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Parsha Pearls Archives
- Vayikra

ULTIMATE SACRIFICE

Yakriv Oso L'Rtzono Lifnei Hashem

"He shall bring it (the sacrifice), conforming to his will, before G-d."

In its simplest meaning, the verse states that a sacrifice may be brought only out of the free will of its owner.

The verse may also be interpreted in a homiletic manner.

"He shall bring it, conforming to his will" ,can be interpreted to mean that one should bring his own will as a sacrifice to G-d. The purest form of sacrifice is to dedicate one's own will for G-d's sake - by channeling all and ambitions to G-d's service.

(HaKsav V'HaKabala - Ma'ayana shel Torah)

AROMA OF THINGS TO COME

Reiach Nichoach LaHashem

"A smell of pleasure for G-d"

The Torah refers to the pleasure that G-d derives from a sacrifice as (so to speak) a "smell of pleasure". The reference to the pleasure as a "smell" provides an important lesson about sacrifices and atonement.

The sense of smell enables one to discern the quality of an item even before it comes into view.

Ideally a sacrifice should be an indication that the one who brought it has firmly resolved to mend his ways. It should be a harbinger of the good deeds that the penitent person will do in the future. In this way a sacrifice is comparable to a smell. It is an indication not only of that which is before us now, but also of the distant future, as a smell indicates the quality of things that are not yet before us.

(Chidushei Harim - Ma'ayana shel Torah)

TORAH EDUCATION AT ANY COST

Traditionally, children begin their Torah studies with the portion of Vayikra, that deals with ritual sacrifices. One reason for this custom is to remind us of the link between primary Torah education and sacrifices. A child's Torah education is so vital that one must be prepared to make great sacrifices for its sake, if necessary.

(Avnei Azel - Ma'ayana shel Torah)


EGO SACRIFICE

Odom Ki Yakreev Mikem Korban LaHashem

"A man when he will offer from you a sacrifice to Hashem (G-d)"

The most important part of bringing a sacrifice is not the actual slaughtering of the animal. Rather, the bringing a sacrifice is intended to evoke humility, as one comes to realize his/her dependence upon Hashem for atonement (or whatever else that is desired.)

This is indicated in the words, "a sacrifice from you." It is a charge that we include our ego in that which is sacrificed, that we disengage ourselves from the notion that we are beings that are not dependent upon G-d. It is a "sacrifice of being" and an opportunity to demonstrate humility to G-d.

(Sifurni - Ma'ayana Shel Torah)


A QUESTION OF HONOR

"VAYIKRA ELL MOSHE"

"And He (Hashem) called to Moshe (Moses)"

The word "Vayikra" (and he called) indicates an indication of love that Hashem had for Moshe. Moshe -so to speak- received a personal "calling" or invitation whenever Hashem wished to speak with him.

The letter "Alef" in the word "Vayikra" is written smaller than the other letters. This is because Moshe, in his great humility wanted to minimize the implication of this word, "Vayikra". As the transcriber of the Torah, he could not change the word but he was able to mitigate to some degree the emphasis of that word by writing its first letter a bit smaller than the rest.

This was Moshe's conduct when it was his own honor at stake.

In the verse "Ashrecha Yisroel Mi Kamocha"-"Fortunate are you Israel; who is like you? (Det. 33:29), the letter Alef of the word "Ashrecha" is written larger than usual (according to the opinion of the Minchas Shai). Here, an emphasis is placed on the praises of the Jewish nation.


RENEWED CONTRACT

"V'Hakohen Hamoshiach Tachtav MiBonov Ya'aseh Osah Chok Olam"

"And the priest anointed in his (Aharon's) place from his children should perform it (the Chavitin offering) as a statute forever"

The "Chavitin was a special offering brought by every Kohen (priest) upon his first day of service in the Mikdash. The Kohen Gadol (High Priest) brought such an offering every single day.

Bringing this offering every day would remind the Kohen Gadol of an important lesson. It was incumbent upon the Kohen Gadol to realize that his prestigious position (like the position of anyone else!) was a gift from Hashem. Hence, his position was not his by right. Rather, Hashem's continued grace allowed him to retain his important post. Each day that Hashem allowed him to remain in his important position was as if he was newly appointed on that day. Thus, each day was like his inauguration day.

It was especially important for the Kohen Gadol, who held a very important position, to bear in mind his dependence upon the grace of Hashem.

(Darash Moshe)


UNMAKING OF A SINNER

"V'kli Cheres Asher Tivushal Bo Yishaver"

"And a vessel of earthenware that it (the sin-offering) is cooked in shall be broken"

The meat of every sacrifice could only be eaten within a prescribed period. Any vessel in which meat of a sacrifice was cooked had to be cleansed. However, an earthenware vessel could not be sufficiently cleansed and had to be broken. This is because it is impossible to completely remove the flavor of the meat that was absorbed by the walls of the vessel.

The above verse surely intended its basic legal interpretation, (that earthenware which had absorbed forbidden flavors must be broken.) This law applies to all sacrifices. Even so, perhaps the Torah chose to illustrate this law using a sin-offering as an example in order to convey a lesson.

