Raboyseyee and Ladies,
In very late breaking news………………a big mazel tov shoutout to our good friends and next-door neighbors Terri and Andrew Herenstein upon the birth of a baby girl born to their children Tali and Noah Kolatch. May your new arrival bring much joy to the entire family and may her name be a blessing to those for whom she was named. Welcome to the world Selah Emanuelle / סלה דני (Selah Dani) Kolatch. Mazel tov to the very happy and excited parents, to Noah’s parents Mindy and Jonathan and mazel tov to the entire extended family of uncles, aunts, and cousins.
Yesterday, the heylige Ois -accompanied by the eishes chayil of course- had the pleasure of attending not one, but two different bris ceremonies at two different shuls; let’s shout them out.
A big mazel tov to friends Michelle and David Seelenfreund, upon the arrival last week and bris yesterday of a new grandson born to their children Daniella and Alex Abraham. Welcome to the world אבי ישע/ Abie Jack Abraham. May you be a source of continuous nachas to your parents and grandparents on both sides and to the rest of your family. Mazel tov to grandparents Sam and Osnat Abraham and a special mazel tov to great grandparents Diane Golub, Bill Golub, and to great grandmother Miriam Seelenfreund whom we had the pleasure of meeting in Panama a few weeks back. May your new son, grandson and great grandson keep you all young and busy.
From there, we joined Merav and Elliot Acoca for the bris of Merav’s first grandson born to Joycee and David Baruch. As well, we got to hear David thank the RBSO, his family, and many others. Welcome to the world Avraham Yisrael Baruch, and may you grow up to love Torah as much as your mother and father. May you also be a source of pride and joy to your grandparents Razy & Dr Howie Baruch. A special mazel tov shout out to first time great grandparents Dr. & Mrs. Arthur and Adina Gerber and to great grandfather, Mr. Moishe Baruch who -back in the 1970’s and among other ventures-also owned and operated the famous Café Yafo where singles hung out every Thursday night for great food, entertainment, and to see and be seen. Great memories Moishe.
Eat What You Kill:
Over the past 13 years, many have asked what the heylige Ois will write about when we get to Sefer Vayikro. Given the choice between the fantastic narratives found in Bereishis and Shmois, few if any are excited for what’s head in Vayikro. Lovers of exciting storylines about our forefathers and their somewhat dysfunctional families, are in for something of a letdown as we enter Vayikro. Ober, it’s part of the heylige Toirah and some time back, our sages decided that the Toirah must be read in its entirety each and every year. That includes Vayikro and here we go.
Why is Vayikro -at least the first few parshas- a shtikel boring? Because the redemption has passed: there will be no more miraculous havoc-wreaking plagues -at least not on the Egyptians- or sea-splitting. The Luchos (Tablets) have been given -two full sets; the eygel (golden calf) has been wrought and unwrought; and the Mishkan has been planned, designed, and built. The fun is over, and now it’s time to talk about korbonis (as in mostly animals being sacrificed), the particulars of each korban, when and why they were offered, the ceremonies that accompanied each, and the sacred duties assigned to the kohanim.
Aside from a few brief interludes, Vayikro -at least at first glance or maybe the first few parshas- seems to be a long list of injunctions relating to priestly service and ritual purity. Are you a kohain? How many kohanim are there when compared to regular ‘yisroeylim’ (Israelites)? Not many! Where did kohamim come from? Is Vayikra—both the parsha and the sefer—anyone’s favorite?
Let’s begin here. The heylige Toirah tells us that Yaakov had twelve sons. Each -despite shortcomings -some more than others- was the founder of one of the twelve tribes of Israel. Together, they were the holy shvotim. Each tribe had a separate territory, with the exception of those from Sheyvet Levi. They were landless. Ober, weren’t they deserving? Perhaps more than the others? Shortly after Matan Toirah (Revelation), when the newly married and freshly minted Yiddin cheated on the RBSO by making and worshipping the eygel (Golden Calf), only the Levites refused to participate in the festivities. As a result -and efsher reward- they were appointed to be servants of the RBSO. Who needs land when one is working directly for the RBSO? Of the members of this tribe, which included Aharoin and Moishe, those who were descended from Aharoin, became the kohanim. Aharoin was the first koihen, and also the first high priest. Those coming from Moishe’s loins and those to follow became the Liviyim (Levites). And ever since, most Jews have identified as either Levites (levi’im), kohanim, or stam azoy regular Yiddin. In today’s times, the identification choices are of course much broader; that topic for another day.
How does one taka know what he is? Throughout the centuries, and ad hayoim hazeh (until today), Yiddin identify themselves as descendants simply because their fathers were kohanim or levi’im. According to less than reliable sources on the heylige internet – which as an aside played a seemingly significant role in hastening the demise of a few banks in the last two weeks, and at least one that catered to many Yiddin -approximately 8% of all Yiddin are either kohanim or leviyim, with each group coming in at 4%. Is that emes? Ver veyst? Can such claims be proven? Ver veyst, and all that for another time, but what you need to know for now is this: the first few parshas of Sefer Vayikra are kimat all about the duties of the kohanim while performing during the temple service.
