Gevaldig: We’ve made it through all of sefer b’reyshis and Sh’mois (actually some of you have been reading these pearls since Parshas Devorim). Somehow, the Ruv kept you oisvorfs interested. How? Avada, the Ruv is mamish a genius who has perfected a teaching method that none of your previous Rebbeyim or Morot ever dreamed of. Nu, the fact that you know so little is not entirely your fault: how could you possibly have remained focused in class while worrying when your Rebbe would again invite you for a ride in his car to show you his stick shift, if you chap: nebech.
Anyway, by lacing the delivery of the heylige Toirah epes with some humor, sexual innuendo (when the opportunity arose, so to speak) and a shtikel sarcasm, we kept it light and guess what? Now you mamish know the Parshious better than ever and you love the heylige toirah. Of course that’s not saying much because for many of you ladigayers (lazy good for nothings), this is takah the first time you learned and enjoyed learning the parsha. Vesyt tzich ois (it turns out) that Machiavelli was taka right and the end does efseher (maybe) justify the means. At least that’s what my own Rebbe told me when he beat the crap out of me with his shteken (stick).
The emes (truth) is that it was pretty easy in the beginning, ober why? Because most of us have an easy time relating to the user friendly stories in Bereshis (Genesis). You remember them because they are stories about individuals. A good number of them, as you zicher recall, were quite juicy. We compared ourselves to the heroes and villains of the sefer and used our imagination for the rest of the story. Some imagine yourselves with a 3 year old wife like our Tata (Father) Yitzchok who chapped Rivka, others (many) imagine you are Avrohom trying to get rid of his wife Sorah by pawning her off to the king (in fact to two of them), and avada others think you’re Yankiff Ovenu, and are looking to shtupp 4 of a kind (sisters and half sisters). Let’s not forget to give honorable mention to other characters including Reevin and Yehudah.
A number of you had a shtikel more difficulty with Sefer Shemois (Exodus) despite its many stories, including redemption from slavery after 210 years, the big event at Har Seenai, the eygel and more. Why? Because 1) it contained a good amount of halacha (law), always more dense than narrative, and because 2) the stories were often national narratives; dealing with a group, not yichidim (individuals).
And here we are at VaYikra- Yikes!! Avada, we’re going to have more difficulty chapping (grasping) Sefer VaYikra (Leviticus): not only are there almost no stories, and not only is the sefer almost wall-to-wall halacha, but the halacha it contains is largely ritual, technical, abstract (read: boring), and sometimes — particularly when discussing korbanois (sacrifices) and issues of tahara (ritual purity) — no longer relevant to our everyday lives. And we takah remain numbly detached almost all the way through Sefer VaYikra, until we reach BaMidbar (Numbers), where the stories begin again. But should we give up? Should we forget about the 240 mitvois – roughly 40% of the total-that we will learn as we make our way through?
People have been asking me the same question for months: what will you do when it comes to Vayikra and the Korbonois? Excellent kasha- nu- let’s see together.
As we begin Vayikra we are overwhelmed by the intricate detail with which the Toirah describes the procedure of bringing korbanois. As a result of this we typically tune out, fall asleep, talk during laining, read some of the handouts that one fellow always seems to fill his talis bag with, stare at the ezras noshim (ladies section), skip shul altogether or make kiddush much earlier. Why? Because we can’t stand listening to this, even the koihanim are bored stiff.
Sefer VaYikra is known as the sefer of the Avoidah and of the korbanois. It’s time to learn about Korbonois (sacrifices) but why? Ver veyst (beats me). I never understood and still don’t, why they taught this in yeshiva and in some cases still do. Ober mistama, they have their reasons. Who says we have to understand everything? Do you understand how the internet works? How about a fax machine? Yet, we still use them -nu- life goes on. Let’s see if we can begin to epes lay the foundation of the entire Sefer, also referred to as Toirahas Koihanim. Nu- let’s start with basics: what the hec is a korban and why do we need to know?
Says the Mechaber, Rav Wikipedia azoy: Korban, is the term for a variety of sacrificial offerings described and commanded in the heylige toirah. Such sacrifices were offered in a variety of settings by the ancient Israelites (our forefathers and going all the way back to Kayin and Hevel- remember them?), and later by the Koihanim, at the Temple in Yerusholayim. A Korban was usually an animal sacrifice, such as a sheep or a bull that underwent sheichita (Jewish ritual slaughter), and was often cooked and eaten by the offerer, with parts given to the Koihain and parts burned on the Temple mizbayach (altar). Korbanot could also consist of doves, grain, wine and incense. Ok are you sleeping yet? I am!
The RBSO zicher told Moishe all about these strange rituals ober didn’t really tell him why? We got the manual, the grizzly detailed instructions but were epes never told why we bring these. And what do you suppose happened as a result? For centuries to come, beginning with the Reshoinim, our Sages and other luminaries have argued vehemently about ‘why’. Let’s see what the fuss is all about. First up- a machloikes (dispute) between the RAMBAM and the RambaN and it got heated. Let’s see:
In short, the Rambam is of the opinion that korbanois were commanded as a response to the cultural trend, most prevalent in Egypt at that time, of ritually slaughtering animals. He explains that the yiddin had become accustomed to this practice and would have had a very difficult time coping with a religion that did not offer sacrificing as a form of worship. Therefore, the RBSO commanded us to bring animal offerings in order to curb our yetzer Horoh (evil inclination). By us bringing a korban to the RBSO, the one and only true God, we demonstrate our firm rejection of these beliefs in other deities. In other words, the RBSO knew that the BNY were a bunch of fickle people who could easily fall prey to idol worship (even American Idol) and created Korbonois to help the oisvorf yiddin channel these desires. Not a terrible p’shat but boring!!!!