The Hebrew term for sin-offering is often used in other contexts to mean sin. An "earthen vessel" is a metaphor for a person because Hashem formed man from the earth. Thus, in the metaphorical sense, a "vessel of earthenware" in which a "sin-offering was cooked" refers to a person in whom sin was "cooked" - the person became so mired in sin, that the ways of sin have become ingrained in his very being -just as the flavor of something cooked in pottery remains absorbed within the pot's walls. For one whose "vessel" was saturated with the forbidden flavor of the sacrifices, the only course of action was to break the vessel.

Likewise for one whose character has absorbed the ways of sin. The solution would be to "break" his heart with sorrow over his misdeeds. Remorse over one's wrongful conduct to the point of a "broken" heart about the sin is a key ingredient of repentance.

(Kli Yakar)


Vayomer Moshe El Aharon K’rav El Ha’mizbayach…

And Moshe said to Aharon, approach the Mizbayach (Altar) …

Rashi: Why are you embarrassed? It is for this that you were chosen.

Ramban: Aharon was embarrassed to approach the Altar. You may recall that Aharon had a role in the sin of the Golden Calf. As Aharon now drew near the Altar, the shape of its top with its four upward projections seemed to appear to him like the horns of a calf, giving him thoughts of unworthiness.

The purpose of the ceremony that Aharon was about to do was to atone for the sin of the golden calf. A heavenly fire was to light the fire of the Altar and signal the atonement and Aharon was chosen to lead the ceremony. He was understandably ashamed to take the lead role, since the shape of the Altar reminded all of the part he had played in the construction of the golden calf. He believed this should render him unfit to serve.

However, Moshe told him to approach the Altar. He had a different perspective.

Moshe was greater than Aharon and yet Hashem (G-d) chose Aharon to lead the ceremony. Why? If Moshe had been the leader and the heavenly fire lit the Altar’s fire, then people would think that Moshe’s dissociation with the sin of the golden calf was the reason he had been answered. It was the wish of Hashem to show the Jewish People that He had completely forgiven them for this sin. Therefore, someone involved with the sin had to be the one to lead it.

With this we can possibly understand what Rashi meant when he wrote, ‘It is for this that you (Aharon) were chosen.’

K’sav Sofer

MOVING PEOPLE

6:2 Tzav Ess Aharon…
Command Aharon…

Rashi comments that the word "Command" implies that something must be done quickly. Moshe is charging Aharon to quickly fulfill the commandment.

What is the reason for the speed?

The Talmud (Kiddushin) tells us that a person who does something that he is obligated to do is greater than one who does something voluntarily. This is because a person enjoys independence and he naturally resists being forced to do something.

Doing something quickly generates inertia and this can help a person overcome the inclination against fulfilling an obligation.

(Reb Heshyl from Krakow brought in Itturei Torah)


THE RIGHT PLACE

6,18: Bimkom Asher Tee’sha’chait Ha’ola Tee’sha’chait Ha’chatas
You shall slaughter the sin offering in the (same) place where the "Olah" offering is slaughtered…

An "Olah" offering can be brought by anybody but a sin-offering is usually brought by one who sinned and is now repenting.

The evil inclination tries to make a sinner may feel discouraged and rejected by Hashem (G-d), even though he is repenting.

To offset this, the Torah designates the place for the sin offering to be the same place as the "Olah". The Torah is thus telling the repenting person that he can share the same place with a person who had not sinned and was bringing an "Olah" offering.

(Ma’agley Tzedek brought in Itturei Torah)


DEFILING THE SENSES

"V'Lo Sitaamu Bohem V'nitmeisem Bom"

"And do not defile yourself with these (non-kosher foods) and you will be defiled in them."

The Torah commands "And do not defile yourself" and then repeats "you will be defiled in them." The Torah seems to indicate that eating non-kosher food causes two forms of defilement

Eating non-kosher food incorporates certain impurities into a person's character. This concept is what isreferred to in the Torah as "do not defile yourself."

A person who is unaccustomed to eating non-kosher food will feel revulsion by the thought of eating it. This reflects his soul being sensitive to the spiritual degeneration caused by such food. One who eats such food several times, however, loses the sensitivity for the damage. This numbness of the soul is indicative of a more general decline in that person's essence. Consumption of non-kosher food causes a dulling of a soul's appreciation of spiritual matters, as well as whatever specific ruin it can generate in the soul. This desensitizations the second form of defilement referred to in the Torah with the phrase "and you will be defiled in them."

This concept can be illustrated with a parable. Whenever Mr. A passed by the dump on the way to the perfume shop, he felt nauseous. Accustomed to being surrounded by delicate fragrances, the stench of the garbage made him feel sick. As years went by, Mr. A's perfume shop failed and he was forced to find work at the dump in order to support his family. The first week on the job, Mr. A could barely tolerate the smell of the refuse. As time went by, the smells bothered him less. This was not due to any improvement in the smells, but rather to the deterioration of Mr. A's olfactory sense. Mr. A had become completely desensitized to the offensive odors.

