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Parashat Vayikra


There appear to be two general approaches. The first is that of our leader, Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a, the Rishon LeSiyon who is restoring the glory of the Sefaradi tradition to its shine and radiance, who stands and works endlessly on behalf of the general good. He exerts himself on behalf of the dissemination of Torah and faith, registration for Torah schooling and adding Torah classes. The other approach advocates focusing on internal development, retreating into the halls of Torah study, solidifying our own fortresses. These two options present themselves when the possibility exists of isolating ourselves, building a wall and dissociating from the other side. When, however, no such option presents itself, when we are, whether we like it or not, influenced, then even for our own good we must worry about the spreading of faith and establishment of heritage among the entire nation. The pasuk says in our parashah, "If the anointed kohen sins - to the guilt of the nation." The Alshich Hakadosh zs"l explains that the nation's guilt works its way to the kohen gadol and even leads him to sin.

Am Yisrael exists as a single body: an infection in the foot brings discomfort to every other part of the body. Therefore, those who answer the call of our leader shlit"a and work on behalf of the public merit, establishing Torah classes, instituting Torah-oriented youth groups, spreading the awareness of purity and implanting faith - they benefit the entire nation, and their reward is endless. All of us, the entire nation, owes an enormous debt of gratitude to our great rabbi, who oversees the work of restoring the glory of Torah to its proper place and increasing the nation's merits.


This Shabbat, please G-d, we begin studying "Torat Kohanim," the book of Vayikra. Interestingly, the Al-mighty did not open the book with a discussion of the public sacrifices - "temidim" and "mussafim," but rather specifically with the sacrifices of the individual meant to enhance one's relationship with his Creator. These korbanot include the "olah" (burnt offering) and "shelamim" (peace offering) that one brings as a voluntary gift, as well as the atonement offerings. Hazal teach us that herein lies the fundamental purpose of the building of the Bet Hamikdash, as we say in the Haggadah: "G-d has bestowed so many favors upon us!" We proceed to list His acts of kindness from yessi'at Missrayim and the splitting of the sea, through the miracles of the wilderness and Matan Torah - one favor after another, until the peak: ". and He built for us the Chosen House to atone for all our sins"! May we soon merit the light of redemption, regarding which it is stated, "I will sanctify My great Name. I will bring you to your land. and you will be purified from all your impurities. I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh. I will cause you to walk in My ways. you will dwell in the land that I gave your forefathers. and I will expiate you from all your impurities." This is the apex.

We must, however, understand: if a person sins purposefully, if he defiled his soul and distanced himself from his Creator, he must purify himself and work his way back. If, however, he sinned inadvertently, unknowingly, he did not know that today was Shabbat or that the Torah prohibits this action - why do remorse, confession and resolve for the future not suffice? Why must he bring a korban, which serves to remind the person that he sinned to Hashem with body and soul, and thus deserves to have his blood spilt and body consumed if not for Hashem's kindness, which allows him to bring a substitute (Raman 1:9)? After all, he sinned inadvertently!

The answer emerges from an event that occurred around one hundred years ago, as recorded in the Haggadah, "Ma'aseh Rav," a Haggadah with stories published this year. The wicked government of Russia invited a delegation of rabbis headed by Rav Sevi Rabinowitz zs"l, the rabbi of Kovna. With the encouragement of the authorities, one of leaders of the secularist "enlightenment" movement, who sought to destroy the religion, also appeared and demanded that the rabbis annul the misvah of "halissah." (This ritual is performed by the brother of a childless, married man who dies, to allow the widow to remarry). In his words, this misvah did not "suit the spirits of the time."

The rabbi of Kovna responded, "This topic does not fall under the jurisdiction of this conference. In St. Petersburg a medical conference is currently underway; perhaps you should bring your idea to them!" The secularist leader was perplexed. "What does 'halissah' have to do with medical science?"

The rabbi patiently explained, "This misvah arises in the case of a husband who dies without leaving any children. If the Russian doctors can find a way to eliminate the phenomenon of death, then we will have no more need for 'halissah'!"

"But there is no way to eliminate death!" cried the secularist. "Neither is there a way to eliminate 'halissah,'" answered the rabbi calmly. "The laws of the Torah are reality, like the reality of life and death." The secularist's face dropped.

