebbe explained that such behavior only demonstrates that he does not have the ability to say “no”. Such an attribute is not characteristic of Gemilas Chessed. Gemillas Chessed is when a person makes a conscious decision: This person “Yes”; this person “No.” Some people are undeserving. When a person cannot say “no,” all it says about him is that he is not in charge of his emotions. That, per say, is not an admirable quality.
The Rebbe told this fellow a vort [homiletic teaching] from the Chozeh of Lublin. The pasuk says that the Patriarch Yaakov was an “Ish Tam, Yoshev Ohalim” [Bereishis 25:27]. “Ish Tam” is normally translated as a “simple person” or a “naive person”, a person who knows no “shtick“, who does not connive, a man who does not know how to cheat – that is how we usually picture an “Ish Tam“!
And yet Chazal say that Yaakov Avinu said about his uncle, Lavan, “I am his match when it comes to trickery.” The Chozeh of Lublin asked – which is it? Was Yaakov an “Ish Tam” to whom one can sell the Brooklyn Bridge or was he “Achiv ani b’Ramaus” [Lavan’s match in deception]? The Chozeh of Lublin answers that the description “Ish Tam” means that Yakov had control over his Temimus [his naiveté]. When the situation demanded Temimus, Yaakov was a Tam; but when the situation demanded that he not let a conniver run circles around him, he could be as full of tricks as the best of them.
This is why the Baalei Mussar say that when we describe a person who is a mensch, we call him a Baal Midos. The word Baal means the person is the master. He is the “Ba’alim” [owner] over his middos. He can choose as necessary. Sometimes he will employ this characteristic and other times he will employ that characteristic. There is a place for humility and there is a place for being proud. There is a time and place to be forgiving and there is a time and place to stand up for one’s rights. There is a time to be a man of peace and there is a time to be a man of war.
We need to know when to employ each human attribute. Yaakov was an “Ish Tam” – he had control over his “Temimus” but when the situation demanded it, he could act the other way as well.
If a person’s nature requires him to feed any and all comers bo matter what, he has lost fulfillment of the specific Mitzvah of Hachnasas Orchim. It tells us that his kindness and generosity do not stem from the fact that he is a true Baal Chessed. They stem from the fact that he is a bleeding heart who can never say no.
Based on this idea, the Bei Chiya from Rav Elisha Horowitz shares a beautiful observation on a pasuk in Megillas Esther. In the famous pasuk there, Mordechai tells Queen Esther, “For if you will persist in keeping silent at a time like this (b’Es haZos), relief and deliverance will come to the Jews from another place, while you and your father’s house will perish…” [Esther 4:14] This is the time to go to Achashverosh and plead for your people. If you keep quiet now, you and your family will be wiped out.
The question is, what is meant by the expression b’Es haZos? What does it mean “at a time like now”? Of course it is “now”! It is always “now”. What was Mordechai emphasizing by use of this expression?
Chazal say that Queen Esther possessed the Midas HaShtikah [the attribute of remaining silent]. She had the capacity to keep quiet. Some people cannot keep their mouth shut. Esther had an inborn capacity to remain silent. The Medrash (on the words “and Esther revealed nothing of her kindred and her people” [Esther 2:20]) says that Esther received this strength of character from her ancestress Rochel.
Rochel kept quiet. She did not reveal to Yaakov the secret that it was actually going to be Leah under the wedding canopy. Esther inherited Rochel’s Midas haShtikah. Chazal point out that Binyamin, the son of Rochel, possessed this family trait as well. He knew the secret of the sale of Yosef and he refused to share it because of the Cherem [ban of excommunication] the brothers imposed on anyone who revealed it. Likewise, Shaul (who also came from the Tribe of Binyamin and descended from Rochel) also kept quiet. Finally, by Esther as well it is written that “Esther did not reveal her national origin.”
The Attribute of Silence is a great thing. However, Mordechai tells Esther there is a time and place for everything. Yes, you possess the Midas HaShtikah, but if you will maintain silence AT THIS TIME, tragedy will occur. NOW is not the time for silence. Now is the time to speak up. If you, Esther, are really in charge of your Midas HaShtikah then you will demonstrate that ownership.
