April 1st, 2017

5th of Nisan 5777



The Reason for Bringing Korbanot

Rabbi David Hanania Pinto

“When a man from [among] you brings a sacrifice to the Lord; from animals… you shall bring your sacrifice” (Vayikra 1:2)

What is the reason that Hashem commanded us to bring korbanot in the Beit Hamikdash if surely He Himself does not need them? Moreover, why in such a holy place – the House of Hashem, is it necessary to engage in slaughtering and bringing korbanot to the extent that it was necessary for a special miracle that the meat should not stench and that no fly should be seen there (as brought in Avot 5:5)? Why did Hashem not command that the Kohen should offer a prayer and burn incense in the Mikdash, and in this way have the Shechinah reside among them? What does sacrificing korbanot add to the Mikdash?

The Rambam, in his sefer “Moreh Nevuchim” offers a reason for this, because the Egyptians and the Chaldeans, who were living and residing in their country beforehand, worshipped the cattle and sheep. The Egyptians worshipped the sign of the Zodiac Aries (sheep), and the Chaldeans worshipped demons that appeared to them in the form of goats, and consequently, the people of India do not slaughter cattle until today. Therefore, Hashem commanded them to slaughter these three species for His Sake, in order to realize that what they had thought to be a deity is slaughtered for Hashem’s sake, and in this way their sins are atoned, because all foreign thoughts that weaken a person’s faith are eliminated. 

The Ramban question’s the Rambam’s reason saying that when Noach left the Ark, he brought a korban, and it found favor in the Eyes of Hashem. Likewise, Hevel also brought the first-born of his flock and their fat covering, and this was done even though there was yet no trace of idolatry in the world at all.  According to him, he explains “Since actions of people are carried out through premeditated thought, speech and action, Hashem commanded that when one sins, he should bring a korban and place his hands upon the animals head in order to atone for his action. Then he must confess verbally his deed in order to atone for the aspect of speech, and afterward the innards and kidneys were burned since they are the tools of thought and passion. The legs correspond to the persons hands and feet which carry out his actions, and he must dash the blood upon the Altar, corresponding to his blood, so that he should reflect, when doing all this, that he sinned against his G-d with his body and soul and it is fitting to have his blood spilled and body burned. However, through the Grace of G-d, He arranged for the animal to serve as atonement, and the animal’s blood is shed instead of his own”…

However, it is necessary to clarify what the Rambam would answer to the Ramban’s questions that our forefathers also sacrificed korbanot, and in their times there was no concept of idolatry. Furthermore, according to the explanation of the Ramban – if we say that teshuvah mostly  comes about through sacrificing korbanot, then today, when unfortunately we do not have a Beit Hamikdash, and no Kohen to atone for us, and we do not sacrifice korbanot, how can we fulfill the mitzvah of teshuvah?

I would like to suggest that the Rambam and the Ramban are not disagreeing about the reason for bringing korbanot. In any case, there are two objectives for korbanot, as we explained, but the Rambam holds that the main objective is to uproot Avodah Zara, and the Ramban believes that the main objective is to bring a person to Teshuvah. It’s possible that they are not arguing against each other at all, since the Rambam is talking about a period when the main purpose was to uproot Avodah Zara, while the Ramban is discussing a different period when the main purpose was to bring people to do Teshuvah, as in the period of our saintly forefathers. Certainly the intentions of our forefathers were pure and righteous in bringing sacrifices, and their entire objective was only to bring nachat ruach (pleasure) to Hashem. But, after they were exiled to Egypt and became assimilated and mixed with the Nations, learning from their ways, then there was a need to eliminate their error so that they should not be drawn to idolatry and its abominations; as the Rambam wrote in his commentary, that even after they left Egypt, their minds were still occupied with thoughts of idolatry, especially since the Erev Rav was among them and encouraged it.

