THE JERUSALEM JEWISH VOICE
THE WEEKLY TORAH READING -- A FIRST GLANCE
T Z A V
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A. AN OVERVIEW OF TZAV
Rav Moshe Feinstein's life mission was to imbue American Jewry with Torah; its ignorance grew out of chaotic European emigration to the wild West, terrible poverty, breakdown of traditional communal structures, and religious leaders who could not blend Torah with modern life (cf. the Chofetz Chayim's approach to religious breakdown-- to strive to perpetuate East Europe's cheder without change-- with that of S. R. Hirsch, R. Yichya Kapach and R. Eliyahu Benamozegh, who integrated Torah and modernity). Rav Moshe's life shows us how much one dedicated man can accomplish. He claimed that only when all Jews have good Torah education, can we assume that the religious functionaries, whom they select, will know what they're doing. For they too will be on a level to recognize problematic situations, that require consultation and resolution. An ignorant public, however, may produce ignorant, tho slightly more learned, rabbis, teachers, etc.; no one, including themselves, will perceive their ignorance, will know what to ask. Thus God FIRST tells Moshe to teach ALL Israel the laws of sacrifices, in last week's reading, Vayikra; only afterwards, when a learned public has been established, does He tell him, in Tzav, to teach them to the cohanim, in charge of the tabernacle. Today too, it's much more important that Israeli children in secular schools get some Torah education, than that we have more and more insular kollels, filled with students who, while often masters of Tosofot and Mishna Brura, are relatively ignorant of Tanach, Midrash and Agada, of history, hebrew grammer and Jewish thought.
CREATIVE REPETITION: Tzav repeats most of last week's wordy portion on sacrifices, with some additional details. God may simply be teaching us to always review our learning, especially in technical matters; yet we should also uncover new aspects and insights in the process. Those observant Jews who are not fixated or obsessive constantly explore their feelings and thoughts, as they interface with tradition, uncovering new aspects of themselves, God and Torah in the process. Constancy and repetition, rather than the mere thrill of newness, also mark truly deep and committed interpersonal relationships (e.g. changing diapers and burping the baby); these too will wilt, however, without continual discovery of new aspects of myself and my significant other, a result of our mutual constant search and growth-- heard many years ago from Rav Emanuel Forman, then Rabbi of The Young Israel of Brookline, where God's glory was manifest in His "Office" (Isaiah 6:3), while walking back from Tashlich, on Rosh Hashana, as I recall; he and some of his flock, e.g. the Berlins, Dershowitzes, Isseroffs and myself, thank God, now live together with God in the greater Jerusalem area (Psalms 135:21).
The order of sacrifices in Vayikra is: 1) raising-up offerings, 2) peace offerings and 3) sin offerings; this may reflect the relative frequency and importance of the life functions represented. A basic Jewish value is that life is not a ball, but a constant struggle to rise higher, regardless of one's situation; we express this in the olah-- the raising-up offering; it's so called as it's completely burnt, going up in smoke (Ibn Ezra), or because it elevates he who offers it (Hirsch). IF & WHEN good fortune comes, peace offerings connect it to God's grace and Providence. These are normal life processes. But sin, an aberation, a slip from the narrow bridge of life, should NEVER happen-- so sin offerings, to aid and abet repentence and restoration, are taught last.
But in Tzav, the order is: 1) olah, 2) sin offerings, and 3) peace offerings. This reflects the cohen's decreasing involvement in their processing. He must see to it that the olah is completely burnt. Next come the sin offerings-- he burns part and consumes the rest, in holy fashion, teaching the sinner how to sanctify even his most primal life drives. The cohen is even less involved in peace offerings-- he gets some parts as his dues, and burns others on the altar; but most of the animal is consumed by he who brings it; God orders Moshe to specially address the cohanim only about burnt and sin offerings, not about peace offerings (6:2, 18, 7:11, but see 7:1). But the changed order alone would not justify the lengthy repetition of Vayikra in Tzav-- a sentence or two would suffice and be clearer, e.g. AND GOD TOLD MOSHE TO TEACH THE ABOVE SACRIFICES TO THE COHANIM IN THE FOLLOWING ORDER:... Moshe begins teaching each catagory of sacrifices to the priests with: THIS IS THE TEACHING OF... (6:2, 7, 18, 7:1, 11). Sporno assumes this refers to essential teachings for the priests, and gives brief illustrations. Perhaps only they had to know the inner meaning of sacrifices, to ensure their success; the laity just had to be open to bringing them and receiving their beneficial effects-- a passanger on a plane needn't know how it works and how to fly it! I have been writing these studies on my old XT and AT, with little understanding of how they work; but I now have to learn Windows, blessed by the gift of a Pentium by Soda Club, thank God, via Peter Weisburgh; Yose, who installed it, was a young Russian Jew, who writes spiritual poetry, a non-Orthodox ex-Chabad recent father of triplets-- he rejected even partial abortion, despite huge problems with the pregnancy, after kabbalistic consultations. I hope to soon vastly improve our Internet offerings.
The Torah may repeat the laws of burning and eating sacrifices in detail here, in order to negate pagan notions that God Himself somehow "consumes them". Rav Mattis Weinberg posits that the Vayikra reading is not concerned with sacrifices per se, but with their effect on the soul of their offerer, who seeks Divine proximity. Thus it starts with heartfelt VOLUNTARY offerings and doesn't even mention the obligatory nature of the final sin offerings. Tzav, however, is concerned with objective laws of the sacrifices themselves, the province of the officiating priests, to whom the laws are directed.
