Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Beyond Pshat by Rabbi Yosef Kalatzky: Parshas Tzav

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 Beyond Pshat
       by Rabbi Yosef Kalatzky
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Parshas Tzav
1. What are We Naturally Inclined to do?

The Torah states, “Hashem spoke to Moshe saying: Urge (Command) Aaron and his sons saying: This is the law of the elevation-offering: It is the elevation-offering [that stays] on the flame, on the Altar, all night until morning…” Why did Aaron and his sons need to be “urged” more than any other mitzvah in the case of the elevation offering? Rashi cites Chazal who explain that if there is a situation in which there is a loss of money, one needs to be urged to participate. In the case of the elevation offering, the limbs and the fats are burnt throughout the night, which requires the presence of the Kohen (Priest). The Kohen does not receive a portion of the elevation offering (unlike other offerings) because it is totally consumed on the Altar. Thus, the Kohen might feel that it is not worth his while to be awake all night to ensure that the limbs and the fats are burnt. Even though the Kohen’s compensation is the merit of having performed the mitzvah, nevertheless, the To rah tells us that Hashem had to tell Moshe to “urge” Aaron and his sons to do so. How do we understand this?

The Gemara in Tractate Megillah tells us that because the Jewish people were not motivated regarding their performance of mitzvos. They remained in their natural state of inertia and thus did not sufficiently engage in Torah Study. It was because of the lack of Torah study that they did not merit the protection of Hashem and were subject to the decree that was issued by Haman to annihilate the Jewish people. What is the cause of one’s lack of motivation?

When one appreciates the value of a deed, he will be motivated and can easily overcome the natural state of inertia. However, if one does not perceive the value, he will not engage in that activity and will therefore need to be urged to act.

The Torah states, “This is the law of the elevation-offering…” The Baal HaTurim explains in his commentary that if one studies the verses pertaining to the elevation offering it is valued by G’d as if he brought that offering. The Gemara in Tractate Menachos tells us that if one studies and fervently recites the portion of the Torah pertaining to any offering, it is valued as if the person had brought that offering.

The Baal HaTurim explains that there is a commonality between the Torah and the elevation offering. The Torah is referred to as “fire” just as the elevation offering is burnt in fire. In addition, offerings are referred to in the verse as “bread” and a verse in Mishlei refers to the Torah as “bread.” Just as the world cannot survive without bread, which is the staple of life, it cannot survive without Torah.

The Gemara in Tractate Berachos tells us that one cannot acquire Torah without personal sacrifice for its own sake. However, if when one truly appreciates the value of this endeavor, then he does not perceive it as a sacrifice, even if he did so initially. Aaron and his sons needed to be “urged” to perform the elevation offering because its true value was not perceived. So too, initially one needs to be “urged” to study Torah because its value is not understood. The Prophet tells us that all existence is sustained through Torah study. There is no mitzvah that has greater value than the study of Torah itself. As our Rabbis teach us, “Talmud Torah Keneged Kulam - the study of Torah is equivalent to all the mitzvos combined.”

When one brings an offering, it is referred to as a “sacrifice.” The sacrifice itself is a process that rehabilitates spirituality when it has been diminished because of inadvertent sin. If this is the case, why is it considered a sacrifice? When one pays a doctor for a remedy that heals, it is not considered a “sacrifice.” How do we understand this? Evidently, the Torah is teaching us that recognizing one’s failing and feeling remorse is the sacrifice of the individual. Bringing an offering is an expression of that sacrifice. Similarly, Torah study can only come about through sacrifice. Since one naturally values the material more than the spiritual, if one overcomes that predisposition and recognizes Torah study to be primary, then that is true sacrifice. Therefore, regarding Torah study and the elevation offering, one needs to be “urged” to make these sacrifices.

2. The Consequences of Our Actions

The Torah tells us that the same sin, which is transgressed by two individuals, will have different ramifications based on the status of the person. For example, if an ordinary Jew sins, the blood of the sin offering is sprinkled on the outer Altar (which was located in the courtyard). However, if the Kohen Gadol (High Priest) transgresses the same sin, the blood of the sin offering is sprinkled in the direction of the Paroches (curtain), which was located in the inner sanctuary (covered sanctuary). The level of sanctity in the Bais HaMikdash (Temple) intensifies as one approaches the Holy of Holies, which was located in the far end of the covered sanctuary. Thus, the service performed in the covered sanctuary has greater spiritual ramifications.

The Chofetz Chaim writes in his work Shmiras HaLoshan (Guarding One’s Tongue) that the spiritual state of the person transgressing the sin will determine the magnitude of the consequence. He explains that everything in this world is a reflection of the spiritual world. Just as there is the city of Jerusalem on the terrestrial level, there is a Jerusalem on the spiritual level. Just as there is an outer courtyard in the Bais HaMikdash, which was a location of holiness, so too there is a courtyard on a spiritual level, reflecting the physical one. Just as there is an inner covered sanctuary in the Bais HaMikdash, which was considered holier than the outer sanctuary (courtyard), identically there is a spiritual inner sanctuary reflecting the physical.

When the ordinary Jew sins, he causes a diminishment in the outer spiritual sanctuary, which corresponds to the courtyard of the Bais HaMikdash. Thus, the sprinkling of the blood that is required to bring about the required spiritual correction must only be done in the outer courtyard.

The spiritual failing of the Kohen Gadol, whose dimension of spirituality is greater than that of the ordinary Jew, has a more far-reaching consequence which even diminishes the spirituality of the inner sanctuary. Therefore, in order to effect rehabilitation for the Kohen Gadol, the blood of his sin offering must be sprinkled in the direction of the Paroches.