It should also be noted that the Egyptian culture at that time tried to influence the whole world to believe in their Avodah Zara, and also Am Yisrael were adversely affected. In fact, they too created and worshipped a Golden Calf. Therefore, Bnei Yisrael were commanded to sacrifice korbanot of kosher animals, so that they would be cured from the foreign beliefs that the Nations imposed on others. In order to protect them from integrating this deception on all levels of Creation – inanimate, plants, living, and speaking, Hashem commanded them to build the Mishkan and take inanimate materials, such as gold, which they used to offer for Avodah Zara, and now they would bring it only for Hashem’s Mishkan. Likewise, the meal-offerings, which were made from fine flour, etc., in order to pay respect to Avodah Zara – l’havdil, they would now bring instead a meal-offering for Hashem, and this was made from plants. Regarding the level of living creatures – they brought korbanot of animals for Hashem. Who had the obligation to do so? Man, who is  theone who speaks. In this way they would slowly disconnect from the corrupt ways of the Nations and cleave to Hashem.

It is about this period that the Rambam referred to. However, hundreds of years later, idolatry was uprooted from the world, and in fact, people who worship animals are considered eccentric. Thus, this reason for korbanot is not relevant today. Subsequently, the main objective today is to bring people back to Teshuvah. When a person will contemplate that whatever was done to the animal should really have been done to him, he will entertain thoughts of Teshuvah, and will regret his sins, and reflect the great gap existing between him and our saintly forefathers, who sacrificed korbanot for the sake of Heaven only and were free of sin.     

Walking in Their Ways

The Disappearing Snuff

I deliver a regular Shabbat shiur in Lyon every Shabbat morning. One man makes sure to bring tobacco and offers a sniff of the fresh, sweet-smelling snuff to the participants. This has been a custom among Jews throughout the generations.

One Shabbat, before I even began delivering the shiur, the man offered me a sniff. I took the box from his hand and found it full of good tobacco. But I was not in the mood to smell it just then. I handed him back the box, promising to take a sniff after the lecture.

When the shiur was over, the man rushed to offer me his box of tobacco. Imagine my surprise at finding it empty. “Why are you giving me an empty box?” I asked.

The man had no idea what I was talking about. Just a short while ago, the box had been full of fresh, fragrant snuff. He came over to me to reveal – nothing. We looked all around. Maybe the snuff had spilled out. But no; the floor was spotless. We asked the other participants if anyone had emptied the box for some reason, but all answered in the negative. The tobacco seemed to have been swallowed by the earth, not leaving behind a trace.

During the course of Shabbat, I was asked whether I had unraveled the mystery of the missing snuff. I answered, “No. But we are taught (Iyov 1:21), ‘Hashem has given and Hashem has taken away; blessed be the Name of Hashem.’ Whatever happens to us is pre-ordained on High. We must accept it with love.” This was my response to those who asked. But personally, the matter of the snuff gave me no rest.

Finally, Hashem took pity on me and allowed me to solve this riddle. This is what happened: Every night, before retiring, I am in the practice of learning from a sefer kodesh. It is known that the state of a person when he goes to sleep affects the state he will be in when he awakens the next morning. When a Jew retires while connected to Hashem through Torah study, he will awaken with that same connection. But one who turned in with his head full of nonsense will wake up in the same frame of mind. Every Jew should bear this in mind before retiring each night.

That Motza’ei Shabbat, I took a random sefer before falling asleep. It was the writings of the Admor, Rabbi Shalom Dov Ber Schneerson of Lubavitch, zt”l. His words touched me deeply, for they contained the resolution to the previous day’s mystery. This was what I read:

“Each creature has a specific type of Divine spark within it. For instance, the bread which we eat is fitting only when it contains this special quality. Without it, the bread turns moldy and is unfit for human consumption. So, too, is it with wine. As long as Hashem infuses it with vitality, it can be enjoyed by people. But as soon as Hashem removes this vitality, the wine turns sour and is no longer fit for drinking.”

Now I understood what had happened. Before the shiur, Hashem had planted life into the tobacco. Therefore, it was fresh and fragrant. But afterward, it lost its vitality. It could no longer be used, so it simply disappeared.