The Creator wished to establish this fundamental precept right at the outset of the book of korbanot. If the Torah's laws constituted merely the King's decrees, then the inadvertent sinner could easily excuse himself. He committed the crime unknowingly, without any intention to rebel. But when existence itself is grounded upon the foundation of Torah - "He looked at the Torah and then created the world" - then even the inadvertent sinner harms himself and the world. One who places his hand through fire suffers a burn whether he meant to or not, and one who falls is wounded even if he slipped by accident. How fortunate we are, and how great is our lot, that the Creator guided us along the path of goodness and warned us of the stumbling blocks that bring about tragedy. And, if we do slip and fall - He has shown us the path of teshuvah!


A Series of Halachot According to the Order of the Shulhan Aruch
Based on the Rulings of Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a

by Rav David Yossef shlit"a

Shabbat Hagadol

The Shabbat immediately preceding Pesah is referred to as "Shabbat Hagadol" - the "Great Shabbat," on account of the miracle that occurred thereupon when Benei Yisrael left Egypt. That year, Pesah fell on Thursday, which meant that the tenth of Nissan, the day on which Benei Yisrael were to prepare sheep for the korban pesah, occurred on Shabbat. As Benei Yisrael prepared the sheep, the firstborn of Egypt gathered and asked as to the reason for their designation of these animals. Benei Yisrael answered that the sheep serve as a sacrifice to the Al-mighty who will soon smite the Egyptian firstborn. He will see the sacrificial blood on the door-posts of Benei Yisrael's homes and not allow the destroyer to enter the houses. The firstborn immediately proceeded to their fathers and to the king and demanded the release of the slaves in order to spare their lives. Pharaoh refused, at which point a battle broke out between the two camps, resulting in heavy casualties. This is what is meant by the pasuk, "To He who smote Egypt with their firstborn," meaning, Egypt suffered significant losses through the actions of the firstborn. Upon seeing the unrest, the Egyptians prepared for military revenge against Benei Yisrael, seeking to destroy them, Heaven forbid. But Hashem, in His infinite mercy, protected them and inflicted all types of strange illnesses upon the Egyptians, forcing them to retreat. Benei Yisrael were thus saved from their fury. We therefore call this Shabbat "Shabbat Hagadol," for it is a great day of miracles for Benei Yisrael.

The haftara selected for this Shabbat is the section from Sefer Malachi that begins, "Veareva laHashem minhat Yehudah veYerushalayim," because it includes the pasuk, "Behold I am sending to you Eliyahu Hanavi, before the arrival of the great ['hagadol'], awesome day of Hashem." It is proper to read this haftara every year on the Shabbat immediately preceding Pesah, regardless of whether Erev Pesah occurs on Shabbat or during the week.

The widespread custom among Benei Yisrael is to gather in Batei Kenesset and Batei Midrash on Shabbat Hagadol where rabbis and Torah scholars lecture on the many different halachot relevant to Pesah, including how to conduct the seder, and deliver sermons regarding yessi'at Missrayim and the Haggadah.

When Erev Pesah falls on Shabbat, the "Derashat Shabbat Hagadol" takes place the previous Shabbat in order to allow the people time to learn and implement the pertinent halachot before Pesah. In any event, even on the afternoon of Shabbat Erev Pesah the rabbis should lecture about yessi'at Missrayim and the strengthening of the faith.

Rabbi Bensiyon Abba Shaul zs"l

On Thursday evening, the entire Jewish nation will begin fulfilling the misvah of "bedikat hamess" (searching for hamess). As we know, the hamess alludes to the yesser hara that evolves from rising arrogance and haughtiness, like dough that rises in response to yeast. The prohibition against even the slightest amount of hamess alludes to the absolute prohibition against arrogance, regarding which we have been warned, "Be very, very humble of spirit."

In the newly published Haggadah, "Ma'aseh Rav," which features hundreds of inspiring stories about the leading Torah giants of recent generations, we find a remarkable story told by Rav Bension Abba Shaul zs"l. A person once conducted his search for hamess on the night before Erev Pesah, and he took the hamess he found to be burned. As he burned the hamess he proclaimed loudly and with concentration, "All hamess and leaven. ," declaring all hamess in his possession ownerless like the dust of the ground.

A certain wise man stood next to him and remarked, "I wonder if you have fulfilled your obligation of renouncing your hamess."