God responds and calls out with love to EVERYMAN WHO WOULD DRAW YOURSELVES NEAR TO GOD BY SELF-SACRIFICE (a possible translation of 1:2), as He did to Avraham, about to bring Yitzchak as "the perfect burnt offering". But He prefers the long slow drawing near to Him of Man's soul and mind, his Divine human essence; for that to happen, the body must be preserved-- yet it too is brought close to God, tho vicariously, via animal sacrifice (cf. Yitzchak's substitute-- a ram).
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B. HOLISTIC HOLY CONNECTIONS
Vayikra contrasts the real with the ideal. Moshe is to teach the Jews how to achieve intense contact with God, via sacrifices; yet his opening message, Vayikra, closes with the sacrifice brought by a man who lies and denies, to steal another's property (5:20ff).
Even Torah won't change man overnight-- its fulfillment, Temple III, still isn't here, after thousands of years. Tzav thus begins again (6:2) with the burnt raised offering, a striving for holiness, after the Torah describes a man who falls to the depths of theft; the juxtaposition may also teach that God despises "religion", when practised by those who lie and hate, who lack integrity and kindness. First bring your sin offering and repent-- then strive for "holiness", bring an olah. Dishonesty implies lack in faith in God as one's Provider. "I CANNOT ENDURE SIN WITH HOLY CONVOCATION" (Isaiah I:13). Ramban compares Isaac's 3 wells to the 3 temples-- NO ONE will dispute #3, perhaps because God won't build it until Jewish life, public and private, is itself an inspiring sanctuary. So David feels in no position to bring olah and peace offerings to God, while laden with guilt for taking Batsheva from Uriah and having him killed:
"FOR YOU DON'T WANT ME TO GIVE PEACE OFFERINGS AND DON'T DESIRE AN OLAH-- THE OFFERING TO GOD IS A BROKEN SPIRIT. A BROKEN AND CONTRITE HEART YOU WON'T DESPISE, O' GOD. FIRST YOU'LL BUILD ZION SO THAT IT WILL BE IN ACCORDANCE WITH YOUR WILL, YOU'LL BUILD THE WALLS OF JERUSALEM-- THEN YOU'LL DESIRE SACRIFICES OF RIGHTEOUSNESS... THEY CAN ELEVATE BULLS ON YOUR ALTAR (Psalm 51:18-21, per S. R. Hirsch).
Man's relationship to God is compared to that of man and wife-- the physical component of both, sacrifice and sexual relations, is negative, if missing a true inner unity. A woman's body follows her heart and soul. Hypocritical prayer and ritual, as false declarations of love, are obnoxious. He who sacrifices must experience self-sacrifice, "drawing near", to God. Thus "the teaching of the ascent offering" is that "He himself is the offering", as hinted in 6:2.
Yet inner states should be be physically expressed, if the whole person is to be involved and the body itself sanctified. Then God's Imminent worldly presence, Sh'chinah, rests upon (wo)man, both in the Temple and the Temple of the Jewish Home-- "RABBI AKIVA EXPOUNDED: `WHEN MAN AND WIFE ARE WORTHY, GOD'S IMMINENT PRESENCE RESTS BETWEEN THEM'" (Sotah 17a). THE HOLY LETTER ($20 from TOP, in English), a medieval handbook of Jewish morality, was misattributed to Ramban, who looked down upon the body and its pleasures-- see our Naso study; it explains the ramifications of this teaching: "IF SO, THE PROPER UNION OF MAN WITH HIS WIFE, THE MYSTERY OF THE FOUNDATION OF THE WORLD AND CIVILIZATION, RENDERS THEM PARTNERS WITH GOD IN THE ACT OF CREATION. This is the meaning of `BEFORE YOU CAME OUT OF THE WOMB, I SANCTIFIED YOU' (Jer. 1:5)". Yitzchak could be an "olah t'mima", perfect ascent offering, because Avraham had holy intentions during sexual relations (See Gen. 22:2, Gen. Raba 64:3, H. L. 150, Lev. Raba 7:3). UNHOLY relations, however, tho procreative, are inherently corrupt and produce corrupt children (ed. S. Cohen, 60ff, 114; but cf. Yehuda & Tamar, ancestors of Meshiach-- perhaps the mother's intent is the prime determinant; only she renders her child Jewish; Rambam says that Yehuda didn't sin when he slept with Tamar, thinking that she was a prostitute-- casual sexual relations were prohibited to Jews only after Sinai).
So Solomon's Temple had a picture of the cherubim as man and wife embracing, which brings down God's presence, IF so intended. Those who sacked the Temple couldn't fathom sex leading to holiness-- their sexual experience was demonic abandon (I K7:36, HL 50, Yoma 54b-- Tosafot there discusses permissible and forbidden artistic representations). So Catholics believe that holy men and women should be celibate, Benedict's extreme remedy for hitherto licentious clergy; Per Rashi, Jewish tradition only sanctions a temporary ban on physical pleasure, to help one overabsorbed in his body get back on the spiritual track-- a fast after too big a feast (but cf. Ramban-- see our Naso study; Avraham b. Maimon advocates celibacy for those scholars who can truly transcend sexual desire, as Moshe). Thus sex and sacrifices, TV and atomic energy, all show that the more power something has for good, the more harmful is its abuse and misuse.
C. A SYNOPSIS OF TZAV
God tells Moshe: "ORDER Aharon and his sons, saying: `THIS IS THE TEACHING OF THE OLAH-- IT (the teaching, or HE, the offerer) IS THE OLAH, ON ITS FURNACE (moked), ON THE ALTAR (mizbaach), ALL THE NIGHT UNTIL MORNING... THE PRIEST SHALL DON HIS LINEN GARMENTS... HE SHALL TAKE UP THE ASHES... AND PLACE THEM NEXT TO THE ALTAR. HE SHALL UNDRESS, DON OTHER CLOTHES, AND TAKE THE ASHES OUTSIDE THE CAMP TO A CLEAN PLACE. AND THE FIRE ON THE ALTAR SHALL BE LIT FROM IT. YOU SHALL NOT PUT IT OUT. THE PRIEST SHALL BURN WOOD UPON IT EVERY MORNING, AND ARRANGE THE (AM) OLAH UPON IT, AND BURN UPON IT THE FAT PARTS OF THE PEACE OFFERING. AN ETERNAL FIRE SHALL BE LIT UPON THE ALTAR. YOU SHALL NOT PUT IT OUT'". (Lev. 6:1-6).