Man exists on a similar plane. As long as his neshamah, his connection to the Divine, is alive, he can continue living. But the moment that Hashem removes this neshamah from his body, he perishes.

Hashem created the world only for His glory. When He wishes to destroy a specific creature, its Divine attribute disappears, and it simply dies. Hashem’s authority over each and every creature is evident in a most tangible manner. This is the meaning of the pasuk (Tehillim 103:19), “His kingdom reigns over all.”

Guard Your Tongue

A Positive Torah Commandment

If one knows that what he was told was true, but it could be explained in two different ways, and the narrator judges the subject unfavorably, thereby degrading the subject, then it is a mitzvah for the listener to judge the subject favorably. One who transgresses this, and does not judge favorably, and agrees with the narrator’s derogatory interpretation, not only transgresses the commandment of “you shall judge your fellow with righteousness,” but also is included in the category of one who “believes lashon hara,” since by not judging him favorably, his fellow becomes degraded in his eyes.

Words of our Sages

The Mezuzah also does not complain

“And He called to Moshe” (Vayikra 1:1)

Rabbeinu Yaakov Ba’al Haturim notes that the letter “Aleph” in the word “Vayikra” is small, since Moshe did not want to write the word this way, but only “Vayikar” without the “aleph,” similar to the way Bilam was spoken to; as if Hashem only appeared to him by “chance.” But, Hashem commanded Moshe to write “Vayikra” with an “aleph,” so he wrote the “aleph” small.

The Kli Yakar brings from the Yalkut: The “Aleph” of “Vayikra” is small. “Aleph” denotes knowledge, as in “and I will teach you wisdom” (Iyov 33:33), and he hinted that the words of Torah do not penetrate a person unless he humbles himself.

The greatest virtue in being humble is manifested through “uniformity,” as the Chovot Halevavot” writes, that the praises that he is praised, and the degradation with which he is degraded, should be the same in his eyes. This was the trait of Moshe Rabbeinu, a”h.

Therefore, if we see a person who is very concerned about his honor and tries to escape getting honored, this is a proof that he still did not achieve the level of true humility, since if he does not attach any importance to honor, he has no need to escape it.

In the sefer “Chassidim Mesaprim,” a story is recounted about the tzaddik Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu of Zvolin, zt”l, who sat at the head of the table by the meal on the eve of the holy Shabbat, when his disciples came and told him that a certain Chassid, who is a Torah scholar, is in the Beit Hamidrash, all bitter and resentful that he was not given an honorable place to sit at the table…

The Rebbe responded: He should not be angry. Tell him that the Mezuzah, which surely is greater than him in Torah and sanctity, is not upset that it was left by the door…

The Haftarah

The haftarah of the week: “This people I formed for Myself” (Yeshayahu 43)

The connection to the Parashah: The haftarah tells of King Achaz who closed the doors of the House of Hashem and cancelled the Services in the Beit Hamikdash. This is similar to the Parashah which deals with the laws of the Service of sacrificing korbanot. 


Rabbi David Hanania Pinto

The body of a Jew is holy

The Ben Ish Chai wrote the following (Vayikra Shanah Rishonah):

It seems to me, with siyata diShemaya, regarding what Chazal say that in the Future “Kadosh” will be said before the tzaddikim in the same manner as it is said before Hashem. I explained with siyata diShemaya the reason why they will say “Kadosh” three times, similarly the way it is said before Hakadosh Baruch Hu: Kadosh, Kadosh, Kadosh. The reason why they merit this specifically in the Future is because three times “Kadosh Kadosh Kadosh is merited by perfecting three “Kedushot” (sanctities), which is sanctity of thought, sanctity of speech, and sanctity of actions. For the time being, the three kedushot are not absolutely perfect by the tzaddikim without a flaw, however, this is not so in the Future, when they will be perfected without any deficiency, and thus they will merit the praise of three times “Kadosh, Kadosh, Kadosh.”

