Thursday, March 17, 2016

Vayikra & Zachor 5776

The Torah Portion of "Vayikra -  Parshat Zachor"

Excerpted and Translated from the the Teachings of Rabbi Gershon Steinberg ztz"l
L'ilui Neshamat HaGaon HaTzaddik R' Gershon Avigdor Ben Chaim ztz"l

"And He called to Moshe..." (Vayikra 1:1)

Rashi says that this (the use of the term "calling") is a language of love, the language which the angels of service use, as it is said "And one (angel) will call  to the other and say" (Yeshayahu 6:3).  It can be asked, what kind of a proof is this, that since the angels of service use the term "calling" that this is a language of love?  But the explanation is, as the Chatam Sofer says: behold the verse "And one (angel) will call to the other" is translated (to Aramaic) in the Tirgum Yonatan by "And they receive one from another".  And on the face of things, what is the connection between a language of "receiving" to a language of "calling"?  But we see that by means of the angel calling to the angel who is smaller than he is, the smaller angel is given additional strength so that he can sanctify Hashem and say "Holy holy holy..."  (Yeshayahu 6:3).   And we thus find that the "calling" of the angels causes "receiving".  And that is why the Torah specifies also regarding the speech of Hashem to Moshe the language of "calling", to teach us that by means of this "calling", Moshe was given additional strength to receive the flow of prophesy and holiness,  and if so, it's simple that this is a language of love.  

"A man if he offers from you an offering to Hashem" (Vayikra 1:2) 

The Holy books write that there is a hint here, that if a man wants to bring himself close to the Divine service of Hashem, he needs to negate all of his identity, to submit himself to Hashem entirely, and to negate his "I", his ego. And that is the intention of saying "A man if he offers 'from you'"; that is to say, if he is prepared to sacrifice "from you", his identity, then he is worthy to be an offering to Hashem.

"A man if he offers from you an offering to Hashem, from the cattle" (Vayikra 1:2) 

The Holy Alshich wrote, that the main point of the service of bringing an offering to Hashem is, that he should think in his heart, that according strict justice, it would be appropriate to have done to himself that which is done to the cattle, to burn his limbs and dash his blood on the altar, G-d forbid, because of the sins which he has committed. And it is only because of the great mercy and kindness of Hashem, that the animal has exchanged places with the man.
And this is the intention of saying "A man if he offers from you", that is, the man needs to offer himself, but the sacrifice to Hashem is from the cattle, since the animal is in place of him.

"...from the animals -- from the cattle and from the flocks..."  (Vayikra 1:2)

Rashi says, one might be able to think wild animals are also included; to teach otherwise  the Torah says "cattle and flocks".  In the book "Eidut B'yosef" it is brought in the name of the Gaon Rav Ziskind M'Rotenberg z"l that behold, the early scholars found three reasons why we don't bring sacrifices from wild animals: 1) The Holy One Blessed Be He said not to bother you to go out to forests.  The explanation of this is that domestic animals are found amongst people but wild animals are found only in forests and places which are distant so that the hand of man cannot easily obtain them.  2) Hashem requests the pursued and the domestic animals are always pursued by the wild animals that want to tear them apart.  3) The wild animal has pride and a conceited spirit, but the domestic animal is humble and its spirit is as low as the earth, and the Holy One Blessed Be He hates pride and a conceited spirit.  According to this, in the future to come, when it will be as it is written (Yeshayahu 11:7) "A lion like cattle will eat straw together in one trough and a small lad will lead them", it will be found then that wild animals will be easy to obtain, and also there will be peace between the domestic animal and the wild animal so the domestic animal will no longer be pursued.  Thus, it will only because of the third reason, a conceited spirit (that we would bring only domestic animals for an offering).  And this is the explanation of the verse in Tehillim (51:19), "The offerings to G-d are a broken spirit", that the sacrifices are only from domestic animals who have a broken spirit.  And it is thereby demonstrated that "a broken and humble heart, G-d, You will not despise" (Tehillim 51:19).  But if you will say that this is not important but rather the first two reasons given above, on this the verse says "Do good as You see fit to Tzion...Then You will desire the sacrifices of righteousness" (Tehillim 51:20-21).  That is to say, that then in the future to come, there will not be domestic animals who are pursued and also wild animals will be easily obtained, but even so, only "bulls will then be offered  on Your altar" (Tehillim 51:21).  And it is thereby demonstrated that the main reason is because "a broken heart You will not despise".  (Tehillim 51:21).