A SACRIFICIAL FOLK: Why does Tsav begin with the last process done to the daily evening olah-- burning it after sunset (cf. Num. 28:4; the slaughter is done by day)? Per Hirsch, the priests' instructions begin with their exclusive nightime Temple Service, when it's closed to the public! Rav Kanatopsky (NIGHT OF WATCHING) expands Or Hachayim's analysis of this text as a forecast of Jewish history! The Olah represents the sacrificial role of the Jewish people thruout history, a perfect "ascent offering", Isaiah's "suffering servant" of God. As Jewish days start with night, so the dark ages of history end in messianic dawn. Those who start their calendars with day, insensitive to the present lowly state of man, may end with nights of pessimism and despair (or hangovers the next morning!). But physically imperfect priests and sacrifices are disqualified-- as Shabbat in the time dimension, the Temple in the space dimension is to display and portray eventual universal Edenic perfection, to be a guiding star thruout the long night of history. The evening olah represents the Jew, sacrificed on what appears to be only a moked, a meaningless consuming furnace, rather than on a meaningful altar, a mizbaach. Senseless slaughter seems to continue without end-- from Romans to Crusaders, from Russian and Palestinean pogroms in the early 20th century to Luther's Nazi disciples-- "the priest" isn't mentioned, doesn't appear.
God, called "the priest" in midrashim, indeed remains concealed; Israel does not openly experience Him as such thruout the "night". But, at night's end, He suddenly appears as "the priest"-- the purifying Leader, Who removes the ashes of the Holocaust, takes seemingly dead remnants of Israel's exile to Israel, the only truly "pure" land. From the fire of their sacrifice, the morning olah is now burnt, ON THE ALTAR. There are still holy sacrifices of Jews in Israel, e.g. Tzahal and victims of terrorists; but now they're seen as MORNING offerings on the altar, with a clear purpose-- the "priest", God, is beginning the Messianic redemption of all mankind from the State of Israel. These sacrifices will eventually be replaced with PEACE offerings-- God's enemies, tho they act in His Name, will finally grant precious peace to the Jews and their State, to their own ultimate benefit.
YES, A PEACEFUL STATE OF ISRAEL, WHOSE JEWS ARE IMMERSED IN TORAH, IS STILL NOT THE END. THE JEWISH MISSION IS NOT ONLY SURVIVAL, BUT UNIVERSAL SALVATION. THE FIRE ON THE ALTAR IS LIT FROM THE SEEMINGLY MEANINGLESS EVENING OFFERING, BURNT IN THE FURNACE-- SO THE LIGHT OF HUMAN KNOWLEDGE AND SPIRIT, THE ETERNAL LIGHT OF THE MENORA AND THE FIRE OF THE GOLDEN ALTAR OF INCENSE AND SPIRIT, IS LIT FROM THE STATE OF ISRAEL'S BRASS ALTAR OF PHYSICAL SACRIFICE, A FIERY LIGHT TO THE NATIONS-- Torah shall indeed go forth from Zion and the word of God from Jerusalem. Then the horrible massacres of the Jews, by both those who despised Israel's Divine mission and those who pretended God gave it to them instead, will not have been in vain. God emerges from His hiding place to confront Man, via His people and Land. So Yaakov won't release the evil angel of Esav until he "blesses" him-- acknowledges Israel as the source of his spiritual blessings (Gen. 32:27, Hirsch). Man's fiery animal vitality must be sublimated (sacrificed) into intellectual (menora) and spiritual (incense) realms, but without such vitality, intellect and spirit themselves can't exist; if the "constant candle" went out, it was lit from the constant fire on the bronze altar of sacrifice-- sacrifice of animal passion to human discipline, without destroying man's life vitality, precedes a relighting of the extinguished soul and mind; cf.: "If there's no flour, there's no Torah; if there's no Torah, there's no flour"-- Avot 3:21.
SYNOPSIS RESUMED: The meal offering is REPEATED from Vayikra; God adds that it be eaten as unleavened bread, in the tabernacle enclosure. Only male priests may eat it; any food in contact with it becomes holy. The account of Israel's sacrifices is now INTERRUPTED by that of the special 12 loaf meal offering of the priest or high priest, on his anointing day (every day for a High Priest); 12 half loaves (Yad Kor. 13:4) or 6 loaves (Raavad) were brought AM & PM, cooked, baked, and fried. A priest's own MEAL offering must be burnt completely (6:16). Rambam (Guide) says that a priest offers up his own offering-- but it would appear a mockery, if he ate all but a handful, which is burnt! Daat Zkanim thus distinguishes priestly SIN offerings, which the cohen does eat-- there a substantial part is indeed burnt, and the hide's given to the priestly rota on duty. Ibn Ezra seems to say that a cohen may not eat HIS OWN sin offering! But his words "or his sin offering" may be a printer's error, moving words from v.18, dealing with sin offerings, to v.16.