I would like to expand a bit on the sacred words of the Ben Ish Chai. As we know, someone who derives pleasure from “Hekdesh” (consecrated property) commits treachery, and the Torah obligates him to pay the principal, a fifth and guilt-offerings. What is a fifth for? It seems to me that the consecrated property does not belong to man, but belongs to Hashem, and man has no right to use it for his personal needs. If he transgressed and used it, even unintentionally – he committed treachery and rebelled not only regarding this consecrated property, but rebelled against the entire Torah and all Five Books of the Torah. Therefore, he pays “a fifth” which hints to the great rebellion committed against all the Five Books of the Torah, because an object that is consecrated to Hashem and is consecrated for His Sake, a person may not have any personal part in it and it is absolutely forbidden for him to enjoy it and use it for mundane matters. This matter is very serious to the extent that it is considered as if he rebelled against the entire Torah, and that is why he pays a fifth.

And if regarding an inanimate object which was consecrated for the Sake of Heaven it is considered committing treachery and he pays a fifth – how much more so if one rebelled with his body and uses it only for physical, mundane purposes, which is not according to the Torah, or uses his body to commit sin, chalila, then he also is considered as committing treachery and is obligated to pay a fifth, because he rebelled against all Five Books of the Torah, since also the limbs and sinews of a person are considered like consecrated property. This is because Hashem obligates a person to be “Kadosh” (sanctified), as it is stated (Vayikra 19:2) “You shall be holy, for holy am I, Hashem, your G-d.” In essence, a person’s body is consecrated to Hashem by virtue of the commandments of the Torah. Hashem allows a person to use his body only for the purpose of observing Torah and mitzvot. And one who sins by using his body to do evil and uses his body to transgress – he commits treachery against Heaven and is obligated to pay a fifth, since in this way he rebelled against all the Five Books of the Torah.

This is what the Ben Ish Chai explains, that since the tzaddikim consecrated their bodies completely for the service of Hashem, without any personal gains, and their limbs and sinews are sanctified for Hashem, also in thought, speech, and action, therefore, in the Future, the angels will come and say before them “Kadosh, Kadosh, Kadosh,” because they will testify to the fact that they consecrated themselves entirely by sanctifying their bodies in honor of Hashem with the three sanctifications of thought, speech, and action.

Chazak U’Baruch

One of the promises that Chazal cite regarding the great reward of one who answers “Amen” is brought in Gemara (Shabbat 119b), where Chazal state, “He who responds ‘Amen’ with all his might, has the gates of Gan Eden (Paradise) opened for him.”

In fact, one must contemplate, Rabbi Yerucham of Mir (“Da’at Torah” Vayeitzei) asks: From where do we get such a strong “hammer” powerful enough to open the gates of Gan Eden?

Chazal revealed to us that the “hammer” which can open the gates of Gan Eden is specifically by answering “Amen” with all one’s might – through faith! Not out of wisdom and understanding, but rather by relinquishing his own understanding and simply answering “Amen!” I believe even without understanding a thing. I only believe! This is the “hammer” which has the power to open the gates of Gan Eden!

Regarding “gracious Giver of wisdom” one does not need to compose “Moreh Nevuchim”… one only needs one word – “Amen,” – I believe without knowing or understanding! Regarding “Who heals the sick of His people Israel” one does not need to add anything, just to answer “Amen” – I believe that He heals the sick of His people Israel!

It is possible that this is what Chazal meant by “all his might,” because faith is the secret power. “I am a fortress” is precisely by virtue of faith. Subjugating one’s own understanding is the secret power which makes a person as strong as iron that no one can move. If it is possible to move him from his stand, it is a sign that he was swayed from his belief and he lacks faith, as Chazal say (Sanhedrin 92a): “Whoever is not honest in his speech it is as though he had engaged in idolatry” – because it is a sign that he lacks faith, and therefore he does not speak honestly. 

