(Torah Portion Vayikra) Get to the Point!!
Last week I visited a patient in a local hospital and during the conversation I asked where he was originally from. “Bensonhurst,” was his reply. I told him, ‘You know, I was raised in neighboring Boro Park.” He asked me if the Shul he attended when he was a kid was still in existence. I wasn’t sure. He began to smile and shared the following story. “When I was real young, my friend Rubin came into Shul one Saturday and tapped his father on the shoulder and told him he wanted to tell him something. His father said, “Not now, don’t you see I’m busy.” “Well, while we were walking home, his father turned to Rubin and said what was it that you wanted to tell me earlier?” Rubin responded, “Mom told me to tell you that there was a fire that broke out in our house!”
Clearly, there are times when it is necessary to get straight to the point.
This week’s portion begins with G-d specifically calling Moshe before getting to the point of giving over the laws concerning the Temple’s offerings.
Our Sages tell us the word Vayikra – and He called, is G-d’s expression of love towards Moshe by first calling him by his name and then addressing the laws.
When Moshe scribed all thirteen Torah scrolls during his lifetime, he scribed the letter Alef of the word Vayikra, in a smaller font as an act of humility so that it shouldn’t be so noticeable that G-d specifically called him.
There are some that point out that there is no specific law in the Torah that one must be humble; the characteristic of humility comes from a refinement within a person and through it one can forge a deeper relationship with G-d and with others. The Torah attests that Moshe excelled and stood out in this area and was in fact the most humble of all people; Moshe practiced and taught us what true humility is all about.
Our tradition teaches us that each Jew has an intrinsic identifiable feature of being compassionate, giving and bashful; each of which are associated with the characteristic of humility.
G-d went on to instruct Moshe of all that was required to be offered in connection with the Altar of the Temple.
It is interesting points our Rabbi Zalman Sorotzkin o.b.m. that G-d permitted all categories of species to be part of the Altar service; specific domesticated animals, specific birds; wheat, barley, oil, wine, spices and inanimate items such as salt and water. However, two categories were not permitted and they are fish and wild kosher animals, such as a deer.
The question is why were they excluded? Based upon a reason why the Torah only allows doves and turtledoves to be offered, because they are pursued but never pursue others, fish are the complete opposite. Their entire survival is based on swallowing other fish. Therefore G-d did not allow such a species to be offered upon His Altar – which is the symbol of Shalom – peace. For the stones used to construct the Altar were not allowed to be hewed or cut with metal instruments, because metal is associated with weaponry.
Wild animals were not included in the Temple sacrifices because their habitat is primarily in the forest and G-d did not want to put people out to capture wild animals for offerings.
The Torah specifies two other items forbidden upon the Altar, leavened and honey.
Commentators explain that the rising of the leavening process has a connection to one who has a haughty disposition and the sweetness of honey is associated with one’s sinful desires. Thus, G-d forbade these items upon the Altar, which served to atone for sins that are typically brought upon by egotism and arrogance and by not harnessing one’s desires.
It is interesting that while these aforementioned items are forbidden on the Altar, they are in fact permitted in a kosher form, as part of our regular diet for they have no intrinsic spiritual harmful effects on our being.
King David relates to us in the Book of Psalms, that the words of Torah are sweeter than honey. For when we reflect on the distinction of our inheritance of Torah – it serves to encourage us to be more desirous of seeking additional knowledge and to take pleasure in what we have accomplished!
Wishing you a restful, peaceful
and inspirational Shabbos!
Rabbi Dovid Saks