March 26th, 2016
Adar ב 16th 5776
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Self-sacrifice is contingent on self-effacement
Rabbi David Pinto Shlita
“Hashem spoke to Moshe, saying: Command Aharon and his sons, saying: This is the law of the olah-offering: It is the olah-offering [that stays] on the flame, on the Mizbeach, all night until the morning, and the fire of the Mizbeach shall be kept aflame on it” (Vayikra 6:1-2)
Parashat Tzav begins with the subject of korbanot. The first commandment describes the olah-offering. It is termed עולה (rising) because the entire animal was burned as a sacrifice, its complete content rising to Heaven. The Kohen did not receive any part of the sacrifice as Priestly gifts. This custom of sacrificing korbanot existed in the times of the Beit Hamikdash. However, ever since the Beit Hamikdash was destroyed, the korbanot were abolished as well. Today our tefillot three times a day substitute for the korbanot (Berachot 26:2), as it says (Hoshea 14:3) “Let our lips substitute for bulls.” The service of our lips replaces the service of the korbanot.
The main purpose of the korban was to achieve atonement for misdeeds. According to the Ramban (Vayikra 1:9), when a person would observe what was being done to the korban, he would become aware that this procedure was actually meant to be done to him. However, since Hashem is a merciful and compassionate God, He granted him an opportunity to repent through bringing a korban. By observing what transpired with the animal, he would be aroused to complete teshuvah and he would not easily repeat his error.
Just as there are korbanot that are brought for the purpose of achieving atonement, there are also korbanot that a person would bring when he wished to express a surge of gratitude to Hashem in return for the many favors and kindness that Hashem granted him.
As mentioned, the korban olah was different from other korbanot in that it was totally consecrated to Hashem, without the Kohen gaining any share in it. This teaches us that there are situations in which one must dedicate himself entirely to Hashem without considering himself. One example of this is tefillah, praying to Hashem. In essence, it is a practice which is consecrated entirely to Hashem. When a person stands in prayer before his Creator, he must imagine that he is standing before the Master of the Universe. Unfortunately, only few exceptional individuals truly feel the fear of facing the Al-mighty. Most people are divided, consecrating one half to Hashem while reserving the other half for their own interests, remaining involved in their own affairs. This is so characteristic of what occurs during prayers that jesters commonly quip, “If something slipped your mind, just begin praying and it is guaranteed to surface.”
Another example of implementing the concept of the olah-offering is during one’s set times for Torah studies. One should be aware that this time is consecrated totally for Hashem’s sake. One must not engage in idle chatter at this time, nor speak on the cell phone or consider other irrelevant issues. This behavior distracts one from his true purpose for which he came to the Beit Hamidrash. Instead of immersing himself entirely in the study of Torah, he engages in worthless matters. In the end, his visit to the Beit Hamidrash turns out to be for socializing, causing bitul Torah, rachmana litzlan.
The life of a Jew is replete with self-sacrifice and concessions for Hashem’s sake and for the sake of his fellow Jews as well. If a person would not train himself at a young age to be benevolent and submissive, then later on he would not be able to incorporate these virtues to become a true servant of Hashem. A servant of Hashem needs to possess the characteristics of subservience and the ability to concede one’s personal ambitions in order to fulfill the will of Hashem. Only when a person trains himself properly from youth, will he merit becoming a faithful servant of Hashem.
Upon reading this account, we may wonder how this applies to us today and how we, on a less exalted level, can emulate our forefathers through self-sacrifice for Hashem’s sake, bringing a korban olah in our days. I think that our lives are replete with opportunities to sacrifice a korban olah for Hashem’s sake. When one guards his ears in order not to listen to derogatory gossip, even though it sounds immensely interesting – he is truly sacrificing a korban for Hashem’s sake. Likewise, when one engages in the study of Torah, and does not lift his head out of the sefer, but instead involves himself entirely in the Torah discourse, this too is considered as a korban olah for Hashem. When one concedes his will to the will of Hashem, and he overcomes his lustful passion in order to fulfill Hashem’s bidding, then this is considered as if he brought a korban olah for Hashem.
