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Peninim on the Torah

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Rabbi A. Leib Scheinbaum
Hebrew Academy of Cleveland


This is the law of the elevation-offering. (6:2)

Learning the laws of the korbanos is equivalent to offering a korban. Chazal tell us that whoever studies Torah is considered as if he offered a Korban Olah or Minchah. In the Talmud Megillah, Chazal tell us that when Haman was preparing to fulfill King Achashverosh's command that he take Mordechai through the city riding on a horse, he found Mordechai studying the laws of Kemitzah, the scoop performed during the Korban Minchah, with a group of Jewish children. Haman said to them that their studying the laws of Kemitzah precluded his evil decree. In other words, studying about the Korban Minchah was the great zechus which protected Klal Yisrael in Shushan.

Horav Arye Leib Shteinman, Shlita, makes a profound observation based on Chazal's statement. If one were to conjecture the reason that the Jewish People of that era were saved from annihilation, he would certainly suggest that the outpouring of prayer, coupled with three days of fasting, engendered their salvation. Yet, Chazal do not assert this. They attribute the salvation to the Torah study of tinokos shel bais rabbon, Jewish school children.

This is an incredible statement. How are we to accept the fact that Haman rendered "daas Torah," perspective based upon Torah wisdom? After all, he was saying that their Torah study - and not the prayer and fasting -catalyzed their salvation. Rav Shteinman explains that, indeed, Haman was able to make such a statement because of his present condition. For Haman, the archenemy of Mordechai and the Jews, to be compelled to give Mordechai unparalleled honor was a denigrating, humiliating and depressing experience. One who experiences broken-heartedness is able to perceive the ohr ha'emes, light that emanates from pure truth - even if he is as wicked as Haman ha'rasha. At this moment, when one descends to the abyss of depression, when he is stripped of the facades of arrogance, he is able to see the truth that until moments ago had eluded him. This is the awesome power of a lev nishbar, broken-heart.

A permanent fire shall remain aflame on the Altar; it shall not be extinguished (6:6)

The Talmud Yerushalmi in Meseches Yoma 4:6 makes a striking statement in regard to the injunction that the fire on the Mizbayach never be extinguished. They say that even during the masaos, when Klal Yisrael traveled, the flame must constantly be burning. Ha'Drash V'Ha'Iyun renders this statement homiletically. When a person is at home, calm and relaxed, when his life is in order and everything is going smoothly, he is protected against circumstances that might sway him from the correct path of observance. First, things are going well; he has no reason to waver in his commitment to Hashem. He has no emotional pull to drag him away. Second, he is in his community, among his friends and associates with whom he has an established acquaintance. He would not do anything that would warrant their critique. Certainly, he would do nothing that would cause him needless embarrassment.

The situation changes drastically when one is on the road, in a strange place where he is not known, where whatever improper behavior he might be tempted to commit will go unnoticed and unchallenged. The temptation is great, the hazard of falling into the abyss of impropriety is very real.

This is the underlying meaning of David HaMelech's praise in Sefer Tehillim 128:1, "Praised shall be he who maintains his fear of the Almighty even when he is on the road, dwelling in strange unknown places." If he succeeds in preserving his spiritual status quo, then he is truly a yirei Shomayim, one who fears Heaven.

The Torah alludes to this when it commands us to sustain the fire on the Mizbayach at all times - even during periods of travel. Upon the mizbayach of the heart, the altar of man's spiritual consciousness, the flame - the fire of one's passion and commitment - should burn brightly, even when he travels and the challenges to his commitment are unnerving.

This is the law of the feast-peace-offering…If he shall offer it for a Thanksgiving offering, he shall offer with the thanksgiving offering unleavened loaves…and the flesh of his feast thanksgiving offering must be eaten on the day of its offering… (7:11,12,15)

One who survives a life-threatening experience brings a Korban Todah, thanksgiving offering, as an expression of gratitude to Hashem. He thereby proclaims unequivocally that Hashem is responsible for his rescue. The Korban Todah is actually a Korban Shelamim, peace offering, with two distinctions: The Todah is eaten for a day and a night, while a Shelamim is eaten for two days and a night. The Korban Todah must be accompanied by forty loaves of bread/matzoh. In his commentary Haamek Davar, The Netziv z.l., explains that the extra "food" that must be consumed with a Korban Todah, coupled together with the decreased amount of time allotted for its consumption, is by design. In order to complete this huge amount of food in the allotted time frame, one must invite friends and associates to join in the thanksgiving celebration, thereby publicizing Hashem's miraculous deed. He also adds that the individual who offers the korban should separate four loaves, designating them specifically for the Kohanim, the Torah scholars of the generation. By doing this, he will have included talmidei chachamim, which is a requisite for the Bircas HaGomel, blessing of gratitude.