There are people who keep silent because they are shy. There are people who are quiet and introverted. They cannot open their mouths. “Esther, now is the moment of truth. Why are you a “Shosekes” [silent one]? Are you silent because that in fact is your middah, which, in this situation demands that you do not keep quiet, or are you merely shy and introverted? Esther, show your true colors: Are you in charge of your Midas HaShtikah, or is it in charge of you?”
With this concept, we can explain the following idea: All the Tribes had a unique stone in the Choshen worn on the Kohen Gadol‘s chest. The stone of Biyamin is Yoshpeh. The word Yoshpeh (yud-shin-fay-hay) is made up of two words: Yesh (yud-shin) Peh (fay-hay) meaning “There is a mouth.” Binyomin had the Midas HaShtikah. Why did he possess the Midas HaShtikah? Was it because he was too shy to open his mouth? Chazal say, no. His trademark stone was Yesh Peh – “I have a mouth.” I am able to speak when the situation demands it, BUT when the situation demands for me to keep quiet – if they tell me do not reveal the secret of our sin of selling Yosef – then I am able to keep quiet. Someone who has a mouth, but can keep it closed, demonstrates that he is a Baal [owner] of his Shtikah.
This too may be the interpretation of the end of Mordechai’s warning – “…you and your father’s house will be destroyed.” Why is Esther’s father’s house brought into the picture? It is because Mordechai is telling her that if you go ahead and keep quiet now, this will retroactively reveal that your whole genealogy – Rochel, Binyomin, Shaul – did not keep quiet because they controlled their “attribute of silence”, they kept quiet because they were naturally shy people.
Show me by speaking now, Mordechai told Esther, that the Midas HaShtikah that is part of your genealogy, part of your heritage, part of your family, does not come from the fact that you have introverted genes. Show me that your entire mishpacha had the ability to control their silences, based on the needs of the moment.
Transcribed by David Twersky; Jerusalem [email protected]
Technical Assistance by Dovid Hoffman; Baltimore, MD [email protected]
This week’s write-up is adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissochar Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Series on the weekly Torah portion. A listing of the halachic portions for Parshas Vayikra is provided below:
- CD#003 The Korban Pesach Today
- CD #048 Is Shaving Permitted on Chol Ha’Moed?
- CD #091 Americans in Israel: Two-Day Yom Tov or One?
- CD #139 Confidentiality: The Prohibition Against Revealing Secrets
- CD #186 Shalach Manos and Other Purim Issues
- CD #232 Maror: A Bitter Problem?
- CD #276 Is Theft Permitted to Save a Life?
- CD #322 A Unique Erev Pesach & Its Broader Implications
- CD #366 Chametz She’avar Olov HaPesach
- CD #410 The Obligation to Testify
- CD #454 Eruv Tavshilin
- CD #498 Honey–Why Is It Kosher
- CD #542 Selling Chametz
- CD #586 Rabbinic Confidentiality
- CD #630 Gebrokts and Kneidelach
- CD #674 Saying Karbonos
- CD #718 Karbanos: The Basis for Tefillah
- CD #762 Standing During Davening
- CD #806 Voice Recognition – How Reliable?
- CD #850 Taking Medicines on Yom Tov
- CD #894 Pesach-Daled Kosos: Must You Drink All 4? And Other Issues
- CD #938 Davening on an Airplane/Train: Must You Stand?
- CD #981 Accepting Shul Donations from Non-Shomrei Shabbos
- CD#1026 Salt on the Table
- CD#1069 Should Yeshiva Bochrim/Kollel Members Say Karbonos?
- CD#1112 A Rabbi’s Dilemma–Reveal A Confidence and Get Sued or Remain Silent?
- CD#1155 Pesach Issues: Maos Chittin; Ta’anis Bechorim
- CD#1198 Blood On Your Finger/Gums: Is It Permitted To Suck It? And Other Maaris Ayin Issues
- CD#1242 Seder with the Zayde – Not as Simple As You Think and Other Seder Issues
- CD#1286 Oy! I Forgot To Have Kavanah in Sh’monei Esrei – Now What?
- CD#1330 Can One Sell Any Type of Chometz?
A complete catalogue can be ordered from the Yad Yechiel Institute, PO Box 511, Owings Mills MD 21117-0511. Call (410) 358-0416 or e-mail [email protected] or visit http://www.yadyechiel.org/ for further information.