I personally witnessed that when one sacrifices himself for Hashem’s sake, then he merits extraordinary Siyata di’Shemaya. When I was flying on a plane, I suddenly had a flash of inspiration regarding a concept in Torah. In order not to forget it, I immediately began to record my thoughts and later noticed that I succeeded in explaining the concept in the same way as the Rishonim and Acharonim, to whom we cannot be compared in greatness. On a different occasion, when I was involved in recording my novel insights during a plane ride, a stewardess approached my seat and placed my meal in front of me. Since I was busy writing, I had not yet tasted my food, when I noticed the stewardess approaching again. Before I had a chance to figure out the reason for this, she exchanged the portion of food that she had originally placed in front of me with a different one. She apologized profusely explaining that by mistake she had originally given me a non-kosher meal.
Upon witnessing this, I was filled with joy at having been saved from eating prohibited foods. I attributed my good fortune to my complete involvement in Torah, to the extent that I overcame my desire for food in order to complete recording my novel insight. When Hashem observed my efforts in expounding His Torah, He immediately came to my aid, protecting me from eating non-kosher food. This was a literal fulfillment of the maxim “A person who comes to purify himself receives Divine assistance” (Shabbat 104:1).
Walking In Their Ways
The Ticket to Reverence
After my parents emigrated from Morocco to Eretz Yisrael, I was learning in a yeshiva in France. I would come occasionally to visit my parents and family in the Holy Land. Father would always hold on to my passport and ticket for safekeeping. On one visit, I asked my father to give me back my documents, as I had to confirm my date of departure in the travel agency in Tel Aviv. Father placed these precious items in a bag and asked that I should not remove them, so that they would not get lost.
As soon as I stepped out of the house, the first thing I did was find a garbage pail to throw the bag into. I placed the passport and ticket in my inside pocket. Why does Father worry so?” I thought. “Am I still a little boy who loses his things?”
I arrived at the office in Tel Aviv. Imagine my chagrin when I stuck my hand into my jacket pocket to extricate the valuable items, only to find that they were gone! My passport, ticket, and wallet were things of the past.
Suddenly, I remembered Father’s warning. I was truly remorseful and had no idea how I would face him. Since I had nothing more to do in Tel Aviv, I made my way home. As soon as I turned the key in the door, I heard my father’s rebuke, “Why didn’t you listen to me and keep everything in the bag?!”
With lowered head, I apologized. But Father did not give me much time to confess. “Hurry downstairs,” he ordered, “and look by the gas balloons. There you will find your lost items.” But I stood rooted to my spot. “Is Father playing a joke on me? Many people pass by our house throughout the day. It is now past 10:00 p.m. Do you really think my things sat still and simply waited for me to come and collect them?”
Father remained silent. I went to do as I was told, in spite of my doubts. I retraced my steps, and there, exactly where Father had told me to look, I found my passport, ticket, and wallet, strewn about. I ran back up with my treasures in hand. I could barely contain myself and asked Father how he knew exactly where these items were.
“I am not a prophet, but I had a feeling you would remove the things from the bag. Therefore, I prayed to Hashem that your valuables should remain intact.”
I learned a tremendous lesson. My items went lost as a punishment for not obeying my father. I thought I was smarter than he. And my virtuous father, in spite of his knowledge that I would disobey, did not hold it against me, but prayed that I find my items and not be harmed by my rash behavior.
Guard Your Tongue
Poverty in exchange for Tzaraat
The sefer Davar Shebakedushah states in the name of the sefer Hakaneh the following:
One who utters slanderous words is punishable with tzaraat. He asked: Rabbi, if so, all Bnei Yisrael should suffer tzaraat. After all, because of the transgression of slandering Bnei Yisrael has been exiled. He answered: Poverty is considered like suffering tzaraat. Ultimately, one becomes poor by choice, through his own actions.
Likewise, it is written in the Tikunei HaZohar that this transgression causes poverty. Therefore, whoever wants to live well should guard himself from the transgression of slandering.