The Chofetz Chaim tells us that on Yom Kippur when the Kohen Gadol enters the Holy of Holies, the first service that he performs is that of the incense offering, which is referred to as the “cloud of the Ketores (Incense).” The Gemara explains that the incense offering atones for loshan hara (evil speech). The spiritual ramifications are so severe and profound that it detracts from and undermines the most advanced realms of spirituality. Thus, the atonement that is needed for its correction, takes place in the Holy of Holies. Therefore, the Chofetz Chaim explains that when one wishes to engage in the teshuvah (atonement) process, one should first repent for the sin of loshon hara – (unproductive negative speech). If one has violated this sin he must first attend to what is most serious, followed by the other issues that need to be corrected.

The Kli Yakar cites the Midrash, which states that a person who is arrogant and haughty deserves to be judged by fire. The Kli Yakar explains that this does not mean that the person deserves to be burnt for his arrogance (G’d forbid), but rather the burnt offering atones for arrogance. The Torah refers to the burnt offering as an elevated offering, which is consumed by fire. When the offering is burnt, the smoke rises and is similar to the one who is arrogant and has an elevated self-image.

The Kli Yakar points out that Torah juxtaposes the removal of the ash from the Altar to the law of the burnt offering. What is the significance of this juxtaposition? He explains that the correction for arrogance is humility. Only when one humbles himself is the atonement complete. Avraham, our Patriarch, was one of the most humble people to ever live. He referred to himself, as “I am only dust and ash.” Thus, the juxtaposition of the removal of the ash to the burnt offering indicates that in order for one to be truly atoned for arrogance, he needs to be humbled. However if after one brings the offering he remains arrogant, his offering has little value.

The Gemara tells us that the arrogant person undermines G’d’s place in the world. The person, who believes that he is the cause of his own success and everything that surrounds his life, is actually denying the existence of G’d. In his mind, G’d exists only to do his own bidding. Thus, based on what the Chofetz Chaim had said, the behavior of this type of person decreases the spirituality of all existence. Therefore, the fire of the elevation offering moves upward towards heaven in order to correct the diminishment that was brought about through arrogance. In order for the burnt offering to be fully effective, one needs to internalize the seriousness of the failing and change one’s behavior.

3. How Does One Recognize Truth?

The Torah tells us that Moshe installed Aaron as the Kohen Gadol (High Priest) and his sons as Kohanim (Priests) before the entire assembly of the Jewish people. The Torah states, “Hashem spoke to Moshe saying: Take Aaron and his sons with him, and the garments…Gather the entire assembly to the entrance of the Tent of Meeting. Moshe did as Hashem commanded him; and the assembly was gathered to the entrance of the Tent of Meeting. Moshe said to the assembly, “This is what Hashem commanded to be done…”

It is important to note that the assembly of Jewish people was comprised of several million people. How is it possible that all of these people were able to gather in a relatively small space at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting? Rashi cites Chazal who explain that this was one of the few instances in Jewish history that G’d performed the miracle that gave a limited location an unlimited capacity thus enabling the entire Jewish people to stand before the entrance to the Tent. Because of this miracle the entire Jewish people was able to witness the installation of Aaron and his sons as Kohanim.

After the Jewish people assembled at the entrance to the Tent, Moshe spoke to them saying, “This is the thing that Hashem commanded to be done (to initiate Aaron and his sons)…” Why did Moshe need to tell the Jewish people that he was acting in accordance with the commandment of Hashem? Was it not obvious since they all witnessed the miracle of the entire Jewish people being contained in a limited location? Nevertheless, Moshe needed to tell the Jewish people, “This is what Hashem commanded to be done.” How do we understand this?

The Jewish people witnessed many supernatural events. Some of them, as miraculous as they may have been, caused the Jews to be misled and to succumb to idolatry. For example, when Moshe ascended to receive the Torah in heaven, the Jewish people were told that he would return after forty days and forty nights. However due to a misunderstanding of the calculation, Satan caused the Jews to believe that Moshe had passed away and would never return to them. Rashi cites Chazal who say that Satan blackened the sky (during the daytime period) and caused the Jewish people to see in it the image of Moshe lying on his funeral bier. It was the first time in history that the sky blackened in the middle of the day, which indicated to the Jewish people that Moshe had actually died. This event caused them to feel abandoned because their leader was no longer with them. Thus, they were vulnerable to the influence of idolatry (sin of the Golden Calf).

Therefore, the fact that the entire Jewish people experienced the miracle of being gathered in a limited location was not sufficient proof that the communication to them was in fact the Word of Hashem. It was only after Moshe told them explicitly “This is what Hashem commanded to be done” that the Jews believed that the installation of Aaron and his children was the Word of G’d. It is possible to witness many miraculous events that may seem to emanate from the Word of G’d; however, this may not be the case.

Two of the thirteen tenets of Jewish faith state, “I believe with absolute faith that the Torah in its entirety was given by Hashem to Moshe Rabbeinu. I believe with absolute faith that the Torah is immutable and it will not be exchanged or altered in any way.” Every letter of the Written Torah and the entire Oral Law is the Word of Hashem, which was transmitted by Moshe to the Jewish people. If something was not transmitted by Moshe, who was the appointed spokesman for G’d, then it should not be accepted.

Regardless of the magnitude of miracle, or whether the world becomes dark and an image of Moshe’s remains appears it has no meaning whatsoever vis-à-vis the Word of Hashem. The limited location before the Tent assumed an unlimited capacity, yet until Moshe told the Jewish people that it was the command of G’d, it was not to be taken as such.
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Beyond Pshat, Copyright © 2012 by Rabbi Yosef Kalatsky and Torah.org.
Rabbi Kalatsky is the founder of the Yad Avraham Institute, a New York-based learning center whose mission is to disseminate Torah to Jews of all backgrounds and walks of life.
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