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Learning to be Happy with our Portion from an “Out of Order” Rashi
Vayikra begins with the words: “He called to Moshe, and Hashem spoke to him from the Tent of Meeting, saying: Speak to the Children of Israel and say to them: When a person (Adam) from among you will bring an offering to Hashem; from the animals – from the cattle and from the flocks you shall bring your offering.” [Vayikra 1:1-2].
Rashi explains that this ambiguous opening “When a person from among you will bring a sacrifice…” implies that the Torah is speaking of a voluntary sacrificial offering (korban nedavah). Rashi questions why the Torah uses the generic word Adam when speaking about the subject who brings the offering. Rashi answers that this expression calls to mind Adam, the first man, and thereby teaches: Just as Adam did not bring offerings from stolen property (because he owned all animals in the world), so too, you shall not bring offerings from property that does not belong to you.
It is interesting that although the first word in the pasuk is “Adam” (from which Rashi derives the lesson that one cannot bring a stolen animal as a sacrifice) and the next two words are ki yakriv — when he will offer – (from which Rashi learns that we are speaking about a voluntary offering), Rashi reverses the sequence when presenting these two lessons. Rashi first presents the lesson learned from the second and third words of the pasuk (ki yakriv) and only subsequently presents the lesson learned from the first word in the pasuk (Adam). Why did Rashi, the extremely precise master of Biblical interpretation, do that?
The super-commentaries of Rashi all ask this question. The Kli Yakar gives somewhat of an ingenious interpretation: Elsewhere [Bamidbar 19:14] Chazal teach that the word “Adam” refers to the Jewish people, not the nations of the world. Hence, had I only seen the words “Adam ki yakriv” (when a person will bring…) my initial inclination would be to think that the pasuk is only referring to Jews. However, then Rashi says that we are speaking about voluntary offerings and we know that Gentiles can bring voluntary offerings. Given then that we are speaking about voluntary offerings, the word Adam cannot be coming to teach us that the pasuk is referring exclusively to Jews. It must be teaching us something else. So now that Rashi taught us that we are speaking about voluntary offerings by expounding the words “ki yakriv,” it now becomes necessary for Rashi to expound the word Adam as teaching us that the offerings cannot be from stolen property.
The Tolner Rebbe has a different approach to explain these apparently out-of-sequence comments by Rashi. To appreciate his insight, however, we need to introduce one additional difficulty: Why was it necessary to expound the word “Adam” to teach that a person may not bring a stolen animal as a sacrifice? The truth of the matter is there are several other Talmudic sources for this halacha. Why does Rashi seemingly ignore these Talmudic sources prohibiting the offering of stolen property, rather quoting a less authoritative Medrashic source?
The Tolner Rebbe explains that there are two categories of people. There is the type of person that no matter what he has and no matter how much he has, he never has enough. Shomo Hamelech said about such a person: “One who loves money will never be satisfied with money…” [Koheles 5:9]. A person can have everything under the sun, but if he has such a nature that he is never satisfied no matter what he has, he will never be happy. Someone out there has a better house; someone has a better car; someone has a better boat; someone has a private airplane. There is always more to be had. If someone does not learn how to be satisfied with what he has, he will always be lacking.
On the other hand, there is another type of extremely poor person. He has very little. However, his nature is (to use Mishnaic language) to be a “Sameach b’Chelko” (happy with his lot in life). He does not sense the lack. He does not feel the want. This is the type of individual that the Mishna calls a truly rich person [Avos 4:1]. A person can have a multi-million-dollar portfolio with every luxury item a person could imagine and feel that he is lacking; another can be on the verge on bankruptcy and feel that he has everything he could possibly need. Those are the two types of people in the world.
Which is the type of person who brings a Voluntary Offering? It is the second type of person who brings a Korban Nedava. It does not hurt him. It does not bother him to part with his money. This type of person willingly wants to make a donation, show his appreciation to the Almighty and bring a voluntary offering.