The man couldn't understand why this would be. The wise man explained, "Three times a day you say at the end of your tefilah, 'my soul shall be like dust to everyone.' Presumably, you mean what you say and a tefilah said consistently and with feeling for so many years is effective. Now I have noticed that whenever someone dares to offend you, if only ever so slightly, you immediately react with anger. I must therefore conclude that you ascribe high value to dust. Then how can you renounce your hamess by declaring it comparable to the dust of the earth?!"

Let us thus learn to destroy our arrogance as we do the hamess, and in this reward we will earn all the blessings, as Hazal say (Hullin 89a), "The Al-mighty said to Yisrael, I love you, for even when I bestow greatness upon you belittle yourselves before Me!"


"No leaven or honey may be turned into smoke as an offering by fire to Hashem"

Why did the Torah prohibit offering korbanot from leaven or honey? Undoubtedly, this prohibition, as do all other laws of korbanot, contains hidden secrets of the Torah, as they all fall under the category of "hukkim" - their reasons elude our comprehension (see Rambam, end of Sefer Avodah). The Ramban zs"l writes, "All these contain a secret concealed from us." Similarly, the Sefer Hahinuch writes regarding this misvah (misvah 117), "The roots of this misvah are very concealed - and one cannot find even a small hint to them." Nevertheless, the Sefer Hahinuch proceeds to present several symbolic allusions of this misvah. The process of leavening occurs when the dough is left alone; it can be avoided only through constant, diligent, active involvement in the dough. "Therefore, from the distancing of the leaven [from the altar] one learns the lesson to acquire the quality of diligence, zeal and speed in the service of the Al-mighty, as our Sages say, 'Be swift like an eagle, light-footed like a deer and mighty like a lion to perform the will of your Father in heaven.' Regarding distancing honey [from the altar] we may say that it alludes to the fact that one should minimize his pursuit of sweet foods, unlike those who indulge gluttonously who are always drawn after sweet foods. One should focus on only those foods that help his body, are necessary for his livelihood, and maintain the health of his limbs."

"No leaven or honey may be turned into smoke as an offering by fire to Hashem"

The Sefer Hahinuch zs"l writes in the name of the Ramban that Hashem created a person upright and pure. Only on account of his miscalculation does one err and sin. Therefore, when he seeks repentance, he must return to the root and initial simplicity of creation. Leaven and honey work to change the nature of food: leaven makes it ferment and rise, and honey absorbs and consumes anything that falls into it. They are both therefore forbidden as a sacrifice.

Rabbenu Behayei zs"l writes that leaven and honey allude to the two inclinations that lead one to sin and drive him from the world. The first, arrogance, is likened to leaven which inflates the dough beyond its natural dimensions. Hazal therefore referred to the yesser hara as the "yeast in the dough" (Berachot 17a). It is appropriately forbidden on Pesah, when we commemorate yessi'at Missrayim and our departure from the corruption of Egypt, which originated from arrogance: "Who is Hashem, that I should listen to His voice; my river is mine, I have made myself!" Honey signifies the other inclination - the pursuit of pleasure: "The lips of the foreign woman drips nectar." Indeed, "devash" (honey) has the same numerical value as "ishah" (woman), the symbol in Sefer Mishlei of the seductive yesser hara. This is what Adam Harishon meant when he explained his committal of the sin: "The woman that you placed with me - she gave me from the tree and I ate." Meaning, the seductive force within me led me astray. When an individual comes to bring a korban and thereby approach his Creator, he must detach himself from these two inclinations.

"No leaven or honey may be turned into smoke as an offering by fire to Hashem"

Rabbenu Don Yis'hak Abarbanel zs"l views this prohibition as related to the Rambam's instruction to always follow the middle path ("the golden mean"). Yeast makes dough rise slowly and gradually, and one must therefore wait until it completes its work. Honey, by contrast, features the opposite quality: it absorbs quickly without delay. One must therefore act quickly before the honey takes over the entire dish. The Torah here warns against both extremes - delay and slothfulness on the one hand, and rashness and haste on the other.

