by Zvi Akiva Fleisher
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SEDRAH SELECTIONS PARSHAS VAYIKRA 5770 BS"D
Although a departure from the normal style, I offer five insights into verses of our parsha that teach us important moral lessons, in the main in the realm of chesed, doing acts of kindness. People generally equate the Book of Vayikra with technical sacrificial laws. It is therefore in place to cull a few ideas from the verses that teach us profound, although simple moral lessons. There are numerous other such lessons to be extracted from various verses in the Book of Vayikra. Here is a sampling of five such lessons from our parsha.
1) Ch. 1, v. 4: "V'somach yodo al rosh ho'oloh" - Some of the "korbonos" require "smichoh," the act of placing one's hands onto the head of the sacrifice and leaning on the animal. If not done, the sacrifice is still valid, but the mitzvoh of "smichoh" has not been fulfilled. A reason for bringing this type of offering is to atone for not fulfilling a positive commandment.
The gemara Z'vochim 6a raises a question. "If one offers a Korban Oloh as an atonement for not fulfilling a mitzvoh, but does not do "smichoh," does this afford any atonement, as the person has once again not fulfilled the positive command of doing "smichoh?" The gemara says that the Rabonon say that previous sins are atoned, but not this sin of not having done "smichoh."
Picture a person being found guilty of theft. The judge obviously rules that the object or its value be returned. He also requires of the thief to write an apology to the victim and to expand on the negative aspects of the grievous sin of theft. The thief agrees to comply. He now robs someone of a few sheets of paper upon which he writes the apology for his previous theft. He appears in court in front of the same judge again for the second theft, goods in hand. No doubt, the judge will deal with him very harshly now, as in his supposed act of repentance, writing the ills of theft, he has once again stolen. Not so Hashem. Although a person brings a sacrifice for the specific intent of bringing about atonement for neglecting to fulfill a positive command, and in this self-same act repeats the exact same wrongdoing, namely, again not fulfilling Hashem's command to do a positive mitzvoh, in spite of this, Hashem will still forgive him for his previous neglect of a positive mitzvoh even though in his bringing the present offering he is again not fulfilling a "mitzvas a'sei." What patience! LESSON: Be kind and forgiving even of a person who seems to not really be contrite and doesn't seem to seriously mend his errant ways. Be kind even to one whom you think is quite undeserving, even a sinner.
2) Ch. 1, v. 17: "Vichnofov …… v'hiktir" - With its wings/feathers …… and he shall burn - Rashi says there is a terrible odour from the burning of feathers of the poor man's bird. This is the Holy House of Hashem, and the masses flock here and one would expect a very pleasant atmosphere. It smells malodourous. Hashem is willing to forgo His honour so as not to embarrass the poor man to bring a plucked bird, that is even scrawnier looking than a fully feathered one. (Although a simple reading of Rashi seems to indicate that it is for the honour of the altar, reading this statement at the source, Vayikra Rabboh 5:3 clearly shows that it is for the honour of the poor man.) LESSON: Do acts of kindness even at the cost of your honour and your inconvenience.
3) Ch. 1, v. 17: "Rei'ach nicho'ach laShem" - It is a pleasant aroma for Hashem - We find this same expression in 1:9 by the wealthy man's sacrifice, a robust ox, and here by poor man's offering, a pigeon, to teach us that whether one brings a massive offering or a minimal offering, it is pleasant for Hashem as long as the donour's heart is intent on serving Hashem (gemara M'nochos 110b). Hashem appreciates equally or even more so an act that is small but is a Herculean effort or sacrifice for the doer, as a large act that is done easily. LESSON: Do acts of kindness even if they are something very small, even if no one knows about them, and do them with NO FANFARE. Such acts are never insignificant in Hashem's eyes, and are sometimes greater than acts that are very conspicuous and/or have much fanfare.
4) Ch. 5, v. 7: "Echod l'chatos v'echod l'oloh" - For the atonement of certain unintentional sins, a sin offering must be brought. This is either a sheep or a goat. If the sinner is so poor that he cannot afford a sheep or goat, the Torah allows him to bring two birds, one as a sin offering, a "chatos," which is eaten by the Kohein, and one as an "oloh" offering, which is totally consumed on the altar.
The Ibn Ezra and Paanei'ach Rozo ask, "Why is there a need for an "oloh" altogether, since the original sacrifice was only a "chatos?" They answer that since the original sacrifice was a sheep or goat (5:6), there would have been a portion for the Kohein and a portion for the altar as well. However, if the poor person were to only bring a "chatos" offering of a bird, there would be nothing for the altar, as a bird "oloh" is totally consumed on the altar. The sole purpose of bringing the "oloh" bird offering is to give the altar its portion. LESSON: See to it that even an inanimate object be accommodated/not be shortchanged, and surely a live object, and all the more so a human.
5) Ch. 5, v. 8: "Umolak es rosho mimul orpo" - We have two startling "chidushim" regarding the bird offerings. One is that it is slaughtered with the nail of the Kohein. When slaughtering a non-sacrificial bird or an animal, whether sacrificial or mundane (chulin), this would render it non-kosher, and by a sacrificial bird only with the use of a nail is it fit. If a blade is used the sacrificial bird is rendered unfit. The second matter is that ritually correct slaughtering, whether for mundane (chulin) meat or for a sacrifice, always requires slaughtering from the front of the neck and not the nape. Here by the bird offering, only entry from the nape is proper. The Chinuch in mitzvoh #124 says that the Torah requires these two severe departures from the norm to accommodate the man who is so poor that he is financially forced to bring an avian sacrifice. By requiring the use of the Kohein's nail rather than a ritual slaughtering knife, a "chalif," time is saved by not having to fetch the knife and making sure it is properly sharpened. Secondly time is saved by slaughtering the bird from the nape side, which is the side naturally facing the Kohein. Slaughtering from the front side requires turning the bird's neck and firmly holding the neck in that position. The Torah wanted to speed the process for the poor man, concerned even with saving him seconds, as he is pressed financially to pursue any manner of income available. What a powerful lesson to not waste the time of a poor person! Do kindness while being sensitive to the personal needs of the recipient.
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