The haftarah of the week: “Thus said” (Yirmeyahu 7)
The connection to the parashah: The haftarah mentions the subject of the sacrifices and their purpose, which is to hearken to Hashem’s command and fulfill His will. Thus, the sacrifices will be pleasing and bring nachat ruach to Him. This is similar to what is mentioned in the parashah that the sacrifices ascended to Heaven and brought nachat ruach to Hashem.
In the days preceding the month of Nissan, it is customary to arrange a special appeal in order to supply the needs of the poor, so that they should be able to obtain the necessary provisions in honor of the Festival of Pesach. This fund-raising is called “Kimchah D’Pischa”.
The origin of this custom stems already from early times, as is mentioned by the Rema in the beginning of hilchot Pesach, “It is a custom to buy wheat and distribute it among the poor – for the purpose of Pesach. Anyone who lives in a city for twelve months must participate in giving.”
This appeal has no connection to other tzeddaka fund-raising. It is like a special tax placed on every member of the community obligating them to give according to their ability to help the poor purchase provisions so that they can celebrate Pesach in an honorable and joyful manner.
Rabbi David Hanania Pinto Shlita
“A fire, continually, shall remain aflame on the Mizbeach; you shall not extinguish it.” (Vayikra 6:6)
Rashi comments, “A fire about which “continually” has been stated. It is the one with which they light the lamps of the Menorah, about which it says, “to light a lamp continually.” The neshamah is compared to a candle. The Torah hints that a person’s heart should constantly be aflame with the burning desire to learn Torah. However, this passion should not be confined only for his own personal growth, but should also influence others. One should utilize the “continual” fiery love of Torah that burns within him to benefit others, in order to allow them to enjoy the warmth of a Torah environment as well.
One should not despair of any lost neshamah, thinking he is too far gone, since one does not know when a person is ripe for teshuvah. Hashem desires to dwell among the mortals below (Tanchuma Naso16) as it states (Shemot 25:8), “They shall make me a Sanctuary – so that I may dwell among them” – among each and every member of Am Yisrael (see Nefesh Hachaim 1:4). It is mystifying why Hashem would want to dwell amongst people who are physical creations as opposed to dwelling among the holy Seraphim, who sanctify His Name and are entirely spiritual. It would seem more fitting for Hashem, Who is like a consuming fire and is entirely Holy (epitomizes Holiness) to dwell amongst the celestial angels who are holy and spiritual as well. Why, then did He desire to reside specifically in this world, where both the material and spiritual co-exist?
Hashem takes pleasure in the mesirut nefesh that His children demonstrate in their service of Him. In spite of the Yetzer Hara that confounds them, they overcome their selfish tendencies and defeat the Yetzer Hara with superior strength in order that Hashem reign supreme over the universe. Hashem seeks to dwell among his children despite the fact that the Yetzer Hara often conquers them. Just as Hashem descends to the lowly depths of this world and comes close to us in order to assist us in our spiritual ascent, likewise we should seek connection with lowly, errant Jews and elevate them, bringing them to dwell under the Canopy of the Shechina. By drawing them close to Hashem and to His Torah, we will emulate Hashem, as we are taught (Shabbat 133:2) “Just as He is – so too you should be.”
It is possible that if one would attempt to influence an errant Jew who is far from Torah and mitzvot to return, this Jew may eventually acquire the courage to sacrifice himself for Hashem’s sake and accept the yoke of Torah and mitzvot. This would make it possible for Hashem to dwell with him. Every lost neshamah returning to its source is considered like the building of a Mishkan for Hashem.
This assignment is not easy at all. It is clear that zikuy harabim requires a lot of exhausting effort. In light of this, it says in Pirkei Avot (5:24) “The reward is in proportion to the exertion.” As great as the hardship, that is proportionately how great the reward will be. The more man labors and suffers from his task, the more his reward will be increased in Olam Haba.