Horav Shmuel Truvitz, z.l., explains the necessity of having Torah scholars present at the celebration in the following manner. He cites the Ramban in his commentary to the Torah at the end of Parashas Bo, who writes, "The purpose of all mitzvos is to bring us closer in our belief in Hashem. Indeed, this is the purpose for prayer in the synagogue where we congregate to supplicate Hashem as a group - so that we will all together recognize Hashem and concede to His monarchy…From the great wonders and miracles, one learns to understand that everything is a miracle from Hashem, even the covert everyday occurrences/miracles are from Him. One who does not concede that everything is from Hashem - the small, hidden wonders as well as the overt, magnificent miracles, does not have a portion in Hashem's Torah."

We derive from the Ramban that appreciating Hashem's part in a miracle, and recognizing the source of one's salvation, is not sufficient. One must also apply this miracle as a springboard, as a vehicle for understanding that everything is a miracle. The patient who survives a traumatic and difficult life-threatening surgical procedure is no less the beneficiary of a miracle than the one who survived a cold - or the one who did not get sick at all. It is all from Hashem! The great miracles should inspire us to reflect on the everyday miracles which we often ignore.

We now understand the purpose in having at least two Torah scholars present at a thanksgiving celebration. They will open our eyes; they will teach us how Hashem's beneficience reaches out to us in more ways than we understand. Gratitude is important, but we must go beyond gratitude to recognition that there is so much more for which to be thankful.

David Hamelech says in Tehillim 50:23, "He who offers confession honors Me; and one who orders (his) way, I will show him the salvation of G-d." Horav Akiva Eiger, zl, explains that when man offers a Korban Todah as gratitude to the Almighty, he is preparing the derech, way/path, for the yeshuas Elokim, G-d's salvation. As a result of this acknowledgement of gratitude, he will merit more opportunities for gratitude. Horav Truvitz explains this based upon Rashi in Sefer Bereishis 2:5, "Now any tree of the field was not yet on the earth…for Hashem had not sent rain upon the earth and there was no man to work the soil." Rashi explains that there was no man yet to appreciate the value of rain. When Adam came, he realized that it is a necessity for the world, so he prayed for rain. The rain then descended from the Heaven, and the trees and different types of vegetation began to sprout.

We glean from Rashi that, specifically because Man recognizes the source of his bounty and offers his gratitude, he merits to receive more blessing. This is not the case with one who is not modeh u'makir b'tov, who does not confess and recognize the good that Hashem has brought in his behalf. He lacks the key for continuing the blessing. Horav Truvitz makes a profound analogy to a person whose father is both very wealthy and very compassionate. He is prepared to grant his son anything that money can buy. He asks only one thing: that his son recognize and appreciate the source of his gift. If he does so, then the sky is the limit. He will shower his child with every form of goodness. Consequently, the child who has the common sense to act appropriately is basically opening the "faucet" from which will flow the wonderful bounty. We are Hashem's children. If only we recognize Hashem as the generous source of all that we have, then we can hope and aspire for greater assistance. What we receive is commensurate with the gratitude which we express.

If he shall offer it for a Thanksgiving-offering. (7:11)

Ha'koras ha'tov, recognizing and appreciating the favor one received from others, is the staple of a healthy society. Indeed, one who does not recognize and appreciate the good of which he is the beneficiary is a contemptible person and a danger to the preservation of a humane society. The effect of ha'koras ha'tov is far reaching and profound. It is important to add that the catalyst for our beneficence should never be the gratitude we receive in return. Our intention should be purely altruistic: simply because it is the right thing to act with kindness. The responsibility for appreciation is upon the beneficiary who, if he is a mentch, will reciprocate in kind. The following narrative illustrates that if we do the right thing because it is right, the gratitude will materialize at times when we least expect it, but when we most need it.

Near the city of Danzig there lived a wealthy Chassidic rebbe by the name of Rabbi Shmuel Shapiro, rav of the Polish village of Prochnik. The Rebbe would take his daily morning stroll, bedecked in a tailored black suit, wearing a distinguished looking top hat, carrying a walking cane, and accompanied by his son-in-law. During the Rebbe's walk, he made a point to greet every person: man, woman and child, Jew and non-Jew alike. Each one was greeted with a warm smile and a cordial, "Good morning." Over the years, the Rebbe became acquainted with most of the townspeople by way of his daily ritual, and he would always greet each person by his proper title and name.