These two personalities, with which we are all familiar, are personified by the Biblical personalities of Yaakov and Eisav. Yaakov Avinu tells his brother “I have everything.” [Bereishis 33:11]. Eisav concedes only “I have a lot” [Bereishis 33:9]. If a person can only admit “I have a lot,” it indicates that he is always lacking something. If a person’s attitude is “I have everything” then he is never lacking.
The type of person who brings a Korban Nedava has the attitude: I have enough. I can share. I can pay back. I can give this animal of mine to the Ribono shel Olam.
Rashi first explains that we are speaking of a voluntary offering. Then Rashi says, “Do you know what type of person brings a voluntary offering? Someone who is like Adam. Adam felt no need to steal. He felt no need to take from somebody else because everything was his. We can emulate that type of person by being satisfied with what we have and thereby demonstrating the willingness to give.
Rashi here is not speaking about halacha. He is not trying to teach us the specific Biblical exegesis that teaches that someone may not bring an offering from stolen property. The Talmud teaches that in a number of places when addressing the ‘cheftza of the mitzvah‘ (i.e. – the halachic status of the monetary ownership of the item with which one fulfills the commandment). Here Rashi is not interested in telling us about the ‘cheftza‘. Rather he is interested in telling us about the ‘gavra‘ (the moral status of the individual who brings the item with which the mitzvah is performed). What type of mensch brings a voluntary offering? It is the type of person who feels “I have enough already.”
The paradigm – the model – for such action was the first man, Adam haRishon. He had everything and felt no urge or need to steal. One who can emulate that attitude can bring a korban nedava.
This is why Rashi wrote the second comment first and the first comment second. Rashi must first explain that the pasuk is speaking of the situation of a Voluntary Offering. He then goes on to explain the proper attitude a person has while bringing a voluntary offering. What is the philosophy of a Korban Nedava? What type of person brings such a sacrifice? Rashi answers by telling us that it is a person like Adam who in fact accurately felt “I have everything.”
The Lowly Salt Teaches an Elevated Lesson
The other comment I would like to share is on the pasuk “You shall salt your every meal-offering with salt; you may not discontinue the salt of your G-d’s covenant from upon your meal-offering – on all your offerings shall you offer salt.” [Vayikra 2:13] Rashi explains the requirement that all the sacrifices must have salt added to them: “For a covenant has been made with salt since the Six Days of Creation, for the lower (earthly) waters were promised to be offered on the Mizbayach in the form of salt …”
This was a consolation prize, so to speak. When the Ribono shel Olam split the waters of creation, some waters stayed down on earth in the oceans, rivers, and lakes, while other waters ascended to Heaven. The “lower waters” felt jealous. Hashem, so to speak, made a “deal” with the “lower waters” so they would not feel so cheated by their lack of spiritual mission in creation. The salt – which was a key component of the lower waters – would also be close to the Almighty – because of the law that all sacrifices must be accompanied by salt.
One may ask, however, it seems that it is the water – not the salt – that needs the consolation prize and the compensation for the role of the “upper waters”. Why the emphasis here on the salt?
Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky makes a very interesting comment: Rashi — says in Tractates Kesuvos and Shabbos – that salt was made in olden times as follows: They would dig an inlet. The ocean water would come in. It would evaporate and salt was left behind. Salt is the lowest of the low. The water that evaporates eventually goes back up to Heaven. The salt is left behind here on earth!
The Ribono shel Olam is trying to tell the water that “I appreciate the lowest of the low.” Not only will the water participate in the Korbonos (as is the case on Succos with the Water Libations) but even the salt of the water, the last earthly residual of the water after the water itself evaporates – that too is part of the sacrificial service.
The message, Rav Yaakov says, is an important lesson in the Jewish concept of spirituality. Spirituality is not always found in the “Higher Worlds”. A person can achieve Ruchniyus (spirituality) even with the lowest of the low. The lowly salt, which remains from water that evaporates, can also play a role in spirituality. The consolation to the water was not just that the lower waters have a spiritual role to play in this world. More than that! Even the water’s salt component – the last material residue after water “evaporates to the heavens” – has a spiritual role to play in this world. And so too, any person can achieve spiritual heights in this material world, no matter in what situation he finds himself.
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.