So it is with non-kosher food. After a few tastes of non-kosher food, one may lose his misgivings about eating it. This is not because of any elevation in the food's status, but because repeating a sin numbs a person's spiritual awareness. Against such decline the Torah warn's "and you will be defiled in them."

(Chofetz Chaim)


GENEROSITY, NOT GENRE

"V'ess Hachasidah"

"And the stork"

The Chasidah (stork) is listed as one of the non-kosher birds. Rashi explains that its name is derived from the word "Chesed" (kindness) because it performs Chesed with its friends. It would seem that the Chasidah embodies a very desirable character trait. Now, the Rambam (Maimonides) states that the animals which the Torah commands us not to eat embody negative character traits (e.g. birds of prey embody the trait of cruelty). We are therefore commanded not to eat of these animals' flesh so as not as to absorb their essence, thereby incorporating these traits into our own makeup. ("You are what you eat.") The Chasidah seems to be a model of Chesed - kindness. Why then did the Torah forbid its flesh to us?

Upon careful scrutiny of Rashi's words however we notice that the Chasidah's magnanimity is limited "to its friends" - its own immediate circle. Such partisanship is not the sort of kindness that the Torah wishes us to practice. Hence, the Torah forbids eating the Chasidah. (Chidushei HaRim)


JUST A WORD

This week's parsha deals with Tzora'as a skin condition that was a punishment for Loshan Hora (gossip) and other sins.

The condition rendered a person ritually impure upon the Kohen's (priest) pronouncing the diagnosis.

It is interesting to note that the Metzora's (one afflicted with Tzora'as) fate is sealed with a single word of the Kohen. This is an important lesson for the Metzora.

Sometimes one may transgress the laws of Loshon Hora because he doesn't appreciate the importance of speech. He may figure "I did the other party no harm, I just said some words". The fact that the Loshon Hora speaker's fate is sealed with the Kohen's utterance teaches him the lesson on the power of speech.

(Dubnoer Magid)

"Odom Ki Yihyeh B'or B'soro Se'ais O Saspachas O Baheres V'hoyoh B'or B'soro L'Nega Tzora'as V'huva Ell Aharon Hakohen O Ell Achad Mibonov Hakohanim"

"When there will be in the skin of a man’s flesh a Se'ais or a Sapachas or a Baheres (forms of the Tzora'as disease) and it will be in the skin of his flesh as a plague of Tzora'as (a leprosy - like disease) and it should be brought to Aharon the Kohen (Aron the Priest) or one of his sons the Kohanim (priests)."

It is interesting to note that the Torah requires a consultation with the Kohen over a seemingly physical ailment. Indeed, the Kohen's role as a spiritual leader is not at all limited to his service in the Temple because the Torah's tenets encompasses every aspect of life and any issue may involve the teacher of Torah - the Kohen.

The Torah therefore directs a person who finds Tzora'as upon himself to show it to a Kohen. The Kohen is to try and detect the sin which lies at the root of the person’s troubles. Then the Kohen can instruct the Metzora (one afflicted with Tzora'as) how to cleanse himself from the ritual impurities caused by the Tzora'as as well as how to fix his spiritual problems.

Everything that happens to a person is by Hashem’s decree. By helping the person elevate his spiritual status, the Kohen helps identify an opportunity by which the person can gain enough merit to be released from this Heavenly decree.

The Torah teacher is indeed a key figure in every aspect of a person's life from the most sublime to the most mundane.

(Darash Moshe)


HUMANS :SUBLIME OR SUBANIMAL?

The parsha(weekly Torah portion) of Tazria follows the portion of Sh'mini which deals with kosher and non-kosher animals and the impurities of their carcasses. This parsha deals with various ritual impurities whose source is the human body.

The Midrash takes note of the sequence of these two Torah portions: "Just as man was created after all the creatures, so too the laws pertaining to the other creatures." This can be explained as follows:

Man was created after the other creatures so that he should not be arrogant. Although mankind is the purpose and focus of creation, the fact that man was created last of all- even after a flea- serves as a reminder that he should not be too haughty.

The laws discussed in these two portions deal with ritual impurities. The human who is discussed after the animals has the ability to consciously create impurities, generally as a result of sin. Such a person is indeed considered inferior even to animals who -having no free will- do not sin. Therefore, the laws of impurities for animals precede the laws for people.

Mankind's rightful status as the focal point of the world is only achieved by righteousness.

(Toras Moshe)


THE TWO SIDES OF HUMANKIND

This week's portion deals with the laws of impurities which may emanate from humans. The previous week's portion discusses the laws of impurities that originate from animals. Rashi quotes the Talmud as stating "Just as the animals preceded humans in creation, so too, the discussion of laws pertaining to animals precedes the discussion of laws pertaining to people. The Talmud continues "If a person is worthy, it is apparent that he is the culmination of creation, but if he is unworthy, he may be told "the flea preceded you in creation."

Physically, humans are the least equipped beings for survival.