" the entrance of the Tent of Meeting he shall bring it, in accordance with his will..." (Vayikra 1:3)

The Torah hints to us, that when a person brings a sacrificial offering to Hashem, it's possible that he might have a thought that he has already reached perfection and rectified everything, and has arrived at very highly elevated state.  Therefore the Torah says "to the entrance of the tent of meeting..." -- he needs to know that he is still standing at the entrance, at the beginning of serving Hashem, and is still far from perfection.  And also it is brought in the Gemara,  someone who has a broken heart, is regarded in the holy texts as if he has brought all of the sacrificial offerings, as it says "the sacrifices to G-d are a broken spirit..." (Tehillim 51:19). The main point of bringing a sacrificial offering is that one's heart should be broken within him, as he thinks to himself about far away he is from serving the Creator.  In addition, the continuation of the verse  states "in accordance with his will" (Vayikra 1:3); this shows us that the most important aspect of bringing a sacrificial offering is that one should bring his will closer to the true service of Hashem.

"...and he shall perform Melika (in English: pinching off its head) ..." (Vayikra 1:15)

It is written in the Sefer HaChinuch, what is the reason that when an "olah" (burnt-offering) of a bird is brought, they perform Melika (pinching off its head), and not like the rest of the sacrificial offerings which require Shechita (ritual slaughtering)?  The reason is that the children of Israel are compared to a dove, and the children of Israel are referred to in the Torah as a stiff-necked (i.e. stubborn) people.  Therefore they perform Melika (pinching off the bird's head), which entails cutting at the neck, to hint that it is necessary to remove the stiff-necked stubbornness from the  children of Israel (who are symbolized by the dove).  In addition, there are those who explain that the reason that an "olah" (burnt-offering) of a bird is Kosher even if it has a defect, is because it is written about the children of Israel "He perceived no iniquity in Yaakov" (Bamidbar 23:21) -- the Holy One Blessed Be He disregards the lacks and defects of the children of Israel.  And therefore, also the dove whom the children of Israel are compared to, is Kosher even if it has a defect.  Only if it has a great defect, such as if it is lacking a limb, is it considered invalid.

"...for any leaven, nor any honey, you shall not burn of it an offering made by fire to Hashem" (Vayikra  2:11)

The Baal HaTurim  says the reason for this is that leaven is symbolic of the Evil Inclination, and therefore the verse also warns about honey to hint to us that the Evil Inclination seems as sweet to a person as honey. 

Why are the Chatat (sin offering), the Asham (guilt offering), and also the Minchah (meal offering) considered to be Kodshei Kodashim (the most holy kinds of offerings)?

The Abarbanel wrote that the reason that the Chatat (sin offering) and Asham (guilt offering) are considered to be the most holy kinds of offerings, is that they come from a man who wants to repent and return to Hashem.   And that is very dear to Hashem, and therefore they are entirely holy to Hashem. And also, the Minchah (meal offering) is an offering made by a poor person, who has a lowly soul, and also he is very dear to Hashem, and therefore his offering is considered to be one of the most holy kinds of offerings.

The Mitzvah of Reading "Zachor"

The Rambam writes in the Sefer HaMitzvot, that we were commanded to remember what  Amalek did to us, that he hurried up to do evil to us, and that this will be stated year after year, so that we arouse our souls by means of the words in these passages to fight him and the people are encouraged to hate him until the Mitzvah will not ever be forgotten and and the hatred of Amalek will not be removed from the souls of the people with the passage of time...Behold, you see that Shmuel HaNavi, when he began to do this Mitzvah, how he did it.  First he remembered Amalek's evil deeds, and then he commanded to kill them.  And thus, it is brought that the Chafetz Chaim, ztzk"l would fill himself with hatred and anger against Amalek at the time when he heard the reading of "Zachor".

The Fast of Esther, Purim, and the Remembrance of the Half Shekel

On Wednesday, the 13th of Adar, is the Fast of Esther.  After Mincha, the unwalled cities give a remembrance for the half shekel.  On Thursday, the 14th of Adar, is Purim in the unwalled cities, and the walled cities give a remembrance for the half shekel after Mincha. Friday the 15th of Adar is Purim in the walled cities. One needs to be careful, at the time when he gives the remembrance for the half shekel, that he shouldn't say "this is for the half a shekel", because it is not appropriate at this time (since we don't have the Temple).   Rather, he should say it's a "Zacher l'mechatzit hashekel" (remembrance for the half shekel). 

The Torah Portion of "Vayikra" has 111 verses. There are 11 positivecommandments and 5 negative commandments.

We take our two Torah Scrolls.  In the first we read the weekly Torah Portion, and in the second we read for the Maftir in the Torah Portion of Ki Teitze, "Zachor".  The Haftorah is: "Ko Amar Hashem Pakaditi" (Sh'muel Aleph 15)

We say Borchi Nafshi

"M'shenichnas Adar Marbim B'Simcha"
"When Adar begins Happiness Increases"
May you all have a  light-filled and happy Shabbat.  
Shabbat Shalom.

L'ilui Neshamat HaGaon HaTzaddik R' Gershon Avigdor Ben R' Chaim ztz"l, Nilkach L'Bait Olamo Yud Gimmel Tishrei 5772

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