The Torah THEN RETURNS to Israelight sacrifices. The sin offering is "holy of holies", to be eaten in the enclosure courtyard; other food touching it, so as to absorb the taste, itself becomes holy (6:18ff). But a garment so affected may be washed of the blood; a metal pot may be purged in boiling water to remove any trace of the offering; but a clay pot must be broken (we cannot "kosher" pottery-- i.e. chinaware?). Likewise, if bad people haven't absorbed evil at their core, God can "wash" or "purge" it out thru afflictions; but sometimes individuals and societies are so permeated with evil that their whole way of life must be broken down and rebuilt-- He "fells the proud and then raises the fallen (might be the same person, later on)"-- e.g. USSR.
Ch. 7: The guilt offering (ASHAM) has similar laws. Any priest ritually fit to offer sin and guilt offerings may receive them-- as meal offerings and skins of burnt offerings.
A peace offering, given in gratitude to God, is accompanied by 10 each of leavened loaves, and of 3 types of unleavened loaves and matzos. 10% of this goes to the officiating cohen, as a gift lifted to God; the rest reverts to the owner. The meat must be eaten that day; but a pledged peace offering may be eaten for TWO days, with the clear understanding that anything left over will be burnt on the third. One will be cut off, rather than edified, in spirit, if he eats it then (cf. Ecc. 3:1: TO ALL THERE IS A TIME..., lyrics by Shlomo, music by Pete), as will someone eating it while ritually impure. Impure sacrificial meat is burnt (ALL meat in the desert was sacrificial). The Israelites are then told that fats offered on the altar (of ox, sheep and goat) and the blood of all mammals and birds are forbidden food and "cut off the soul" of the consumer (except blood remaining in raw meat, after washing, and in cooked meat, previously salted and washed, or broiled meat); Sefer Hachinuch (148) attributes unhealthful qualities to such fats and blood, and cruelty to vampirism-- but vampire bats practice reciprocal altruism (see Scientific American 2/90). Besides the choice portions of the peace offering, burnt to God, Moshe waves the chest "before God"; it becomes priestly property along with the uplifted gift of the right hind leg, given to any fit priest. These gifts were instituted the day that the priests were anointed. All of these laws of sacrifice were given to Moshe on Sinai, "on the day HE ORDERED the children of Israel to sacrifice their sacrifices to God, IN THE DESERT OF SINAI".
Ch. 8: Moshe then gathered the whole community to the Tabernacle entrance (miraculously packed!), and told them that he was inducting Aharon & Sons into the priesthood, per God's command (a fact later disputed by Korach & Co.!). He dressed Aharon with the High Priest's garments and anointed the tabernacle and everything in it, sanctifying them with the anointing oil; it was sprinkled on the altar 7 times, after which the altar, its utensils, the washstand and its base were sanctified (outside the tabernacle). Then Aharon was anointed.
Per God's command, Moshe, acting high priest, dressed Aharon's sons and officiated at the inauguration sacrificial ceremony; it started with the slaughter of a sin offering bull, used to purify and sanctify the altar-- via its blood. The choice parts were then burnt on the altar, the rest outside the camp, AS GOD COMMANDED MOSHE. A ram was then offered as an olah, in its entirety, becoming a fire offering to God OF PLEASING FRAGRANCE, AS GOD COMMANDED MOSHE. The special second ram, for installation of the priests, was then brought and slaughtered; some of the blood was placed on the right ear lobe, thumb and big toe of Aharon & Sons (Was the message: "Hear no evil, do no evil, and walk not in the ways of evil?"). He waved Aharon and his sons before God, together with the choice portions of the sacrifice, the right leg, and one loaf of each of the 3 kinds of unleavened bread (see Men. 89a) in the basket that was before The Eternal. Moshe then burnt these with the burnt offering-- it was of appealing fragrance, a fire offering to God. Moshe waved and acquired the breast (as officiating priest), ALL AS GOD COMMANDED MOSHE. He then mixed anointing oil and altar blood, and sprinkled Aharon and his sons and their clothes, sanctifying them. The Aharons then cooked and ate the flesh with the breads at the Tent entry as commanded, burning any leftovers.
They couldn't leave the entry for 7 days OF (this ceremonial) INAUGURATION FOR ATONEMENT, as God ordered: "SIT AT THE MEETING ENTRY, DAY & NIGHT, 7 DAYS. KEEP GOD'S CHARGE AND DIE NOT, FOR SO AM I ORDERED. AHARON AND SONS DID ALL THAT GOD ORDERED, VIA MOSHE" (8:35-6). Moshe initiates the priests, tho it means the loss of his own role as high priest, and of the future of his descendants-- God so commanded. Moshe lives only for his folk, as a sacrifial parent (Rav Tzvi Marx). The priests need not literally "sit" 7 days in the tabernacle, but must be constantly preoccupied with it.
Per Rav Avigdor Nebenzthal, meaningful rejoicing over a new Torah Scroll must include renewed commitment to its constant study. So the celebration week for a new bride inaugurates her holy life career-- building the deep sanctuary of her home. God so celebrates with his renewed Yom Kippur bride, Israel, every Succot; then they depart for their day-in day-out task of building the land and folk of Israel as a national sanctuary. Celebration of our tasks, tho generating a sense of purpose and enthusiasm, mustn't be overdone, overriding and displacing the task itself (one can even become more excited about a rebbe or the moshiach than about the One abstract God Himself!). The sacrificial pioneers of Israel did sing and dance-- AFTER their work was done; cf. farbrangen. Better to make one marriage work than to dance at all weddings.
D. NOW LET'S EXPLORE!-- some issues in our portion: here we are HOLY ZEAL: Moshe is to "ORDER" (tsav) the priests to offer the olah, not just "speaking" (vayidabar) to them, the usual method-- i.e. he's to urge them to act with zeal, "both right away and for all future generations" (Rashi). A true Jewish leader must be a man of his times-- he must act quickly, firmly and clearly, when necessary, tho he has no clear precedent. He must know his society well and respond to its changes and challenges (e.g. emancipation, Zionism, Feminism). Yet he must also be detached, transcendant, even somewhat "out of it", to foresee the consequences of his decisions on all future generations (e.g. the loss of a close-knit community, when Jews drive from afar to their Temples on Shabbat, the breakdown of society when women do not focus on building holy homes).