Abarbanel, in his introduction to Sefer Vayikra, defends the Rambam’s position and claims that it is in fact anchored in Midrashic and Talmudic literature.
The RambaN says this makes no sense at all and sharply criticizes the Rambam’s theory. Instead he offers a hypothesis of his own that spices things up somewhat. Halt kup (pay attention- it’s worth your time).
…Since the acts of man are comprised of thought, speech, and action, God Commands that when an individual sins and brings an animal sacrifice, a) s/he should rest his/her hands upon its head—corresponding to the sinful action that precipitated this expiation, (2) b) s/he should confess what s/he did wrong—thereby atoning for the speech that contributed to the transgression, (3) c) s/he should recognize that the innards and kidneys being burnt in the altar’s fire represents the need for atonement on the part of the seat of all human thought and passion, (4) d) the burning of the animal’s limbs corresponds to the need for atonement for the hands and feet of the sinning individual since these limbs carry out all of his/her activity, (5) and e) the casting of the sacrifice’s blood upon the altar should bring the phrase to mind, ‘his blood will be on his soul.’ (6) A person by either doing or watching all of these actions will come to realize that s/he has sinned against God with his/her body and his/her soul, and that s/he deserves his/her own blood to be applied and his/her body to be burned, had it not been for the Compassion of the Creator, Who Has Accepted a substitute.
Ok that was a mouthful, what did he really mean? lets cahzzir (review): The RambaN, says azoy: The whole point of the korban is that a person (like yourself by way of a good example) should feel that everything done to the animal being sacrificed should really be done to him or her (you). He should feel as if his blood should be spilled and his limbs should be burned, but the RBSO, in His ultimate mercy, agrees to accept the animal as a substitute. Great system! You minvullim and chazerrim (swine) takah sin with every limb of your bodies and the innocent animal who didn’t lust for his friend’s wife and zicher didn’t have forbidden relations with her, is nebech slaughtered at the altar. I was always wondering why the RBSO created animals: what a relief!! Avada this concept makes much more sense as you chazerrim know only too well that you deserve to be slaughtered like pigs; nu- the RBSO is great.
Many commentators agree with the RambaN and note that one was supposed to realize that really he should be the one getting slaughtered during the services. This would cause one to have fear in Hashem which would eventually lead to teshuva (repentance). Therefore, we were forgiven for our sins through the korbanot.
Another practical explanation I came across says that the only reason that the RBSO instructed us to bring and offer Korbonois is so that the lazy Koihanim who had no other skills or crafts (back then) but working in the Beis Hamikdosh, could earn a few dollars. They of course had plenty to eat and mistama took a few bribes to move the poor sinners ahead on the Korban line…nu…what can you do? And just like the magnificent RBSO created many industries as we have studied together in Sefer Shemois, here in Vayikro, He’s busy with the Koihanim and wants to make sure they didn’t become a bunch of schnorrers ringing your bell every Sunday (5 at a time out of one car) and created this entire system. This way, they could mamish dedicate themselves to their Avoida (jobs) in the Temple service. Makes sense and also a practical p’shat.
The Maharal of Prague perceives the sacrificial rite, with its intimations of mortality, as a fundamental reflection of the inconsequentiality of all creatures in the face of God’s greatness. Nothing exists in the world except as a result of God’s kindness and munificence. I don’t know what he’s saying but it can’t hurt to give the Maharal a plug; besides, I love Prague.
Let’s try another: some say that the Korbanois system was created so that sinners who had to bring a Korban would feel the pinch in their pockets. Unfortunately, it was some other pinching in their pockets that get them into trouble to begin with. Avada it’s well known that the imposition of fines and penalties is supposed to deter sinning. The sinner will realize that his wayward ways are getting too costly and get back on the right path. And for this reason, wealthy sinners had to bring a more expensive korban while the schlepper sinners got away with a lesser korban. In other words: a poor sinner could commit bigger sins and pay less: gevaldig!
Numerous other approaches to the concept of korbanois are offered within traditional Jewish literature however none of them were too humorous, hence they will not be mentioned here. Anyway, now you’re all Korban experts and I’m oisgematettid (wiped out) from all this animal talk.
Grada (incidentally) I’m a shtikel confused myself about all these korbonis as the first one we studied back in Sefer Shmois seems to be the forerunner of the first ever family style BBQ. The very first obligatory korban recorded in the Toirah, the Korban Peysach was mamish in its entirety, a family meal. No altar and no Temple service involved, just fun and food- picture the Labor Day BBQ. Since when is BBQ dinner considered a korban? Ver veyst (I have no clue).
Another excellent Kasha might be: Why were portions of so many of the later korbanois (next week’s parsha) designated as food and eaten by the offerer and others? Shouldn’t each korban have been a true offering to the RBSO, consumed entirely in flames upon the altar? Does the bringing of a Korban to forgive some terrible sin entail a food festival? Hey, I committed adultery – let’s eat! Ver veyst?
Raboyseyettes: Don’t for a second think that you were left out of all this fun with animals. I have mamish gevalidige news for you: you too may bring certain Korbonis, an example follows. The veyber may bring a Korban Chatos and Ashamois Chatos (sin) and ashamois (guilt) offerings in atonement for transgressions and unintentional errors. And specific examples of such giferliche avayrois included: not taking care of your husbands regularly, feigning a headaches, fakery, if you chap what I’m saying, not taking care of him at all, not wearing sexy clothing to the bedroom, and myriad other such examples. There are of course others and we’ll cover them in the weeks to come.
Seemingly when it came time for donations or fund raising, women weren’t excluded from much; who says the toirah is sexist?
A gitten shabbis-
The Oisvorfer Ruv