V’hiktiram hakohen ha’mizbeicha lechem isheh l’reiach nicho’ach kol cheilev l’Hashem (Vayikra 3:16)
Last week we concluded Sefer Shemos, which revolved around the Exodus from Egypt, the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai, and the construction of the Mishkan. This week we begin Sefer Vayikra, which deals largely with the laws pertaining to the Mishkan and the Kohanim who served therein.
Parashas Vayikra introduces us to a number of the various korbanos which were offered in the Mishkan and their pertinent laws. One of the sacrifices is the korban shelamim (peace-offering). In discussing the laws of a goat which is brought as a peace-offering, our verse requires the Kohen to burn all of its choicest parts on the Altar.
Interestingly, the Rambam writes (Hilchos Issurei Mizbei’ach 7:11) that this requirement wasn’t specific to the korban shelamim. He derives from our verse that for the performance of every mitzvah, from the selection of which animal to offer as a sacrifice to the food and clothing donated to the poor, a person should use his finest possessions.
This concept is illustrated in the following story. One of the Gerrer Rebbes, the Imrei Emes, was once approached by one of his chassidim, who lamented that he had lost his tefillin. As tefillin are quite expensive, the man was worried that it would take him quite some time to save up the money to purchase a new pair.
Much to the chassid’s relief, the Imrei Emes immediately took out a pair of tefillin to loan him until he was able to buy a new set. After giving him the tefillin, the Rebbe asked him to take extra precautions in protecting them. He explained that he had inherited this special pair of tefillin from his saintly father, the Sfas Emes.
After the chassid left, overjoyed about the change in his fortune, one of the close disciples of the Imrei Emes asked him why he was willing to part with such an irreplaceable and holy family heirloom when he could have easily attained a simple set of kosher tefillin to lend him. The Rebbe responded by quoting the words of the Rambam, who teaches that we must be willing to give up our most valuable possessions for the sake of Hashem’s mitzvos.
After studying the inspiring stories of our forefathers in Sefer Bereishis and of their salvation from Egypt in Sefer Shemos, many people find it difficult to relate to the esoteric subjects discussed in Sefer Vayikra. Although the Rambam rules that the concept of using our choicest possessions applies to all mitzvos, perhaps one of the reasons it is taught in reference to the korban shelamim is to remind us that these sections of the Torah can be equally applicable to our daily lives.
Just as we wear our nicest clothing to a wedding and set the table with our finest china when hosting important guests, so, too, does the Torah teach us that this approach should carry over to spiritual matters, as we proudly use our most precious possessions to serve Hashem and do His mitzvos.
Parashah Q & A
Q: The Gemara in Chagigah (27a) teaches that in the absence of the Beis Hamikdash, the generous opening up of a person’s table to serve the poor and other guests serves in lieu of the Altar. As a person’s table is comparable to the Altar and the food consumed to a sacrifice, the Rema rules (Orach Chaim 167:5) that just as every sacrifice required salt (2:13), so, too, the bread eaten at a meal must be dipped in salt. Need the bread be specifically dipped into the salt, or is it sufficient to sprinkle salt onto the bread?
Q: Why is the blood of an animal brought as a sin-offering placed on the top of the Altar (4:30), but that of a bird brought as a sin-offering is sprinkled on the bottom (5:9)?
A: The Piskei Teshuvos and Harav Elyakim Devorkas cite earlier sources who write that the bread must specifically be dipped into the salt. They explain that salt represents strict justice while bread symbolizes Divine mercy. We therefore dip the bread into the salt so that Hashem’s mercy should prevail. Other mystical sources write that sprinkling the salt on the bread can cause poverty.
A: Harav Moshe Feinstein explains that an animal is brought by a wealthy person, whose sins are caused by the fact that Hashem bestowed upon him so many blessings that he came to forget their true Source (see Devarim 32:15). The blood of his offering is therefore sprinkled on top of the Altar to remind him that he must look Heavenward in order to remember Hashem and properly repent. The bird offering, on the other hand, is brought by a pauper who cannot afford to bring an animal as an offering. His sins emanate from his feelings that Hashem treated him unfairly in denying him the resources to which he feels entitled. Looking upward will not help him, as he remembers Hashem but has complaints against Him. Rather, the blood of his offering is sprinkled on the bottom of the Altar to remind him to focus on the earth and the very fact that Hashem keeps him alive to enjoy its blessings. Additionally, if he must look at others’ possessions, we remind him to look at those who have even less than he does.
Originally from Kansas City, Rabbi Ozer Alport graduated from Harvard, learned in Mir Yerushalayim for five years, and now lives in Brooklyn, where he learns in Yeshivas Beis Yosef, is the author of the recently-published sefer Parsha Potpourri, and gives weekly shiurim. To send comments to the author or to receive his Divrei Torah weekly, please email oalport@Hamodia.com.