Everyone knows how many tears are shed and how much we pray for the pure education of our children. We invest thought and try to think of all sorts of ideas of how and what to do in order that the children should grow to be dedicated and G-d fearing Jews. Here we have a sure advice in raising G-d fearing children: bringing merit to the people. Each person should check himself to see in which way he could bring merit to people and bring errant Jews back to their Father in Heaven. One may have the ability to give Torah lectures, and another may possess compassion to lift people’s spirit, while yet another may have the means to host guests. Perhaps this may be his mission, to host unaffiliated Jews and bring them closer to their Father in Heaven by giving them a taste of the delicacies and sanctity of the Shabbat.
Words of Wisdom
“If he shall offer it for a thanksgiving-offering” (Vayikra 7:12)
Rabbi Pinchas and Rabbi Levi and Rabbi Yochanan (said) in the name of Rabbi Menachem Degalia:
All korbanot will be abolished in the future except for korban todah (the korban of thanksgiving).
All the tefillot will be abolished – except for thanksgiving.
This is as Yirmeyahu says (Yirmeyahu 33) “The sound of joy and the sound of gladness, the sound of groom and the sound of bride, the sound of people saying, Praise Hashem, Master of Legions, for Hashem is good…” This refers to thanksgiving. “And they bring thanksgiving in the House of Hashem” – this is referring to the korban todah. In addition, David says (Tehillim 56), “Upon me, O G-d, are [my] vows unto You; I shall render thanksgivings to You.” It states thanksgivings in the plural form signifying both verbal thanksgiving and thanksgiving-offerings. (Midrash Rabbah)
The Miraculous Oil
“And the oil of anointment” (Vayikra 8:2)
Rabbi Yehudah bar Illai said:
The oil of anointment that Moshe prepared in the Wilderness was filled with miracles from the beginning to the end. In the beginning there was only twelve lug (measurement), as it says, “שמן משחת קודש יהיה ז"ה לי – This shall remain for Me oil of sacred anointment,” and ז"ה has the numerical value of twelve.
Whether to soak the logs of wood with it – it would not suffice; taking into consideration how much the sunlight vanishes it, and how much the trees absorb it, and how much the rains dissipate it.
However, from this very oil Ahron and his sons were anointed during the seven days of consecration; from it the Mizbeach of gold and all its vessels were anointed; from it the Mizbeach of copper and all its vessels were anointed, as well as the Table and all its vessels, and the Menorah and all its vessels, and the copper Laver and its base.
From this same oil the kohanim gedolim and the kings were anointed. Also a kohain gadol who is the son of a kohain gadol has to be anointed, even past ten generations. (Midrash Rabbah)
“This is the law of the feast peace-offering” (Vayikra 7:11)
When they would sacrifice the peace-offering, Hashem would bestow His favor upon them, as it says (Bamidbar 6), “May G-d direct His providence toward you and grant you peace.”
Hashem says: Just as Bnei Yisrael favor me – so too I bestow favor upon them. How do Bnei Yisrael show favor for Hashem?
A Jew who is very poor and has five or six sons, and he obtains one loaf of bread and they all sit down to eat the lone loaf, they do not satisfy their hunger from their meal, but yet they bless Hashem. The pasuk states “You will eat and you will be satisfied, and bless.” So too, I will bestow favor upon them, “May G-d direct His providence toward you and grant you peace.”
This is why it says, “This is the law of the feast peace-offering.” (Midrash Tanchuma)
As an integral part of expressing love and affection, the crowning emblem is encouragement. At the root of the word עידוד – encouragement, we find the word עדי, which denotes a precious ornament. This signifies that when we parents and educators discover a positive trait, or see any improvement, any good deed that the child did, and we commend it, then what are actually doing is applauding the act and praising the child. This, in essence, is like an ornament awarding admiration and appreciation for the child. It is like placing a diamond in the crown of the child. It raises his self-esteem because he feels that someone appreciates him. And when he senses appreciation and recognition then inevitably he will have the desire and incentive to succeed more and more.