They are dependent upon many external factors such as clothing, shelter, and other humans. An isolated human could not survive for long in the wild without external protection from his abode and clothes. The human body does not have built-in weapons such as claws or antlers. In short, physically, they are the puniest and least self-sufficient creatures of all. Their reasoning capacity helps make up for their physical shortcomings but intrinsically they remain the creatures who are least able to take care of their own needs. On the other hand, the whole purpose of creation was for the sake of humans. People have a soul and the capability to reach great spiritual heights. Humans have a mission - to serve Hashem. Everything else in creation was created to facilitate mankind's service of Hashem.

With this thought in mind, we can explain the Talmud's statement "If a person is worthy, it is apparent that he is the culmination of creation, but if he is not worthy he may be told "A flea preceded you in creation." This means that if a person is worthy - and actually engages in the service of Hashem, then "it is apparent that he is the culmination of creation. He appears in his proper role as the primary object of creation. The world was created before him so that he should be able to step into a prepared world - ready to serve all his needs as he sets about his mission of serving Hashem. But, "if he is unworthy and he neglects his mission of serving Hashem, then he seems to be just another physical creature. As a mere physical creature, he may be told "The flea preceded you in creation" because he seems even less significant than a flea in terms of his capability to take care of his own needs. Even a flea can take care of its own needs independently better than a human can fil his own needs by himself.

(K'sav Sofer - Ma'ayana shel Torah)

SPIRITUAL TOLERANCE

Tzora'as is a leprosy -like disease which afflicted people who transgressed certain sins. This disease only appeared in earlier times; it no longer appears among us. This is because the previous generations were more spiritual and thus more sensitive to the effects of sin. They were on a high level of spirituality and sin was foreign to their nature. A sin may have produced Tzora'as in such lofty people as an "allergic reaction" of sorts. The disappearance of Tzora'as in the present time reflects that we have been desensitized to sin - to the point that our bodies no longer reject sin in the manner that our ancestors' loftier bodies did.

(Alshich - Ma'ayana shel Torah)


    AN OPENING FOR THE PENITENT

    "V'He'emid HaKohen Hamitaher Ess HaIsh HaMetaher V'Osam Lifnei Hashem Pesach Ohel Moed"

    "And the Kohen who cleanses should stand the man who is being cleansed and them (the sacrificial animals) before Hashem (G-d) by the opening of the sanctuary"

    A Metzora must undergo a purification process when the skin condition disappears. This involves bringing sacrifices and he/she must enter the Bais Hamikdash Temple area. Because the Metzora is still ritually unclean, the entry is done in a partial manner, something that is forbidden to any other individual who is ritually impure.

    The Metzora is accorded special treatment by the Torah because he is a Ba'al Teshuva (one who is repenting). This is evident by the fact that he was healed from his sin, which originally induced the Tzora'as.

    Hashem takes special care to expedite the repentance of a Ba'al Teshuva despite any obstacles that may arise.

(Ma'ayana Shel Torah - Itturei Torah)

    SUBTLE SUGGESTIONS

    "V'ets Erez Ushni Tola'as V'Ezov"

    "And wood of cedar and a red thread and hyssop"

    The Metzora (one afflicted with Tzora'as, a disease caused by spiritual deficiencies) underwent a special purification process when his affliction disappeared. This process required cedar wood, a red thread and a stalk of hyssop grass. Rashi states that the purpose of bringing the hyssop grass was to remind the Mitzora to be as humble as the lowly hyssop. Haughtiness is one of the main spiritual deficiencies which caused the Tzora'as. It is therefore appropriate that the Metzora be reminded of the importance of humility. One might think that such an important lesson would be discussed explicitly in the Torah. Instead, rather than giving the Metzora a directive to be humble, the Torah relies on the symbolism of the hyssop grass to convey this critical message. Why doesn't the Torah deal with the issue of humility directly?

    Learning to be humble is not a lesson that is easily absorbed. Developing humility requires much introspection. By nature, a person feels self-important because of his accomplishments. If he were told simply "Be humble" he would not be likely to accept such an admonition since this message is too foreign to his nature. A lesson that is antithetical to a person's nature if taught in an overt manner will be rejected reflexively. Therefore the Torah chose to impress the importance of humility upon the Metzora in a subtle way - by commanding him to bring a lowly grass, the symbol of humility. (Sfas Emes)


    BY HIGHER STANDARDS

    "V'Im Dal Hu V'ain Yado Maseges etc."

    "And if a he is a pauper and his hand does not reach (he cannot afford) etc."