It's difficult to retain and transmit enthusiasm for generations, as we repeat the same routines again and again. A non-observant visitor to the Wall may be far more enthusiastic than the saint always there. One's having a date, a rendezvous, with God, an exciting inspiring change from his mundane secular world. The other, tho less excited, is in the midst of something far more serious-- an indissolvable marriage with God, Who's present every moment of his life (is the workaday world the equivalent of nidda separation, between man and woman, vis-a-vis God?).
Zealous holy dedication is extra difficult when the payoff is many generations away (cf. Rav Kanatopsky's words above). Only great faith can turn today's fire of the Shoah furnace into the fire of tomorrow's altars, long preceding the light of a universal menora. The O.T. (Only Testament) is full of non-zealous, often even corrupt, priests and judges (many were Sadducees), kings, and Torah scholars (e.g. Achitofel and Yeravam). Shimon b. Shatach finally reformed a mostly Sadducee Sanhedrin. Even learning and pietism, if not coupled with God-awareness and love, only inflate one's ego, engender self-aggrandizement, and may ultimately be destructive. Tho the Torah says of ordinary mortals: IF ONE SINS, it says WHEN A PRINCE SINS, implying that great people must have lapses. Power corrupts-- "There's no man IN THE EARTH (involved with life) who DOES GOOD (isn't passive), without sinning" (Ecc. 7:20). RAV YAAKOV YOSEF urged Jews to pursue great projects, tho accompanied by some undesirable side-effects (e.g. possible misuse or abuse of a holy book).
Rashi also quotes R. Shimon-- the Torah must spur the priest on where, as here, there's out-of-pocket loss (the priests only get the hide of an olah and the high priest must donate a daily mincha meal offering). Paid religious leaders, even high priests, are likely to lose their ardor and zeal under unrewarding conditions. A spiritual leader can be dragged down by dependence upon his preaching and teaching for his livelihood and prestige. Rambam, following Avot 1:13, 4:7, bans payment for learning or teaching Torah. It may result in molding one's views and expressions to those of the donors (could a haredi rosh yeshiva urge celebration of Yom Haatzmaut and mixed seating at weddings? Could a modern US rabbi demand aliya or urge women to bear 10 kids?). In the reconstruction of the Temple, workingmen didn't have to give an accounting for the materials, unlike Moshe and Shmuel, who may have been suspected-- they who supported themselves with work of their hands wouldn't dream of taking unearned money from holy sources; God decided that the cohanim SHOULD BE SO SUPPORTED via Israel's agricultural and sacrificial dues; so He must warn them to be equally zealous, even when they don't gain.
MIXED MESSAGES: The priests, in consuming sin offerings, teach sinners how partaking of this world can itself connect one to God, rather than driving him away-- cf. chassidut. The olah, a remedy for bad inner states or lack of positive action, is completely burnt, showing how one's entire inner self must rise to God. Yet a cohen must atone for himself before working on others. When one enthusiastically pledges a sacrifice in thanks to God, he should consume it while his mood is still strong and fresh. A fetal calf need not be slaughtered, if its mother was; various other restrictions don't apply to it. The blood of animals and birds is reserved for sacrificial use, tho not all kosher animals may be sacrificed; sacrifices, especially of domestic species, remind man of his own sacrificial position. Man doesn't so identify with non-sacrificable fish or kosher locusts (nor deer and giraffes), so different from him, whose blood is permitted. The Torah also compares man to a tree, rather than to an animal, in many realms. Per Rav J. B. Soloveichik, sacrificable grain products are our highest food; ritual washing and long grace accompany bread, whose blessing exempts all accompanying foods. God made them Man's unique food, products of his most basic technology; other foods are eaten unprocessed, both by us and animals. Wine, used in the drink offerings, has similar basic status in the pleasure realm (see our Purim study).
The cohen's breeches (6:3, Ex. 28:42, Nid. 13b) were loose, laced, and unpadded, like knee breeches of horsemen; they reached from loins to thigh, with no opening. Are they too an inherently holy symbolic garment, or just a means to cover nakedness, to sublimate and direct man's animal impulse, as the altar of sacrifice, outside of the entry to the tabernacle?
A MINIATURE LETTER MEM is written in MOKDA, IT'S FURNACE (6:2); last week, we explained the small alef of VAYIKRA (He called), using 3 principles: 1) A small letter lessens the impact of the word itself-- the Zohar views a Divine Call outside Israel as second rate. 2) We ignore a small or big letter to read the word as tho written without it (vayikra becomes vayikar, "He chanced upon Moshe", who wishes to keep his intimate relation to God private; see Rashi). 3) something else, associated with the verse and beginning with that letter, is diminished here (e.g. the impersonal Name of God in Nature, which begins with an alef, appears rarely re sacrifices, per Hirsch; God's Presence filled the tabernacle, so that Moshe couldn't approach; He diminished it, then called Moshe to enter-- YF). Tho traditional medieval commentaries ignore this week's small mem, the Kotzker Rebbe explains that one's inner fire (Moked) of religious zeal should be kept secret (#1; cf. the modest misnagdic relationship to God and PELE YOETZ'S disapproval of flattering approbations to books and of revealing one's private fasts); Hirsch says that the evening burning of the sacrifice on the "mOKED", symbolic of conquering temptation and self-restraint in old age, is relatively insignificant, compared to the active sacrifices of the daytime of life. Radal (Lev. Raba) notes that what remains after removing the mem, OKD, = 110, the years during which the tabernacle altar burnt, before construction of the temple.
