Vayikra – Sacrificial Offerings and Pesach: No Double Standards

This dvar Torah is dedicated in memory of my paternal grandparents, Menachem Mendel ben Chaim and Raizel ben Moshe upon their yahretzeit, the 5th of Nissan. They passed away on the same day a few years apart. 

This week we begin the Book of Vayikra which mainly discusses the sacrificial offerings first brought in the Mishkan and eventually in the Beis HaMikdash.
Rabbeinu Bachye says the simple reason of why offerings were brought to Hashem was, “The offerings were all for the sake of mankind. For The Exulted Hashem desired that man shall be the chosen species and for him the world was created in order to be totally spiritual like the angels of Hashem, without sin. But when man sinned, he was guilty because of his evil inclination (yetzer hara) embedded inside him. It is therefore befitting for him to regret, recognize, and focus on the meek state of himself and the glorified quality of his Exulted Master who he rebelled against His word. And he is obligated to place in his heart that he sinned before Him with his body and soul. Since all the actions of man can be included in 3 categories, action, speech, and thought, which are 3 ways to sin, therefore the Torah obligated man to bring a sacrifice for his sin…” (See Rabbeinu Bachye in his entirety in Vayikra 1:9).

One of the forms of sacrifice for atonement of sin was a meal offering. There is an important lesson here which relates to Pesach. The Torah states, “Any meal offering that you will bring to Hashem should not be made with chometz, for any leaven and any honey should not be burned on the fire to Hashem” (Vayikra 2:13). Rabbeinu Bachye explains that the simple reason why no chometz or honey was part of the meal offering was because, “sacrifices were an atonement for our sins, and if not for the inciter, and enticer who is the yetzer hara, man would not sin and would not need to bring a sacrifice at all. Leaven and honey are the yetzer hara itself as Chaza”l say regarding chometz and matzah on Pesach that a person must turn his heart from the yetzer hara. That is why the Torah says, ‘Don’t eat upon it chometz’ (Devarim 16:3), referring to the korban Pesach. And the Korban Pesach was an atonement for the idols they worshipped in Egypt. For this reason, He distanced them from the yetzer hara in order to not go back to idolatry…” (Click here for Hebrew text.)
Rabbeinu Bachye concludes his simple understanding of why there aren’t chometz and honey in meal offerings saying, “and therefore [Hashem] distanced leaven and honey from the offering for it doesn’t make sense to have a dichotomy in one subject, furthermore it would appear as if one is trying to purify himself with a creepy crawler in his hand, this is self-understood.”
It would seem, and it seems logical, that the meal offering should ideally have been made with chometz in order for it to be a more respectable offering. We even find two pesukim later that Rabbeinu Bachye explains the simple reason of why offerings were salted “because it would be unbefitting for a sacrifice to Hashem to be bland, without salt. The Torah is teaching us proper manners that the Kingdom in Heaven is like the kingdom on earth, and in this manner, ‘Were you to offer it to your governor’ (Malachi 1:8)?” In fact, the korban todah, the thanksgiving offering, which is an offering giving thanks and not given as atonement for sin, was indeed made out of chometz. Ideally, an offering fit for The King should be given in the nicest and choicest way possible. It is only because the yetzer hara is associated with chometz and honey that the Torah did not want any association with it for an offering used as an atonement. Rabbeinu Bachye illustrated this point with the example of the korban pesach, which was brought as an atonement for idolatry in Egypt. In fact, the Jews worshipped the lamb along with the Egyptians, so Hashem said to slaughter the lamb and eat it as a means of belittling and defaming the Egyptian god, and only matzah can be eaten with it, in order to not have even a tiny hint, not even one iota of an association with, the yetzer hara, in order to have no association whatsoever with the enticement of sin.

Why then does the Rabbeinu Bachye add that the reason for not having leaven and honey is in order to not have a dichotomy in one’s offering or to not be holding onto an impure object while trying to purify himself? It seems that that is the reason why these ingredients aren’t allowed, and not because in order to leave the sinful path that one was on by going to the extreme to distance himself from any spec of sin or evil inclination?