    The sacrifices that a Metzora was required to bring were on a sliding scale. A rich man had to bring a sheep for a sacrifice, a poorer man was only obligated to bring a dove, and the poorest only had to bring some flour. A person's obligation was in proportion to his means. This rule is applicable to other situations as well. One who enjoyed a good Jewish education may pride himself over the fact that his accomplishments in the service of Hashem are superior to those with less knowledge. However, because the educated person can use his knowledge to serve Hashem better, such a person's responsibilities are greater than those of his peers. If one has been blessed with great resources - whether financial means or intellectual prowess- he is responsible to utilize these resources in Hashem's service. His service is thus measured by a higher standard - a standard that takes in to account the resources he was given by Hashem. (Chafetz Chaim)


WITHIN YOUR LIMITS

VaYidaber Hashem Ell Moshe Acharei Mos Shnei Bnei Aharon B'Korvosom Lifnei Hashem Vayomusu

"And Hashem said to Moshe (Moses) after the death of the two sons of Aharon (Aaron) in their approach before Hashem and they died"

The Torah relates how two of Aharon's sons ,Nadav and Avihu, brought an unwarranted offering of incense and fire and were punished by death. In explaining why their act carried such a severe punishment, one view in the Midrash states that they were guilty of expounding halacha (Torah law) in the presence of their teacher (Moshe) by bringing an offering without first consulting him, which is disrespectful. However, if this is the reason why Nadav and Avihu incurred the death penalty, it is puzzling that the Torah gives no clue of this. Rather, the Torah implies that the punishment was incurred for their attempt to approach Hashem in an unauthorized manner.

We can understand this by first considering the following analogy. Consider a sergeant who, upon his own initiative, begins to act like a lieutenant. He may be court-martialed, even if his motivation is to serve the country in a higher capacity. He is guilty of violating protocol. True service requires that one not disregard his own position.

One who decides the halacha in his teachers' presence is like one who usurps his teachers position. Such a persons is venturing into a realm above his own. Thus, the phrase "in their approach before Hashem" can be understood to include not only their physical approach to the altar, but their approach towards Hashem in a spiritual sense by acting as if they were in their teachers position. The verse does not leave the main reason for their punishment unsaid, rather it captures the essence of this Midrash's interpretation.

(Kedushas Levi)


ALL THE TIME- NOT ALL SORTS OF TIMES

"V'Al Yavo B'chol Eis Ell Hakodesh"

"And he should not come in every time to the Holy (sanctuary)"

We all have our moments and seasons, some are productive and some are not. A person must serve Hashem the best he/she can, regardless of the time or season.

In a homiletic way we can see this dictum in the above verse by translating B’chol Eis to mean ‘with all times,’ instead of ‘in every time.’

One must strive not to use times and seasons as an excuse for not drawing near to the Holy service, to serve G-d.

(R' Zusya of Hanipoli)


HOLY, AND SOCIAL TOO

K'doshim Tihiyu

"You must be Holy."

Rashi comments that this portion was said to the Jews as an assembly.

Besides telling us how this was conveyed to the Jews, Rashi’s statement also teaches about the commandment to "be holy."

Not only were these words were said to an assembly, they were also spoken for situations of assembly. That is, the Torah does not want us to be hermits. Rather, we are charged to associate with people and to do so in an elevated manner.

(Toras Moshe - Ma'ayana Shel Torah)


AGES 3 - ADULT

Ish Eemo V'Oveev Tirau

"(Each) man shall revere his mother and father."

The word Ish (man) in the Torah usually denotes a mature individual.

The Torah deliberately uses this term when discussing the law of revering parents to teach that this commandment does not only apply to children who are still economically and emotionally dependent on their parents. Rather, respect of parents is an obligation upon everyone - even independent, well-established adults.

(Ksav Sofer - Ma'ayana Shel Torah)

WATCH OUT FOR SINS - GREAT AND SMALL

V'Chiper Al HaKodesh MiTuma'as B'nei Yisroel UmiPishoeihem L'Chol Chhatosam

"And he shall atone for (sins committed in) the Holy from the impurities of the Children of Israel, from their willful transgressions for all their sins."

Willful transgression requires more atonement than ordinary sin. It therefore seems perplexing that the Torah mentions first that the Yom Kippur sacrifice atones for "willful transgressions" and only later does it mention that it atones for ordinary "sins".

This can be explained if we understand that the phrase "for their willful transgressions for all their sins" was not meant to inform us of the order in which various sins were forgiven. Rather, the phrase "to all their sins" follows the phrase "from their willful transgressions" because it explains what the root of the terrible "willful transgressions" is. A person is not easily enticed to commit a large sin unless he has weakened his spirituality by committing smaller ordinary sins. Thus, the verse explains that "their willful transgressions" were by definition "transgressions for all their sins." The bigger transgressions were the result of not watching out for the smaller sins.

(Aruch HaShulchan - P'ninim MiShulchan Govoha)

A WRONG TURN

Goral Echod LaHashem V'Goral Echod La'Azazel

"One lot for Hashem and one lot for Azazel."

Two identical goats were brought as sacrifices on Yom Kippur. Although both goats were used in the service of Hashem, one's role was that of the holiest public sacrifice of the year, and the other was shoved off a cliff in the desolate area of Azazel. As they stood together, lots were drawn to determine their respective fates. The identicality of the goats indicates an important lesson. On the surface, these identical goats seem to be in identical positions. Yet one will soon become a most lofty sacrifice and the other will be sent to the abysmal wilderness of Azazel. Often, two people may seem to be in similar spiritual positions. Yet, if one follows the Torah's way of life exactly, and the other veers in even the tiniest way from the Torah then, with the passage of time they will find themselves in diametrically opposite positions. Just as the smallest variance of a railroad track's direction will send the train to a totally different part of the country as it covers more distance, so too, will the slightest change in a life's direction lead the person to a totally different destination with the passage of time. The goats' lesson then is, this: Just because things appear now to be identical doesn't mean that they won't end up as opposites.

