It Spreads!

Our entire Parsha speaks of various sacrificial offerings that were performed in the Temple. Although we have not merited the rebuilding of our Temple to personally experience and witness the awe-inspiring service of the Temple, there are many lessons that are derived from the procedures and happenings of the Temple that inject insight and inspiration to our lives.

My wife just bought me a recently published book by Artscroll, titled ‘Bais Yisroel.’ It is a biography of the holy Rabbi Yisroel Altar, the Rebbe of Ger. It is meaningful to me because I grew up with stories about the Bais Yisroel, as the Rebbe was referred to.

My maternal grandfather Reb Yehoshua Ahron Herzberg o.b.m. was raised in Poland and in his youth, he studied with the Bais Yisroel. After WWII, my grandfather reconnected with the Bais Yisroel who was able to escape the Nazis and settle in Israel. The Bais Yisroel was known for his sharp wit, deep caring for a fellow Jew and for his inspiring and encouraging words for wounded souls after experiencing the horrors of the Holocaust. In the first pages of the book, the Bais Yisroel has an insight that sends an inspiring message to us.


When a person is set to offer an animal as a sacrifice, he verbally designates it for that particular sacrifice and from that point on the animal assumes special sanctity. It is invested with Kedusha- sanctity and cannot be used for personal use because it is Kodesh – holy.

The Bais Yisroel quotes the following Talmudic passage. If one pronounces that the leg of an animal is to be sanctified as a burnt offering, this partial designation spreads and affects holiness throughout the entire animal.

You see, said the Bais Yisroel, that the sanctity invested in the leg of the animal is enough to change the essence of its entire being. So too, if a Jew sanctifies his leg by walking into a Shul, even if he does not Daven/Pray that much, it has an impact on his whole being. In the same vein, if a person accepts the sanctity and holiness of Shabbos into his home, while not yet aware of all the intricacies of the laws of Shabbos, its impact is far reaching.  The act of coming to a Shul or embracing the holy atmosphere of Shabbos, will eventually spread and uplift the rest of the person and family as well!

The Mishna in Ethics of Our Fathers tells us of ten stunning miracles that occurred in the Temple. One of them is that rain never extinguished the fire that was exposed upon the Altar in the Temple. In fact, the original fire that Aaron ignited upon the Altar continually remained lit on that Altar for 116 years.

Each day a Kohain would add two wooden logs to the fire and remove the ash of the sacrifices from the altar. The Altar, whose frame was wood that was covered by a thin plate of copper, never got singed from the fire. Plus, the fire remained on the Altar when they traveled when a covering was placed over the Altar.

An additional miracle that the Medrash tells us that happened in the Temple is that the shards of broken earthenware vessels that had been used to cook sacrificial meats were absorbed into the ground of the Temple. Let me explain. Each type of sacrifice in the Temple had a specific time frame when it was allowed to be eaten. Some for a day and night, some for two days and one night. Anything left from the sacrifice had to be burned, for nothing was allowed to be left over.

When the meat of a sacrifice that is permitted to be eaten is cooked, the walls of the pot absorb the taste of the meat. Just as the remainder of the sacrifice needed to be burned after the requisite timeframe of consumption, so too, the absorption of taste in the vessel’s walls needed to be extracted.

We are well aware of the Koshering of pots for Passover, when we immerse pots or utensils into a pot of bubbling hot water to Kosher it from any chometz that has been absorbed in the walls of the utensil. This procedure can be done with metal or similar materials. This is the procedure for metal utensils that were used to cook sacrificial meat.

However, if earthenware pots – which were commonplace during the Temple times – were used to cook the sacrificial meat, there is no way of extracting the absorptions of the sacrificial taste, for earthenware vessels cannot be koshered by boiling water. The only method of taking care of the sacrificial absorptions of the earthenware vessels in the Temple was to break the vessel making it unusable.

This is where the miracle of the shards came in. Once they were broken and placed on the ground of the Temple, the ground miraculously absorbed them!

I once read a valuable lesson from this. Many of the shards of earthenware that were absorbed in the ground were from Chatas – sin-offerings. A sin offering was brought when one unintentionally transgressed a severe sin. Taking the example of the broken shards of earthenware that disappeared into the ground, the person who sinned and sincerely repents, either by bringing a sacrifice or doing sincere Teshuva/Repentance, should consider the sin he had committed as if it is buried in the ground. This way the person can focus on future spiritual growth without being bogged down and hindered by the recurring thoughts and regrets of the sin.