All these explanations beautifully accommodate the comments of the Keli Yakar zs"l regarding the misvah of bikkurim - bringing one's first fruits to the kohen - which applies even to leaven and honey. The message is that the first stages of one's service of Hashem are permitted to be taken even if they fall short of the ideal, if one's intentions are less than pure. As Hazal say, "A person should always involve himself in Torah and misvot, even if not for the right purpose, for as a result from performing not for the right purpose he will come to do so for the right purpose." However, the individual must realize that this falls short of the ideal, that the imperfections may not be offered as a sacrifice to Hashem. One must strive to perform his service of Hashem for pure, altruistic reasons.

Words of Encouragement from Rav Ayreh Deri

Dear Brothers,

Over the course of the last few weeks we followed the construction of the mishkan - "the mishkan of testimony." We recall how Hashem prepared to destroy the nation on account of its sin and how Moshe Rabbenu, the loyal shepherd, beseeched the Al-mighty for forty days and nights, devoting himself on their behalf until the harsh decree was annulled. He received the second luhot, descended from the mountain, and informed the people of Hashem's forgiveness and the residence of the Shechinah in the mishkan they must now construct. Moshe Rabbenu himself received from Hashem the detailed instructions concerning the mishkan: "they shall do exactly as I commanded you"; "exactly as I commanded you they shall do"; "exactly as I show you - the design of the mishkan and the design of all its accessories - so shall you do"; "see and do following their design that you were shown on the mountain"; "you shall erect the mishkan according to the manner of it that you were shown on the mountain"; "as you were shown on the mountain - so shall you do."

All the donations, all the contributions of gold, silver, brass, dyes, goatskins - everything was brought to Moshe Rabbenu, and he distributed the materials to the artisans according to the particular job of each (Ramban 36:5). He directed the workers and had in mind the required exalted intentions. Parashat Pekudei makes a point of emphasizing that each detail of the mishkan's construction was performed "as Hashem commanded Moshe." In the end, the artisans brought before him the final product, as the Torah tells us, "Moshe saw all the work and behold, they performed it as Hashem commanded - so did they do; and Moshe blessed them." He was then commanded to erect the mishkan and set all its accessories in place, to anoint and sanctify them. Thereafter he was to perform the sacred service throughout the eight inaugural days of the "milu'im." Then, "The cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and Hashem's Glory filled the mishkan." Here Sefer Shemot comes to a close, and from here our parashah begins: "He called to Moshe." The Creator invites His servant, Moshe, to enter His home.

The Midrash (Vayikra Rabbah 1:15) says, "Moshe, the father of wisdom, the father of the prophets, who took Benei Yisrael from Egypt, through whom many miracles occurred in Egypt and wonders at the Yam Suf, who ascended to the heavens above and brought the Torah down from the sky, and involved himself in the construction of the mishkan - he did not enter the interior chamber until He called him, as it says, 'He called to Moshe.'"

What do we learn from this? What eternal lesson does this Midrash convey? Sure, Moshe had many merits. He was the most faithful servant of Hashem. The mishkan was erected only in his merit, in the merit of his prayer and supplication. It was built only by his word, in accordance with his instructions and direction. It was set in place by him alone, he was the one who anointed and sanctified it. Nevertheless, to his credit, he acknowledged that he did not own this edifice; it was the House of Hashem, whose Glory filled the mishkan. Moshe can enter only by invitation. This is the true, faithful servant.

The Torah is eternal, and we must extract the lessons from it in all eras. Our generation features a sacred movement, a movement working towards the restoration of the Torah's glory to its rightful place, a movement that increases Torah and faith, a movement that founded a glorious Torah educational network, and instituted hundreds of Torah youth groups and thousands of Torah classes through the far-reaching and devoted efforts of "Ma'ayan Hahinuch HaTorani," "El Hama'ayan," "Benei Hayil," "Margalit Em BeYisrael," "Nessah Margalit," "Ma'ayanei Hahityashvut" and so many more. This comprises a glorious palace with countless wings, a tower of light shining upon the entire generation!

Everyone, every worker and activist, as accomplished and full of merit as he may be, must recognize that this palace has a leader. There is one who stands as the "owner" of this mishkan, whose influence permeates all that takes place and whose glory fills the mishkan. The sacred movement is led by our great rabbi, Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a, its founder and ongoing director, and by his word all activities are conducted. We pray for the life of the king - "May You add days onto the life of the king, his years, like generation after generation" - so that he may realize his dream of returning the nation's heart to its Father in heaven and bringing the redemption ever closer.