(R' Moshe Mordechai Epstien - P'ninim MiShulchan Govoha)


DISTINCTION

Lo Yikr'chu Korcha B'Rosham UPe'as Z'konam Lo Yigalechu U'V'Vsoram Lo Yisretu Soretes

"They (the Cohanim or priests) should not make baldness in their heads, and they should not shave the corners of their beards, and they should not make scratches in their flesh (out of grief for a death), they should be holy for their G-d."

The above practices were common among the priests of idolatry. to distinguish themselves as priests. The Cohanim were forbidden to do so. This is because Cohanim had to distinguish themselves by exemplary service of Hashem.

This concept is alluded to in the above verse.

After listing the various prohibitions upon the Cohanim, the Torah states " they should be holy to their G-d." That is, their distinction should come from the fact that they are "holy to their G-d", not from any form of self-mutilation.

(R' Yehoshua Leib Diskin - P'ninim Mishulchan Govoha)

HANDIWORK NOT HANDOUT

U'V'Kutzrichem Ess K'tzir Artzechem Lo Sichaleh Pe'as Sodcho B'Kutzrecho

And when you make the harvest of your land, you shall not complete your field’s harvest down to the last corner.

When harvesting, the owner of a field is obligated to leave over the last portion for poor people.

Why did the Torah see fit to provide charity to the needy in the form of unharvested grain or fruit? The person must now harvest, thresh, grind and bake that which he gathers up. Wouldn't the pauper appreciate something that was ready to enjoy?

The answer is that the Torah wants the poor man to enjoy the feeling of owning something. Toiling over "his own" section of the field, will give the him a degree of the satisfaction.

(R' Aharon Bakst - P'ninim MiShulchan Govoha)

U'Min HaMikdash Lo Yetzei
"And he (the High Priest) shall not go out from the sanctuary"

A Cohen (Priest) who is an Onen (one in the initial stage of mourning) may not perform the Temple service. However the Cohen Gadol (High Priest) may do so.

One whose had just lost a close relative would hardly be expected to be in a frame of mind to concentrate on the services. Indeed, this is a reason why an ordinary Cohen may not serve during this period. However, as our spiritual leader, the Cohen Gadol is expected to be on a higher plane so that he can concentrate upon the service even when he is an Onen.

EXECUTE WITH CARE

VaYaasu B'nei Yisroel Ka'asher Tziva Hashem Ess Moshe
"And the Children of Israel did just as Hashem (G-d) commanded Moshe (and they executed the blasphemer)"

The Jewish people were faced with a spiritual peril. Performing an act of cruelty, even when required to do so, can inculcate a tendency toward cruelty. This is because an individual's character is influenced by the actions he does, even if they are out of character for him. The Torah thus tells us that in this case the Jews acted "just as Hashem commanded Moshe." This means that all their intentions and all the minutiae of the execution were in accordance with Hashem's will. No foreign thoughts or emotions pervaded their minds at all.

(R'Y.Y.Tronk of Kutna - Itturei Torah)

PURPOSE: THE FINISHING TOUCH

"Usfartem Lochem Mimochras Hashabbos Sheva Shavous"

"And you shall count for yourselves from the morrow of the Sabbath (Passover) seven weeks"

Although the word "Shabbos" in the Torah commonly refers to the weekly Sabbath, the Oral Torah points out that it refers to Passover in this verse.

A beautiful lesson can be gleaned from the Torah's calling Passover "Shabbos". The term "Shabbos" means the cessation or completion of an activity. Our weekly Shabbos commemorates that Hashem completed and ceased the work of Creation on the seventh day of the week. Passover is also referred to as a Shabbos because Passover's message - the commemoration of the Exodus - includes an element of the completion of Creation as well.

The purpose of this world is to enable people to live accordingly to the Torah. Until the Exodus, there did not exist a group of people which conducted their lives according to the Torah. The world was complete physically, but not spiritually.

The Exodus changed all that. Henceforth, there would always be a large contingent of people abiding by the Torah's statutes. The world's objective would always remain readily apparent. The Exodus could thus be considered the finishing touch to Creation. For this reason, Passover - as the commemoration of the Exodus - can be considered a "Shabbos" a completion of the activity of Creation. (Kedushas Levi)

TRAINING THROUGH JOY

"Vayomer Hashem Ell Moshe Emor Ell Hakohanim B'nei Aharon V'Omarto Aleichem L'Nefesh Lo Yitamo B'Amov"

"And Hashem said to Moshe 'Say to the Kohanim (priests) the children of Aharon and you shall say to them, "To a (dead) soul one should not defile himself among his nation"

What is the purpose of the additional directive, "and you shall say to them?"