Near the outskirts of the town, in the fields, the Rebbe would daily exchange greetings with a Herr Mueller, a Volksdeutsche, ethnic German. Herr Mueller worked in the fields, obviously not the most esteemed position. Yet, the Rebbe would quickly go out of his way to give him a resounding, "Good morning, Herr Mueller," to which he received a quick response of, "Good morning, Herr Rabbiner," accompanied by a good natured smile.

Life was idyllic - until the war began. Suddenly, the non-Jews no longer recognized their Jewish neighbors. Old friends became hated enemies, as the Volksdeutschen quickly were inducted into Hitler's army. The Rebbe's strolls became a thing of the past, and Herr Mueller's simple garb disappeared as he now donned an S.S. uniform. The fate of the Rebbe was much like that of the rest of Polish Jewry. He lost his family in the death camp of Treblinka, and - after great personal suffering - was himself deported to the dreaded Auschwitz concentration camp.

One day during a selektion at Auschwitz, where the fate of an inmate was determined by the wave of a baton, the Rebbe, along with hundreds of other Jews, stood in line awaiting his fate. Would they live or die? The Rebbe was dressed in the striped camp uniform, in pain, disheveled and bedraggled. His head and beard shaven, his eyes feverish from starvation and disease, he looked like a walking skeleton. "Right, left, left, left," the feared voice in the distance called out, as it sent the broken Jews to their death. The voice grew nearer as the Rebbe "progressed" in line. Suddenly, the Rebbe had a sudden urge to move forward and look into the face of evil - into the face of the man who played G-d. He pushed himself up and looked right into the eyes of the man who stood there wearing white gloves and carrying a small baton which he waved right and left, deciding who would live and who would die. He raised up his eyes and heard his voice saying, "Good morning, Herr Mueller!"

"Good morning, Herr Rabbiner!" responded a human voice beneath the accursed S.S. cap, rightfully adorned with a skull and bones. "What are you doing here, Herr Rabbiner?" The Rebbe did not respond. A faint smile, however, began to appear on his lips. Quickly, the baton pointed to the right. The Rebbe was saved. The next day, he was transferred to another camp. He survived the war, and years later he would remark, "This is the power of a good morning greeting." I think it also shows us the power of ha'koras ha'tov, even for a lowly Nazi, who realized that the man who stood before him was one person who had treated him like a human being.

Questions & Answers

1. How often was the mitzvah of Terumas Ha'Deshen performed?

2. What type of vestments did Moshe Rabbeinu wear during the Shivaas Yemei Ha'Milluim, seven inaugural days?

3. How does the Korban Todah parallel the Shtei Ha'Lechem, which was offered on Shavuous?

4. What difference is there between the Korban Minchah offered by a Kohen and that of a regular Korban Minchah?

5. Which Korbanos Minchah are not mixed with oil?

6. What is unique about the Korban Chatas that was offered during the Shivaas Yemei Ha'Milluim.


1. The Terumas Ha"Deshen was performed daily by a Kohen.

2. Moshe Rabbeinu wore a white robe (Rashi citing the Talmud Avodah Zorah 34a). Rashi explains that Moshe did not have the status of a Kohen. Therefore, he was not permitted to don the Priestly vestments. Tosfos disputes this and give two reasons why Moshe did not wear the vestments. First, they had not yet been consecrated until after the seven day inaugural period. Second, the sacrifices offered during the seven day inaugural did not have the status that would require the Priestly vestments to be worn.

3. They are the only two korbanos whose accompanying flour offerings included loaves of chometz, as opposed to the other korbanos whose loaves were always made of matzoh.

4. The Korban Minchah of the Kohen requires that the entire Korban be brought on the Mizbayach. In contrast, the usual Korban, the Kemitzah, scoop, is the only portion of the korban that is offered on the Mizbayach. The rest is eaten.

5. Minchas Chatas and the Minchas Sotah are the only two korbanos

6. It was the only Korban Chatas which was brought on the Mizbayach, Ha'Chitzon, outer Mizbayach, whose skin and flesh was burnt outside the camp, rather than eaten by the Kohanim.


Peninim on the Torah is in its 11th year of publication. The first seven years have been published in book form.

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