This week we begin a the third Book of the Torah, Vayikra, also known as Toras Kohanim "the laws of the Priests." It deals with the laws of the offerings in the Mishkan, which is the domain of the priests and other laws specifically for priests as well as those central laws for all of Israel in their status as "a Nation of Priests."
The first offering mentioned is the "Olah" the burnt offering. The first two chapters are devoted to this. This is an offering an individual voluntary vows to bring as a sacrifice in the Mishkan. Let us look at verse 1:3.
"If his offering is a burnt-offering of cattle, he shall bring an unblemished male to the entrance of the Tent of Meeting; he shall bring it willingly before Hashem."
He shall bring it : Rashi: This teaches us that they force him [to bring it]. Perhaps even against his will? Therefore the verse also says ""willingly" How is this possible? They force him until he says "I am willing."
A very strange comment!
WHAT IS RASHI SAYING?
Rashi says he is forced, if necessary, to bring a offering that he had voluntarily accepted to bring. Then he says the person is forced to say ("Uncle") that he wants to bring the offering.
A question: Why would it be necessary to force him, if he had himself volunteered to bring this offering?
Another Question: If he is forced to say "I am willing" what value does such a forced consent have? It would seem to be a contradiction - being forced means he doesn't want to, saying "I am willing" means he does want to !!
A last Question: On what basis does Rashi (actually the Midrash) derive this comment? What in the verse even hints at this?
Can you see what's bothering Rashi?
WHAT IS BOTHERING RASHI?
An Answer: The verse has a redundancy in it. It says "He shall bring it" two times. Rashi's comment is on the second time these words are used. It is as if he asking: Why the repetition?
An Answer: His comment tells us that the words are repeated to stress that he must bring it, even if he had changed his mind after he vowed to do so. But if he must, how can this be "willingly" as the verse states clearly?
Here Rashi offers the apparently self-contradictory explanation the he is forced to do so "willingly."
How can this be understood?
A DEEPER UNDERSTANDING
An Answer: A witticism of Oscar Wild could help us understand this . He said "two things makes people unhappy. 1) Not getting what they want and 2) Getting what they want!"
That is, even when we get what we think we want we would be unhappy. Because we don't really know what we really want. And we don't always know what we don't really want!
Therefore the idea of being forced to do something makes sense when we are forced to do something that is ultimately bad for us. But if we are forced to do something that is ultimately good for us this is not "being forced " against our will because what we are doing is really good for us and had we known this we would have willingly agreed.
Thus in our case, the man is "forced" to do what he doesn't want to do now, but what he would ultimately want to do had he known all the (spiritual) facts.
AN IMPORTANT LESSON
Rashi's comment reveals a very important educational and psychological principle - not everything a child (or an adult, for that matter) wants, is good. That is obvious, isn't it? But similarly, not everything a child protests against doing is bad for him. Even if he strongly protests. Since he has no way of knowing what is ultimately good for him. Unfortunately parents often forget this. The principle of "for the good of the child" which guides so much of legislation and instruction about children, often misperceives what is ultimately good for the child.
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