Rashi explains that this seeming repetition is actually a second instruction. In the first directive ("Say to the Kohanim") Moshe is instructed to tell the older Kohanim that they themselves should keep the commandments of Priesthood. In the second directive ("and you shall say to them") the Torah is commanding the older Kohanim to ensure that the next generation will keep these commandments as well. Hence, the verse issues the directive "say" twice.

At this point, however, one question remains: We have established that the second directive "and you shall say to them" is issued to ensure that the older Kohanim train the next generation. If so, it should have said the following: "Say to the Kohanim the children of Aharon and they (the Kohanim) shall say to them (the next generation)." The way that it is written, it appears as though Moshe is to do all of the speaking. Put another way, how can a lesson for the young Kohanim be inferred from these phrases?

In truth, both commands are indeed directed to the older Kohanim. Moshe was actually told to speak to them twice. The intended effect of speaking twice to the same Kohanim was to inculcate them with a love of the Torah and its commandments in order that they should observe these Mitzvos (commandments) joyously. The young Kohanim, upon seeing how joyously their elders would keep the Mitzvos, would automatically wish to keep the Mitzvos as well.

The training of the younger Kohanim would indeed be best accomplished by speaking to the older Kohanim twice. Setting an example with zest is the best way to teach. 

(Darash Moshe)


COMMANDMENTS AND BLESSINGS

V'Chi Somru Mah Nochal BaShonoh HaShevi'is Hein Lo Nizra V'Lo Ne'esof T'vuoseinu U'Tzivisi Ess Birchosi Lochem

And if you say, "What will we eat in the seventh year (if) indeed we shall not plant and we shall not gather our grain?" And I will command my blessing to you.

The Torah gives a special blessing to those who keep the mitzva (commandment) of Shemittah. - which includes refraining from farming every seventh year. The blessing is that the crop of the sixth year will be sufficient for all of the people's needs of the sixth, seventh and eighth years. This would cover the potential losses from not farming during the seventh year.

From the above verse, it seems that the blessing is a response to a hypothetical question that people might ask. Why is it presented in this manner?

The Torah deliberately avoided mentioning the blessing of abundance on the outset so as not to provide an immediate association between the commandment and the blessing.

The Torah wants a person to obey the commandments regardless of the blessings that they provide. Performance of commandments are not dependent upon blessings. Rather one must obey the command of Shemittah because the Torah says to do so. The blessing is totally incidental to the mitzva and is merely an extra reassurance for those who may hesitate to perform this mitzva.

(R' Ya'akov Neiman - P'ninim Mishulchan Govoha)

DON'T KID YOURSELF

V'Lo Sonu Ish Ess Amiso

"And let each man not fool (ess) his friend."

The Chofetz Chayim (R' Yisroel Mayer Kagan) said the following:

"There is a saying, "Every fool is wise for his own purposes." However, I say. "Every wise man is a fool for his own needs."

Even a wise man is prone to err in the judgment of his own character. People have a tendency to rationalize their own shortcomings, thereby distorting their perception of themselves. Thus, often they are like fools in situations which require one to have a clear perception of self.

It is important to try not to fool yourself in such a manner.

This is indicated by the above verse. The article "Ess" generally connotes that the subject is being discussed in addition to something else. In the case of this verse, the Chofetz Chayim states that the term " ess amiso" (his friend) indicates that one should refrain from fooling one's friend in addition to not fooling someone else - meaning himself.

(P'ninim MiShulchan Govoha)

"Ki Geirim V'Toshavim Atem Emadi"
"Because you (the Jewish people) are sojourners and citizens with Me
(G-d)"

The degree to which it is obvious that G-d's presence is associated with   us varies over history. We can view this as a function of the degree to which we are committed to worldly pursuits. That is, the more we focus on spirituality, the more G-d's presence among us becomes obvious, both to ourselves and to the rest of the world.

We can read this in the above verse, "you are sojourners and citizens with Me"

When we live and demonstrate our belief that this world is but a passageway to the Next World, we then live in this world as sojourners. We thus make G-d's will our priority and we view Him as the citizen. G-d then assumes this role makes His presence in this world more obvious. However, if we make unnecessarily and distracting commitments to physicality, then we begin to assume roles of the citizen. G-d then takes on the corresponding roles of a sojourner and His presence becomes less obvious.

(Ohel Yaakov)

"Ess Kaspecha Lo Siten Lo B'Neshech"
"Do not give [lend] him your money with biting (usury)"

Usury is called "biting" because the interest payments constantly nibble away at the borrower. We can use this verse and the analogy for another lesson.

The lender is called a giver. Whenever we give or do someone else a favor, we must do it with a smile, not with a bite.

(Mileches Machsheves)

WHAT DO YOU GET OUT OF THE MITZVOS?

"Vayidaber Hashem Ell Moshe B'har Sinai Laimor"

"And Hashem spoke to Moshe at Mount Sinai as to say"

This verse establishes the setting in which Moshe was told the commandments discussed in this parsha (weekly portion)-Mount Sinai. These commandments begin with the laws of Shemittah -the Sabbatical year during which agriculture is restricted.