Increases Love Among Them

Regarding the great virtue of answering “Amen,” Rabbeinu Yonah wrote in his sefer “Orchot Chaim”: One who answers “Amen” after every single blessing resembles one who prays twice, once after the other. Chazal say that one who prays, but did not concentrate on what he was saying, and then repeats his prayers, is assured that his prayers will be heard. Thus, since one who answers “Amen” resembles one who prays twice, he is assured that his prayers will be heard, just as Chazal say regarding one who prays twice, once after the other, and is assured that his prayers will be heard.

Another important note raised by the tzaddik Rabbi Baruch Toledano, zt”l,; is that while one who recites the blessing is rewarded only for his blessing, one who answers “Amen,” besides for being rewarded for answering “Amen,” is rewarded because he demonstrates by answering Amen that he considers his friend’s blessing important, and thereby empowers his friend and creates fellowship, therefore, his reward is greater than the one who recites the blessing.

It is brought in Gemara (Berachot 47a): “If one draws out the Amen, his days and years will be prolonged.” Rabbi Shlomo Bloch, zt”l, a disciple of the Chafetz Chaim, explains that “his days and years will be prolonged” implies that he is given the ability to accomplish twice as much as other people. We are familiar with stories reflecting this about our great Sages, such as Rabbi Nachumka of Horodna, zt”l, who accomplished during his life many acts of charity, more than other charitable people accomplish during their lives, and after he died, his work had to be divided among several people…

Food for Thought

What was the Chafetz Chaim sorry about?

When the Chafetz Chaim passed the age of eighty, he once went on Friday, in honor of the holy Shabbat, to the Mikveh, which was situated a distance of a kilometer from his residence, and the muddy road made it difficult for him.

When one of the yeshiva students learned about it, he harnessed a horse and carriage and hurried to the Mikveh. He offered the Chafetz Chaim a ride home when he was done.

The Chafetz Chaim agreed to his offer, and the student was rejoiced in the opportunity to assist the Chafetz Chaim.

When he arrived at his home, the Chafetz got out of the carriage and asked the man to wait a moment because he needed something. The student understood that the Rabbi intended to pay him for his services, and he whipped the horse to quickly move away from the place….

After a few hours, in the final moments before candle lighting, the son-in-law of the Chafetz Chaim, Rabbi Zvi Hirsh Levinson, zt”l, came to him in a hurry, and placed a sum of money on his table, and declared:

You can do as you please with the money, but I must leave it here. It is already a few hours that my father-in-law, the Chafetz Chaim, is agitated and very upset, saying that he never in his life enjoyed the services of another person for free. Therefore, have mercy on his health, and do not refuse to accept payment…

Men of Faith

Close to midnight, Rabbi Chaim Hagadol would strengthen himself as a lion and begin his evening schedule of Avodat Hashem.

At that hour, his attendant Rabbi Aharon ibn-Chaim would fufill his holy duty of brewing a hot drink for the Rav.

One night, the attendant heard two voices coming from the study of Rabbi Chaim. Rabbi Aharon thought to himself, “If the Rav has a chavruta in learning Torah tonight, I should also prepare a hot drink for the guest.”

Acting upon his noble intentions, he sent in two cups of hot drinks to the Rav.

Upon daybreak, following the Shacharit prayers, Rabbi Chaim called his attendant, Rabbi Aharon, and said to him, “Tell me, please, why did you bring me two hot drinks instead of one as usual?”

“I heard that the Rav was speaking with someone else, and I figured that I would honor the guest with a hot drink as well.”

The tzaddik Rabbi Chaim nodded his head in silence and gazed at Rabbi Aharon, saying, “Blessed are you, my son, that you merited hearing the voice of Eliyahu Hanavi. His was the second voice that you heard at night. However, I forbid you to reveal this secret to anyone.”

Rabbi Aharon honored his Rav’s wishes for many years and did not reveal even a hint of what he had heard. When the time came for Rabbi Chaim to depart from the world, Rabbi Aharon felt that he could finally disclose this amazing secret to the followers of the Rav. He told them how Eliyahu Hanavi had come to learn as a chavruta with Rabbi Chaim Hagadol.


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