Per Vayikra Raba, Aharon's true sin was in MOCKING the calf, causing the people to sin with greater zeal and idolatry, increasing Divine punishment! If he really loved them, he would have kept quiet (cf. Shabbat demonstrations, compulsory religious marriage). Moshe, who truly loved Aharon, prayed to God to forgive him-- He did, restoring his name in our portion, after referring only to his sons' sacrificial service in Vayikra. Moshe argued that God can't reject the tree while accepting its fruit! (cf. Jewish attitudes to Avraham's ancestors, and Christian and Moslem attitudes to Jews-- Prof. Harvey Cox claims that Christians will now come closer to both Moslems and Jews, as they gradually come to regard Jesus as a human being, rather than ascribing divinity to him, a current tendency). Rav Miller (Shabbat Shiurim) says that removing the ashes of the sacrifices is the greatest mitzva (Divine commandment) for Aharon to do personally-- it insures his continued humility, despite his great position (cf. chief rabbis' Passover household chores-- should Jerusalem's chief rabbis give out wine for kiddush and talk to alienated youth in front of Talpiot's discos, on Friday night?).
E. HAFTARAT TZAV is JEREMIAH 7:21- 8:3, 9:22-3
The prophet CONDEMNS insincere sacrifice, which will bring down God's temple; then only learning about sacrifices, a poor substitute for performing them, will replace them. When God took Israel out of Egypt, He wanted sacrifices, not just the WORD of sacrifice (7:22), per Klei Yakar. But some commentators, e.g. Sporno, claim that God instituted sacrifices only to satisfy (temporarily?) Israel's craving for something physical in relating to God, e.g. the Golden Calf (for many Christians, it's very hard to relate to our abstract God, but they're on the way when they joyously sing David's Psalms in the original Hebrew, in Jerusalem, with no mention of Jesus). The Song of Bride and Bridegroom, of God and Israel, will leave the cities of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem until its revival today! We conclude: THUS SAYS GOD-- LET THE WISE MAN NOT GLORY IN HIS WISDOM, NOR THE MIGHTY MAN IN HIS MIGHT; LET THE RICH MAN NOT GLORY IN HIS WEALTH, BUT LET HIM WHO TAKES PRIDE GLORY IN THAT HE UNDERSTANDS AND KNOWS ME, THAT I'M THE LORD WHO EXERCISES MERCY, JUSTICE, AND RIGHTEOUSNESS IN THE EARTH-- FOR IN THESE THINGS I DELIGHT, SAYS GOD.
F. GETTING CLOSER TO GOD (Hirsch's overview of korbonot, sacrifices, from LILMOD U"LELAMAD B'SHABBAT)
The system of korbanot is an integral part of the mikdash (sanctuary), which represents the moral and ethical ideals towards which people should strive; the korbanot, part of the Mikdash service, address the process of progression towards them. The ultimate goal of the Jew and the Jewish Nation is to achieve a bond with God, by guiding his or her freely-chosen behavior in accordance with His expressed Will-- "And now, if you'll listen to My Voice and keep My covenant, then you'll be My exclusive treasure... (Ex. 19:5)." The Hebrew root "k-r-b" means to draw closer to, or to be in close relationship with, another ("k'rovim" are relatives). Korbanot are to facilitate progressive movement towards a close spiritual relationship with God. When one's behavior distances him from God, the korban can help reverse that condition, and bring her back to God.
How does this dynamic work? The mitzvot are comprised of "positive" commands, which indicate what we ought to do (mitzvot a'say), and "negative" commands, teaching what we ought not to do (mitzvot lo ta'aseh). The lifestyle combining them is halacha, the constant "path" or "way" of the Jew committed to the covenant, seeking close relationship with God. If, however, he doesn't behave as he ought to, or behaves as he ought not, he has committed a "sin"-- an error of behavior. The effect is a distancing from his potential nearness to God.
This dynamic has a contemporary analogy-- If you walk into a video arcade (and can tolerate it), you'll find a game that requires you to drive a racing car along a track frought with obstacles and hazards. Your performance is timed and your goal is to travel the greatest distance within the time limit. All the time, you must actively avoid the hazards, as well as move as fast as possible. If, however, you should go outside the track boundary, or fail to overcome obstacles, your progress stops, you lose time and remain far from your ultimate goal. When your time's up, the closer you are to the final goal, the better you've performed and the higher your achievement.
This game resembles the halachic lifestyle. We're all alloted time to actualize our spiritual potential and reach our goal-- closeness to God. We must actively progress toward it and avoid impediments. Thus, if a person "sins" and either a) does not respond to daily opportunities to accomplish "mitzvot a'say" or b) steps outside the boundary of the "lo ta'aseh", he distances himself from God's Proximity. The korban, thru its symbolic meaning, is to raise one's spiritual awareness-- then he can get back "on track", and strengthen his commitment to act correctly and resume his progress.
G. THE HAFTORA FOR SHABAT HAGADOL (Malachi 3:4-24)
Meal offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will again please God (as 3:3 speaks of purified Levites presenting meal offerings, this seems to predict only vegetarian sacrifices for the 3rd Temple-- see the end of our Vayikra study). He'll judge both the morally corrupt, and those who hold back agricultural dues, the source of blessing and prosperity. If Israel's Jews lived right, everyone would acclaim and emulate Israel. Jews in Malachi's time praised only brazen sinners (cf. today's TV and rock stars and sports heroes); God and religion were reviled. God reserves reward and leadership for those truly aware of Him (cf. The Knesset). Those few still in awe of God will prevail over the wicked. Israel must remember the Torah-- then God will send Eliyahu the Prophet, harbinger of the great day of God. He'll return fathers' hearts back to their children, then (as a result?) children's hearts back to their fathers. Otherwise, He'll bring destruction upon Earth-- the domestication and spiritualization of the male, to render him a good "father", is a major and essential task of both Torah and Jewish women (see Ecc. 9:9), whose naturally Godlike soul (unless messed up by Western education) and home is dedicated to this mission; wives replace their husband's parents, especially their mothers, ideally a lifetime commitment (Genesis 2:24; can she who can leave at will fulfill such a role?).