Rashi comments that the Torah intentionally juxtaposed the laws of Shemittah and the fact that the commandments were told to Moshe upon Mount Sinai. This juxtaposition indicates that the Shemittah laws and their details are representative of all the other mitzvos (commandments) with regard to Mount Sinai. Just as Shemittah and all its by-laws were revealed to Moshe upon Mount Sinai, so too all the Mitzvos with all their minutiae were revealed to Moshe upon Mount Sinai.It is thus inferred that the entire Torah is of divine origin-having been revealed to Moshe upon Mount Sinai - right down to the smallest detail.

One question bears further explanation however. Why has the MItzva of Shemittah been singled out to represent all other Mitzvos as the prime example of a Mitzva originating from Hashem's command to Moshe at Mount Sinai? What greater lesson can be learned from the Mitzva of Shemitta than from any other Mitzva?

Many of the mitzvos seem to provide side benefits which are not actually related to the Mitzva. For example, the prohibition of eating a swine's flesh may have prevented many cases of trichinosis, but the reasons for that Mitzva are rooted in spirituality, not biology. Similarly, one may feel that observing Shabbos (the weekly Sabbath) provides him/her with a much needed break from weekly routine and affords him/her an opportunity to relax. The true essence of the Mitzva, though, has nothing to do with these mundane considerations. The real reason for performing these Mitzvos is that Hashem instructed us to do so through Moshe upon Mount Sinai. As such, even in situations where the mundane benefits of keeping the Mitzvos do not apply, the requirements to perform is not diminished in any way. In fact, the best way to observe the Mitzvos is to perform them as Hashem's directives to show how we wish to obey Hashem in whatever He commands us.

The Mitzva of Shemitta is a Mitzva which exemplifies this point. There can be no earthly benefit to leaving all one's fields fallow and undeveloped for a full year. Crop rotation may call for a field to be left fallow, but leaving all fields fallow during the same year throughout the land is definitely not standard agricultural practice. Nor does it seem that the law that one may not gather crops during that year seem to have any economic benefit. The benefit of this Mitzva is purely in the fact that one is serving Hashem and performing His will. Thus, it is quite clear why Shemittah was chosen as being representative of all other Mitzvos with regard to having been given at Mount Sinai. Just as Shemittah will always be performed in the context of following Hashem's directives which emanated from Mount Sinai, so too, all MItzvos should be treated as what they are - Hashem's directives that were given at Mount Sinai - and not merely as useful tips for the mundane world. (Darash Moshe)

Compilers Note: Here is an insight into the spiritual benefits of Shemittah. Shemittah requires one to leave one's land as ownerless for a full year. He may not plant or plow the field. He must let anyone who wishes take whatever sprouts that year. (During the Shemittah year, a field’s owner has no more rights to the field than anyone else.) This practice reminds us that we are not the true masters of our land, but rather, we may enjoy it by Hashem's grace. This is a very important lesson that is periodically reinforced by the Shemittah. (Commentaries)


TOIL OF VALUE

Im B'chukosai Teileichu

"If with my laws you will go"

The Torah enumerates some of the blessings that one will receive if he fulfills "If with my laws you will go". Rashi interprets this phrase -"with my laws you will go" as the diligence and toil in the study of Torah. Notice that Rashi does not require a particular level of Torah scholarship in order to merit these blessings. Rather, Rashi indicates that simply expending the effort to study Torah is sufficient to earn a person the blessings-even if he does not succeed to actually understand the intricacies of Torah law. 

The fact that one who studies Torah is rewarded just for expending effort is indicative of just how unique Torah study is. Most  occupations provide rewards only when there are results. For example, nobody would pay a shoemaker who failed to fix a pair of shoes, no matter how much effort the shoemaker invested in the attempt. We pay for the product, the fixed shoes, and we ignore the amount of effort that the laborer expended. Torah study, on the other hand, is in itself a worthwhile activity, regardless of the student's actual progress. The activity of Torah study is intrinsically valuable and every effort is rewarded.

(Chafetz Chayim)


HANGING ON

V'af Gam Zos B'hiyosum B'eretz Oyveyhem Lo M'asteem V'lo G'alteem L'khalosum L'hofer Brisi Itom  Ki Ani Hashem E-loheihem

"And even (with) also this when they will be in the land of their enemies, I will not be  disgusted with them and I will not reject them to finish them off  to annul my treaty with them, because I am Hashem, their G-d."

This verse relates Hashem's promise that even when the Jews are being punished, by being banished to the lands of enemies who persecute them, He will never reject them totally. Hashem thereby guarantees the survival of the Jewish People. Various calamities have befallen us throughout the millennia, but Hashem helped us survive.

The guarantee that Hashem will never totally reject the Jewish people applies to spiritual rejection on a personal level as well. Hashem will never allow the truth to be completely obscured from a person. No matter how far one may stray from the Torah way of life, a spark of awareness of the importance of Torah will always remain in hisheart. A person may be able to drown out the voice of his conscience,but it will remain inside him to some degree, come what may. Eventually, this awareness may come to the forefront of his thoughts and emotions, leading to a complete awareness of the veracity of the Torah and its relevance to daily life.

(Michtav MeEliyahu)


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