Vayikra – Hashem’s Dedication Amid Transgression

This week we begin the Book of Vayikra which mainly talks about the Sacrificial service done by the Kohanim, which is why this book is also called Toras Kohanim. Upon discussing various offerings in this Torah portion, the Haftorah is aptly connected from Yeshayahu perek 43 and 44. There it is written, “You did not bring Me the lambs of your burnt offerings, nor did you honor Me with your sacrifices; neither did I overwork you with meal-offerings nor did I weary you with frankincense. Neither did you purchase cane for Me with money, nor have you sated Me with the fat of your sacrifices. But you have burdened Me with your sins; you have wearied Me with your iniquities” (Yeshayahu 43:23, 24).

Rashi comments on the last part of pasuk 24, “But you have burdened Me: [lit. you have overworked Me.] You have caused Me to be an attendant to pagans, as Ezekiel envisioned (1:4): “And behold a tempest was coming from the north.” For the chariot of the Shechinah was returning from Babylon, where it had gone to conquer the whole world under the domination of Nevuchadnezzar, lest they say that He delivered His children into the hands of an inferior nation, as is found in Hagigah (13b).” (Click here for Hebrew text.)

Rashi is alluding to the concept that when Hashem, out of strict justice, concluded that the Jews must be exiled and the Beis Hamikdash, Hashem’s Holy Palace on earth, destroyed, He did so under the means of empires who ruled the world. Both the Babylonian, and in fact the Roman empires essentially controlled the entire civilization of the known world at the time of both exiles and destructions. Hashem orchestrated this to happen so that people won’t say His children were conquered by some small and inferior nation.

But why did Hashem go through “all this trouble” for a people who had gone so astray and abandoned Him? There seems to be a claim on the Jewish people for forcing Hashem to collaborate and allow the Babylonians to conquer the world as if they subjugated Hashem into forcing Him to help these heathens. Why should this claim be added upon their wrongdoing? Why does Hashem feel forced to show such respect to His Children who seemingly don’t deserve it?

We see from here the total dedication and love Hashem has for His Children, the Jewish People. Even at a time when the Jews showed such disrespect and rebellion towards Him, Hashem went above and beyond the way they were treating Him and treated them with such respect and sensitivity. This adds “salt to Hashem’s wounds” from betrayal but Hashem feels forced to do so out of His complete dedication and love towards His children.

This is a model of a true parent or loved one who has such care and compassion even at times when strict judgement and punishment should be exercised. We should emulate such ways and feelings!