Males can't compete with women's great role as mother and nurturer and must have their own distinct realms of leadership and achievement, e.g. profession and defense, to remain attracted to family and society-- otherwise (e.g. if his realms become egalitarian) he leaves both, and civilization is destroyed (see Sexual Suicide, G. Gilder, and hear Dennis Prager's tape on Male-Female roles).
H. KIPPA & GOWN
Popular Jerusalem Jewish outreach activist Jeff Seidel directs the Jewish Quarter's Jerusalem Jewish Student Information Center; he tries (and often succeeds) to bring young Jewish tourists and overseas students at Israeli universities closer to Judaism; he sets them up for shabbat and holiday meals with observant families and hosts Jewish lectures and happenings, mostly free. He also publishes an international guide to Jewish hospitality, and arranges home hospitality for students travelling abroad. To do all his Jewish soul life-saving effectively, he spends lots of time rapping with students, on campus, downtown and in their dorms. He's with them almost every day. About 1000 students came to his annual purim party in 1995 and 1997; even in 1996, despite the bus bombings, about 250 came. He usually draws more English speaking youth than attend official university Jewish programs.
But Seidel claims that he has often been impeded, even harassed, by H.U. and T.A.U. Overseas Students Program officials-- they seem to view him as somewhat of a nuisance, "interfering" with their secular program, rather than appreciating his strenuous, and frequently quite successful, efforts; the head of H.U. Overseas Students barred him from its posh campus, when he wanted to bring shalach manos gifts to its students last Purim. Those supporters of H.U. and T.A.U., who are also friends and adherants of traditional Judaism, should investigate the issue and respond accordingly-- are the school officials, who are responsible for administration of the campus and the welfare of their students, simply unable to tolerate anyone else operating on their turf, beyond their control?-- Jeff is uncontrollable. Are they afraid that the students will decide to become observant Jews or attend yeshivot, making secular parents hesitate to send their children to H.U.?-- Indeed H.U. often stands for Heretical University; most of their Bible Department, e.g. Professors Talmon, Japhat and Zachowitz, is dedicated to promulgating the non-Jewish Documentary Hypothesis, denying the Divinity and unity of the Tanach; some even deny its inspirational value, unlike their fellow Bible critic, Prof. Moshe Greenberg, a leader of the theologically non-traditional Masorati movement.
The net consequence of teaching this view, which originated in Wellhausian Germany, is to greatly diminish the significance and importance of remaining Jewish and Zionist; before the Germans tried to destroy the Jewish body, they tried to destroy Israel's Torah, its soul and sole raison d'etre. The Bible departments at other Israeli Universities, except for Holy Bar Ilan, as H.U.C., J.T.S. and the E.J., also promulgate the pseudo-scientific Documentary Hypothesis (see our Vayakhel-Pkudei and Vayikra studies).
Jewish tradition and University Jewish scholarship might indeed interface (see TOP's videos, The Chosen, by Chaim Potak, and The Quarrel, by Chaim Grade), to their mutual benefit, by alloting some of the huge unused luxurious floor space at universities, e.g. H.U., to poor kollels, without decent quarters. The universities could and should, with Jewish pride, have at least one official Bible course, e.g. parshat hashavua, taught from a truly traditional perspective, as the word of the Living God-- despite the reaction of the sanctimonious international academic community.
But I could not write any of this with integrity, if I didn't hear and present the other side too; all human disputes-- divorce, politics, etc.-- have two sides and no one should judge such disputes, even for himself, unless he's heard both parties, without bias toward either; nothing should foster this attitude more than study of talmud, where every possible way of looking at issues is promoted; its tradition and culture of ardent, but respectful, debate may explain why Israel adopted democracy, and, to a great extent, adheres to it-- despite the lack of democratic tradition among its founders and most of its population (listen to Dovid Deshon's TOP tape on Judaism & Democracy). So I contacted H.U. OSA officials involved in this issue; they claim that Seidel refuses to be part of their team and operate by their many rules for outside groups operating on campus, which appear in a contract-booklet (they wouldn't send me a copy, but Jeff got it for me). Such rules attempt to limit outsiders from annoying and badgering students, and to preserve the appearance and tone of the campus.
I scanned the rules, which simply require informing the university of the nature of the group's work and giving them advance notice of particular activities, to avoid schedule conflicts. The many groups must share the time available, not just do their own thing when and where they want (Bet Hillel works independently of OSA; effective with-it Habad campus outreach activist Shlomo Gestetner now works thru them, rather than OSA and Hecht Synagogue). They also inquire as to how the group finances its work. Once the activity is approved, the university publicizes it. Postering is strictly limited to official bulletin boards. Each group must give 750 shekel for the school paper and year book (which often features student folk-hero Seidel!). What affects Seidel, however, is the need for special permission to enter the campus or dormitories to talk to students. He also claims that the University wanted to keep him off the public sidewalks in front of the school, to which he was relegated, as a condition to his organization, the Jewish Student Information Center, being recognized, and only allowed occasionally, on campus. OSA officials claimed that Seidel's group puts up posters for his events indiscriminately, without permission, while covering or tearing down those of others, and pressures students to attend (he denies both charges)
The OSA folks also claim that some students and their parents are turned off to Judaism, when Jeff sends them to hardei non-Zionist institutions, such as Ohr Somaach, rather than modern Zionist ones, such as Isralight and Machon Meir. Seidel's initial funding came from charedi Peylim, toward whom he feels a large debt of gratitude, perhaps against his own and his flock's long-term broader interests (most of this article was written in 1996).