It would seem that the main issue of having chometz with one’s offering for atonement is not the association with sin and the evil inclination but rather the self-contradiction created in such a sacrifice. Whether it sends a message of a dichotomy or actually in a sense is a real physical contradiction, in any event, to harbor such a state even though it might look more respectful and honorable for The King, it is not the way Hashem wants us to live our lives.

The Paschal Lamb and matzah as well as every other sacrificial atonement made without chometz sends a message that we must live a life of harmony and consistency.

Click here for Audio or here for video of another Pre-Pesach message.

Vayikra – Yearning for Meaning

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We find a very fascinating medrish at the end of this week’s Torah portion of Vayikra, that one can share at the Pesach Seder: “Rebbe Abba bar Kahana said that darkness (choshech vi’afela) was used in the land of Egypt for 3 days as it says, ‘and there was thick darkness over the entire land of Egypt for three days’ (Shemos 10:22). But void and desolation (tohu va’vohu) was not used in this world. Where will they be used in the future? In the great metropolis of Rome, as it says, ‘and He shall stretch over it a line of waste, and weights of destruction’ (Yeshayahu 34:11)” (Medrish Rabba Vayikra 6:6).

The Maharz”u explains that it appears from the medrish that since darkness (choshech vi’afela) was used there, then it must be that void and desolation (tohu va’vohu) will also be used at some point. This concept which is being alluded to by the medrish is that at the beginning of creation it writes, ‘Now the earth was astonishingly empty, and darkness was on the face of the deep’ (Breishis 1:2). The main part of creation started from tohu va’vohu and choshech (void, desolation, and darkness). Even though it says that light came forth from darkness and all of existence was brought forth from out of the tohu va’vohu, still in all this choshech and tohu va’vohu did not cease to exist. They were and still are yearning to be used in the world at the right time and place. We in fact see in many places that it says, ‘If the Jews accept the Torah that is good, if not I will revert the entire world back into tohu va’vohu.’ This is what is meant here; that choshech (darkness) found a place to be used in Egypt, but tohu va’vohu did not yet find a place to be used until in the future.”

The Etz Yosef adds that in the future Gog and his allies will be flanked with darkness, but will be preceded with tohu va’vohu, which is a green line that will surround the entire world which, from it darkness (choshech), will spread out into the world. (Click here and here for Hebrew text.)

The darkness that plagued Egypt in the 9th plague was no ordinary darkness; it was something that could be felt. It was so thick that the Egyptians froze and were not able to move for three days, as it says in Shemos Rabba 14:3. This darkness will come forth again in the future, emanating from a green substance of tohu va’vohu which will encompass the Metropolis of Rome, Gog and his allies, who don’t believe in Hashem and have their own line of worship.

Everything has a proper time and place to be used in this world. Nothing ever goes to waste and rather it is recycled; hopefully with excitement, at its designated time and place.

If you think about this a bit, there is something actually quite astonishing going on here. Hashem created the world out of these two substances, choshech and tohu va’vohu. They must have been pretty important to be used as the basis for the entire existence of this world. Yet the Maharz”u seems to hint that one might have thought that once they were done being used they would just have been thrown away and never used again, having lost a purpose for their further existence. Yet that wasn’t the case, and they are reserved for a special time and place which they are eagerly waiting for, to be used again. But if you look what they were used for it would seem highly disappointing. Both were or will be used in seemingly negative and destructive ways. The darkness was used for the 9th plague of Egypt, not even the first or the culminating tenth; rather in the middle, or really towards the end. Tohu va’vohu could have also been used to destroy the world if the Jewish people would not have accepted the Torah, and will be used against the heathens in the future who will not accept Hashem as One at The End of Days. What kind of jobs are those that they are yearning and eagerly waiting for, especially compared to the first position they ever had?

However the truth of the matter is these substances are just ingredients in doing Hashem’s will, and they realize that whatever Hashem wants them to be used for they are willing to do, and yearn for the opportunity to be used again.

All the more so, us human beings, whom the entire world was created for, we are the purpose of creation, and there are multiple roles that Hashem has given us to play in the history of this world. We have to be excited and eager to see how it plays out and to enthusiastically accept whatever roles they are. By realizing that they are jobs given to you by the Master Of The Universe, King Of All Kings, that will make it easier to yearn for the jobs and to wholeheartedly accept whatever comes your way and lands in your plate.