Shabbat Shalom, Aryeh Deri

Ants Working as Tailors

Certainly a reader will see the title and wonder, can this really be? Sure enough, this is a fact. In areas in tropical Asia there live remarkably large ants. They reside among the branches of trees in nests sewn together from leaves that conceal the interior of the home. The larva secrete from their mouth a sticky substance that extends like thread and immediately congeals in the air. These larva function as both needle and thread. To watch how these ants sew, one researcher approached a nest on a tree and tore several leaves, resulting in a large crack in the nest. The ants quickly jumped from the nest, and at that moment an entire brigade of ants burst outside to begin the repair work. The ants arranged themselves along the length of the edge of the crack. They grabbed with their cheeks the edge of the adjacent leaf while holding tightly onto the leaf by which they stood. They then slowly began walking backwards. They pulled with their cheeks the edge of the leaf and attached it to the edge of the adjacent leaf. At that point a new brigade of ants appeared, each member carrying a larva in its cheek. Each worker pressed the larva's head against the edge of the leaf, held it there for some time, and then proceeded to the opposite side of the crack. Here, too, the worker pressed the head of the larva against the surface. The ants carried the larva back and forth along the length of the crack, pressing their heads once on one edge and once on the other side of the crack. The larva had secreted the sticky threads. The stitch work finally came to an end, the work was complete, and the nest was fully repaired.

No matter who does the stitching - animals or, "lehavdil," human beings, its function is to bring together separate parts. The sewing of a new garment will always be easier than stitching a torn piece of clothing. The same applies to the sewing together of social splits. Here, too, when we come to join together and create a unified society, despite all the arguments and friction, the work is not easy. We Jews know that one does not need special tools or sewing specialists. The only thing that can help is divine assistance accompanied by minimal effort on the part of the people themselves - through talking things out, the preparedness to give, and the sincere desire to create unity under a single leadership: the leadership of the sacred Torah.


One Who Separates Himself From the Community (5)
Taken From the Haggadah, "Avotenu Sipperu Lanu"

Flashback: The Jewish heretic Martin converted from the faith and used his new position as priest to inflame the masses with hatred towards the Jews of Barcelona. The wealthy, influential Yaakov Philo abandoned his community during this time of need: he hid his wealth near his grandfather's grave and fled to Portugal. Meanwhile, the young Yaakov Banbanishti went to visit the grave of his grandfather, who had appeared to his widowed mother in a frightening dream. At the graveyard he found the wealthy man's ledger that had fallen from his pocket in his frantic escape from the city. This led Yaakov to discover the hidden treasure, from which he took 1,010 gold coins. In the dark of night he sneaked into the Christian cemetery, hid a thousand gold coins under a certain tree, and the remaining ten under a different, nearby tree. He returned home and wrote a letter in the local tongue, presenting himself as a Christian resident who, like the others, was enraged by the recent robbery of the church's collection fund, which the priest had attributed to the Jews.

Yaakov continued his letter: "One night I had an argument with my wife, and in order not to lose my control I left the house to breathe some fresh air. I decided to sleep that night in the cemetery to ensure that no one sees me and learns about the domestic friction. I stepped in the dark among the graves and suddenly heard the sound of digging. I was terror-stricken - who would desecrate the cemetery by secretly digging there? I looked carefully at the digger who worked under the large oak tree. I then jumped on him from the back and grabbed him by the arms. How shocked I was to see that I was holding the arms of the priest - Martin the Apostate! My suspicions had turned out to be true. I said to him, 'You were the one who broke into the church's account - and now you are burying the stolen coins!' Martin was ashamed and made me swear in the name of all that is sacred that I will not reveal the secret. He bribed me with ten gold coins that he pulled from his pocket, and promised that once the spirits cool down and the theft is forgotten he will grant me another two hundred.

"I took the ten coins and returned to my home in a state of fury. I gave five coins to my wife as a measure of appeasement, and the other five coins burned in my pocket like fire. My conscience tormented me: how can I fear from the vow of a Jew who betrayed both his former and current faiths, rather than showing reverence to my own religion and reveal this despicable crime? I therefore borrowed five gold coins, returned to the cemetery and hid all ten coins under a different tree. I hereby regret my actions and confess my sin. From this point I am clean, having revealed everything to you."

He completed the letter but did not sign it. Early in the morning, he threw it into the window of the judicial chamber.

to be continued...

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