Likewise, the word עידוד (encouragement) contains the word עוד (more), which hints to aiding him more by helping him grow in the qualities he possesses. Encouragement reinforces what he possesses. One cannot bolster something he does not possess at all. For instance, one should not tell a child who is academically weak that he is academically talented. The child will not believe it. However, one can certainly strengthen his willpower, persistence, and determination, etc.
If we delve deeper, we find that at the root of the word עידוד we find the word עד (testify) hidden within. This suggests that the beauty of encouragement is that it testifies to the value of the child. It clarifies his self-worth and removes doubts regarding his inherent positive character traits. When the elevated character traits are revealed through encouragement, then the diamond shines more brilliantly, illuminating the inner nature of the person, and in our case, illuminating the inner beauty of the child…
Parenthetically, let us take note of a valuable insight from the beit midrash of the Gaon of Vilna, zy”a. It was a Jewish custom to buy one’s wife jewelry in proportion to the greatness of her deeds. This is as Rabbi Akiva did when he gave his wife an ornament referred to as the “city of gold.” When Rabban Gamliel’s wife coveted the same ornament, he said to her: Are your deeds as great as hers?
Thus, encouragement is an expression of appreciation and love we have for the child. And when the child senses that he is a precious jewel, he tries to prove that he is “worth it.” Therefore, he will improve his behavior, and his relationship with his parents and family will improve more and more.
There is a story about Mr. Schwab in the book Le’ehov, which serves as an excellent example for the incredible influence of encouragement. Mr. Schwab was a director of a steel plant in the United States. His employer, Mr. Andrew Kanji was paying him an enormous salary of $3,000.00 a day.
When asked why he paid him such a high amount, since he had in his factory dozens of employees who had broad technical knowledge in the operation of a steel plant, the manager proudly noted that Mr. Schwab received such a huge salary primarily because of his skills in getting along with people.
Then Mr. Schwab was asked, “What is your secret in getting along with the entire staff in the plant?”
“I feel that boosting the workers is the greatest asset. I do so by applauding and encouraging them.”
“There is nothing more destructive to the productivity of a person than criticism given by his superiors. I never give criticism. I believe in providing an incentive for a person, and I am delighted to praise him. I do not like at all to find fault. When something finds favor in my eyes, I verbalize my satisfaction with much enthusiasm. I do not begrudge his praise.”
The conclusion of the story teaches us the enormous value of a person who knows how to constantly compliment and encourage by tapping in on the positive qualities in each person.
When educating our dear children and students we should implement the habit of expressing love and appreciation for positive qualities. When the child notices that someone else values him and appreciates his achievements, he will continue making efforts to succeed in order to receive further acknowledgement.
This human reaction we find in early childhood when a baby begins to recognize his mother and sense the way she relates to him. Even at an early age we can see the satisfaction and delight the child exhibits when his mother smiles at him. The baby smiles back at his mother in the same way, and she, too, is overjoyed. However, when the mother displays an angry countenance, we immediately see the response of the baby. His instinctive reaction is – innocent tears.
Men of Faith
The Name that Bestowed Life
Once, a baby who was born prematurely was diagnosed with a severe heart defect. The heart was as large as the entire chest, and the lungs were not developed. The child also suffered from a lack of oxygen to the brain, and his condition was critical.
All the top physicians summoned to diagnose the condition of the baby were of the opinion that he would not live for more than a few hours. They informed the parents, adding that they had nothing to hope for, and they should accept this decree of G-d.
The aunt of the child heard that the merits of Rabbi Chaim Pinto Hakatan were extremely powerful. Therefore, she decided on her own to name the child after the tzaddik even before the brit milah. When the matter was discussed with the parents, they unanimously consented to name the child Chaim.
Then a miracle occurred. Within two days after naming the baby Chaim, things began to change in a way that until today the doctors cannot comprehend. They could not understand how their diagnosis was so mistaken.
The heart shrunk to a normal size, the lungs began to receive air, and oxygen began to flow to the brain. This was despite the fact that the parents had been warned that even if the child would live, he would be a vegetable all his life. With Hashem’s help, the child grew completely healthy, without a trace of his former condition. (Heard from Nikol Kidron, the father of the child.)