A 1997 UPDATE ON THE CIVIL WAR
Jeff Seidel has now effectively outflanked and by-passed the hostile administrators at H.U. and T.A.U. by opening popular drop-in centers OFF CAMPUS. His H.U. center is at Bar Kochba 87/2, (02) 581-2240, and his T.A.U. center at Beit Zuri 16/7, (03) 642-5748; he's also in constant touch with students via e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org). Rabbi Danny Schonbuch, who directs the H.U. Center for Jeff and teaches at Isralight, also works with Hecht Synagogue on a voluntary basis. Jeff's recently opened on-campus programs at B.G.U. in Beersheva, but Prof. Mark Gelber, head of B.G.U.'s Overseas Students program, helps, rather than hinders, him. Now that Jeff doesn't have to be on campus so much, to rescue lost Jewish souls in a pagan atmosphere, the conflicts between him and the H.U. and T.A.U. officials have greatly diminished; but the universities still do not fund his programs-- those who support H.U. and T.A.U., recognizing their great contributions to secular knowledge and the building of modern Israel, should give a portion (e.g. 5%) of their donations to Seidel's group, a very important, tho unacknowledged, Jewish component of their Overseas Students Programs.
The latest issue of JSPS's New Voices (Vol. 5, No. 5, available free at H.U. Hillel), in its Bridge to Israel section, features Shira Citro's secularly biased article, Jerusalem of Gold[en Ale]. She approvingly notes that: "... But when darkness falls, the city transforms itself into `the place to be'. At night, Jerusalem isn't much different than any other city filled with clubs, bars, cafes, and, of course, hundreds of students enjoying the capital's night life". She goes on to decribe the cafes and bars frequented by overseas students; she concludes: "Whether students are looking for a place to hang out with friends... or are merely looking to drink themselves into a stupor and stumble all the way home to campus... it can all be done in the Ir, or city center". Ms. Citro completely ignores Jerusalem's unique nightlife-- loads of holy Jewish lectures and happenings, including the bet midrash of Hecht Synagogue, The Israel Center, Yakar, Milah, etc. They do not conclude with drunken students stumbling home to their own or some pickup's bed, but with the prayers upon retiring, where we reflect upon what we've done with the precious day which God has bestowed upon us, how much we've lived up to our own Divine Image. University officials, who have 9-5 jobs and little constant deep personal interaction with their charges, aren't there to pick up the pieces at The Underground, etc., at midnight; Jeff often is, and will drive a drunken coed safely back to her dorms-- the kids appreciate a true friend.
H.U.'s P.R. head, Jonathan Davis, tried to justify the bars as a normal healthy outlet for students, a place where you can even find God easier than at a shul or yeshiva permeated by religious arrogance-- I doubt it, having seen the pagan sex-as-a-snack atmosphere of Yoel Solomon's bars and discos; no one stumbles home drunk from even the worst shul (tho perhaps from a goyish vodka-soaked farbrangin!); he also considered Jeff's work "missionary", a term which is not pejorative, in my opinion; a sincere believer in any religious, political, social, or self-help system, who has social responsibility, will share his insights and enthusiasm with others-- why are political activists OK on allegedly open-minded campuses, but not religious activists? Jeff & Co. aren't trying to bring any non-Jews to Judaism, only to reawaken young Jews to their heritage before it's too late!
My own impression, over many years, is indeed that most Overseas students like Jeff and appreciate his programs, informality and dedication; many feel that he has greatly enriched their lives by exposing them to truly traditional Judaism; the same OSA officials seem to have no objection whatsoever to the multitude of secular political and social activists on campus, to vulgar pagan posters for discos and bars, luring the students; did the pub and disco owners sign "contracts" with H.U.? One official told me that they don't care if students frequent such places, as it's a one-shot experience, whereas Seidel's Torah experiences might altar their lives!!! I was, however, quite favorably impressed and encouraged by Davis, who, during last year's hostilities, actively tried to peacefully straighten out the situation (all's indeed been quiet on the battlefront lately), so that Jeff can continue his good work, while H.U. officials won't feel that things are out of their control. We need a clone of Davis at T.A.U. too! Some of the H.U. officials are themselves observant Jews; as such, they have a duty to actively strive to get their students involved with their heritage, constantly rap with them, and invite them to their homes for Shabbat, just as Jeff does; but since the Western value-free amoral university ambiance prevents them from doing so, they should be grateful to Seidel and others who are doing the job. The Hecht synagogue, directed by Rav Natan Ofir, aided by Shaul Dinerstein, does a fine job with students who are interested in Judaism, and offers many fine programs-- but university etiquette precludes them from actively reaching out to those students who show no interest.
The best solution to the conflict might be the usual contractual arrangement, but with a clear statement that Seidel and those who assist him may enter the campus anytime, if they wish to meet students, who wish to meet them. Another option would be for Seidel to affiliate with Hilel or be given some sort of official University title, e.g. Liason to the Yeshiva Community-- this would enable him to continue his work without harassment, while OSA officials wouldn't have to fear that a non-H.U. element was working on campus without their control and contract-- if you can't (and shouldn't) beat them, join them. If Jeff would openly advocate modern religious zionism, probably closer to his own belief, rather than haredi insularity, the peace process would be easier; may his Yom HaAtzmaut celebration be even greater than his Purim bash.
May He soon bring peace and Torah to all Israel, and help them abandon secular and pagan outlooks, to return to their innermost selves and Judaism.
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