Illuminations #114, Nissan 5777, Parshat Vayikrah

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Illuminations #114, Nissan 5777, Parshat Vayikrah

Torah Gems

The fact that the Torah devotes so many pesukim to the topic of korbanos makes it obvious that it is of  the utmost importance. Yet, even a basic understanding of the matter seems to elude many. To some, the korbanos seems archaic and irrelevant to the 21st century.

The Ramban writes that although the korbanos contain some of the more esoteric passages in the Torah, they can also be explained rationally. A person generally sins through his thoughts, actions and speech. When one brings an offering, he places his hands on the animal and leans on it, corresponding to the sinful action. Next, he confesses with his mouth to atone for his speech. Finally, the animal’s innards, which represent his desires, are tossed into the flames and the blood is sprinkled on the altar in place of his blood. All this is in order that a person should contemplate the wrong which he did to G-d and that he himself deserves for his blood to be spilled and his body burned and only through the incredible mercy of Hashem does he have the opportunity to offer a korban in his stead.

​The very concept of evil is a term that modern man struggles with. In a generation where criminals are victims of society and terrorists are described as freedom fighters, we lose track of one of the most basic tenets of our faith: just as man can choose greatness, he can equally choose to do evil. For good deeds there is endless reward, but for sins there is punishment. The vivid imagery conjured up by korbanos reminds us that there are grave consequences for our actions. An aveira can no longer be dismissed merely as a mistake, but rather as a serious demeanor for which we carry full responsibility.

​Chazal tell us that Yerushalayim is called ‘יפה נוף משוש כל הארץ,’ – fairest of sights, the joy of the land. The reason for this is because a person would come to Yerushalayim dejected by the weight of their sins. Then he would bring a korban, achieving full atonement for his sins and would leave Yerushalayim in a joyous spirit, having rid himself of his aveiros. For this reason people would explain O’ Jerusalem the joy of the land. May the day come soon where we, too, can exclaim O’ Jerusalem the joy of the land.

Parsha Pearls

Rosh Chodesh, symbolized by the new moon, represents renewal. Just as the moon wanes at the end of the month only to begin waxing with the onset of the new moon, so man has the ability to renew himself and confront life with renewed vigor. Nissan, however, is singled out as the head of all roshei chodoshim, meaning it offers a unique opportunity for renewal more than any other month. Every spiritual force in the world has a corresponding effect in the physical world. The power of Nissan manifests itself in spring as plants and animals that lay dormant for the duration of winter begin to flourish again. Interestingly the Torah commands us to adjust the calendar in order that Nissan should always fall out in the spring. 

The Pesach seder is called such because, as its name implies, there is a specific order to how we do things on Pesach night. R’ Avrohom Shor points out that the very first two things – kadesh and orchotz – seem to be out of order. Kadesh is to increase holiness while orchotz is to rid of impurities. The general rule is סור מרע ועשה טוב , first one has to distance from evil and only then can he pursue spirituality. He answers that the reason for this seeming incongruity is because there is a unique opportunity on the seder night for growth and, as such, one can skip steps so to speak and achieve lofty levels of holiness even before he rids himself of evil. Perhaps this can be understood in light of what was mentioned previously that since Nissan is also a spiritual spring, it in particular is an auspicious time for growth.

Glimpses of Greatness

Every day dozens of letters arrive to the home of R’ Chaim Kanievsky from people around the world eagerly seeking his advice. One day, two letters were placed on his desk: one was seeking a source for the rule mentioned in the Talmud that one can’t force his Jewish slave to divorce his wife in order to marry a non-Jewish slave; the second letter was from a man who was encountering difficulties in his marriage and wanted to know if he should divorce his wife. To the first letter, R’ Chaim penned the medrash which quotes the verse, “‘His wife should go out with him’ from here we learn don’t separate him from his wife.” These two letters somehow got mixed up and the aforementioned letter arrived at the home of the struggling husband. When it came to the attention of R’ Chaim what had occurred, he replied that perhaps it was a sign from shomayim that this man shouldn’t get divorced.

Halacha Weekly

Q. Is destruction of chametz (or food in general) because of a personal stringency baal Taschit ?[ I-2-137]

A. Ginzei Chaim (R. Chaim Pelagi Z”L Maarechet 2-36) writes that if one wants to hide his good actions and the stringencies he holds out of modesty (tzniut), and  he needs to destroy food as a result, this is permitted.  For example, if one is fasting  and he is given an honor involving food and drink, and wishes to hide his pious action [the fact he is fasting], he  may throw away the food he is given in the garbage discretely,  and there is no transgression of Baal tashchit in doing so.

Shvet HaLevi (9-120, R. Shmuel Halevi Wosner Z”L) writes that if a person needs to throw away food or drink because of a stringency on himself, even though it not part of the essential mitzvah to do so, this is not  considered causeless destruction of food or baal tashchit; for example, if one is stringent on himself in separation of terumot or maaserot, or leaving liquid uncovered overnight , even if he can acquire it in an acceptable way.  Likewise, we learn to burn all of one’s chametz and not to rely on selling chametz to a non-Jew and the like; there is no Baal Taschit in doing this.