Just last shabbis, as we closed out Parshas Pikudai, we read that the Mishkan Project was complete, it was open for business. The Mishkan included altars in designated areas where korbonis could be offered. This week, we get to hear who operated the business. Who was in charge? And the answer is that the korbonis gisheft (the franchise) was awarded to the kohanim – the priests. Why? So the RBSO declared; who are we to question? Who needs land when the RBSO hands you -and only you, as in those from Sheyvet Levi- a ready to go business with instant cashflow? In the business velt (world), the phrase “eat what you kill” is more than well known. In certain business models, those employed don’t get a salary; instead, they eat what they kill. The bottom line: Only the priest could accept an offeror’s sacrificial animal, bird or money, and only through them could one seek either closeness to the RBSO or atonement. Business for the kohanim was good from the get-go; there were enough people who wanted to get closer to the RBSO through bringing an offering, and of course, there was always an abundance of sinners -enough to keep the doors open day and night even without social media. The kohanim would offer korbonos every day during the evening, morning, and afternoon services. Additionally, they would offer korbonos on holidays and whenever someone else (who wasn’t a kohen) would want help making a sacrifice of their own. Pay the kohen and get right in.
The bottom line: When the great Temples of Yerushalayim were operational, the Kohanim served as its priests and keepers. They had a variety of sacred duties including lighting the menoirah, offering incenses, and leading sacrifices. They wore special clothing and had to follow strict rules meant to keep themselves pure. They also handled much of the administrative, logistical, and legal aspects of activities relating to worship. Following the destruction, the role of the Kohanim as leaders in the faith diminished and rabbis become the main Jewish spiritual and community guides. And while today’s rabbis cannot accept your animal, they can still accept cash and even checks. Shoin. Let’s chazir (review): Yiddin brought offerings of animals, grain, or money to the kohanim, and the kohanim in turn offered them as sacrifices to the RBSO. Sacrifices were the medium to connect ancient Jews with the RBSO. People gave up their prized possessions as a symbol of their dedication to Him, and this became the most important part of Jewish worship. Shoin, let’s talk about korbonis.
There were three basic kinds offered. Animals, grain, and money. Animals would be killed, grain would be burned, and money would be donated. When a person didn’t have an animal to sacrifice, he could offer grain or money instead. How giving money to the Koihen brought about atonement, ver veyst? Money seems to have unusual powers. And with that gevaldige introduction, welcome to Sefer and Parshas Vayikra, where it’s time to once again learn all about sacrifices. Why, ver veyst? Must we learn (yet again) about korbonis and the roughly 240 mitzvis associated with them, when they are no longer relevant in our times? Ver veyst? And why aren’t they relevant? Because korbonis, originally introduced upon the completion of the Mishkan project (which we spent five weeks discussing), and then later, a hallmark of both Batei Mikdash (1st and 2nd Temples), disappeared following the destruction of the Second Temple. We are taught that the Second Temple was destroyed due to excessive ‘sinas chinam’ (petty jealousy among the people). Whatever the reason or reasons for the cessation of sacrifices, the untishter-shira (bottom line) is azoy: bazman hazeh (in our times), we do not offer animal sacrifices as a means of making amends with the RBSO and others whom we have aggrieved. The RBSO gave us Yom Kippur and mouths we can use to say we are sorry to others. Perhaps they will make a comeback when the Moshiach arrives. Or, maybe not. Do any of you hear rumblings about the Moshiach arriving any time soon? Then again, the world has become mishugah in gantzin (totally crazy) and his appearance would be timely.
On the other hand, have the Yiddin cut out -or even back- on their loshoin horo or sinas chinam? Ha! Have they properly observed two consecutive shabbosim without desecrating the RBSO’s designated holy day of rest? A nechtiger tug (not)! Even one? Also not! Just last week, the heylige Ois quoted the heylige Gemora and myriad medroshim, which teach us that were the Yiddin to not desecrate the heylige shabbis for two consecutive weeks, Moshiach would make an instant appearance. And he would stay. Shoin!
The good news: Not all of Sefer Vayikro concerns itself with animals sacrifices. Grada we will meet and say good bye to a few colorful characters including the wood gatherer, the blasphemer and others that enraged the RBSO. Stay tuned! Alas, we will have to wait a few weeks and muddle our way through the first few weeks of Vayikra which will in painstaking detail describe every detail of every korban. The bottom line: It epes appears that the RBSO gave us korbonis for several reasons. Which one? Ver veyst and depends avada on whose pshat talks to you.
Ober, with the Beis Hamikdash gone -both of them- and no sanctioned replacement, where does one go to get closer to the RBSO, or to seek atonement? How taka do we, bazman hazeh (in our times), make amends with those whom we have hurt? With the RBSO? Back when the Yiddin were in the desert where they would sojourn forty years, and just after they violated one of the Commandments – the very one that angers the RBSO most- by building and partying with the eygel hazohov (golden calf), the RBSO ordered and allowed them to build the Mishkan. Korbonos (sacrifices) were introduced; sinners had a way of making amends with the RBSO and with others whom they had aggrieved by bringing one or more of the animals designated as potential korbonos. The korban allowed one to atone for a healthy number of sins.
Various types of korbonis are prominently featured in this week’s parsha. A few others will appear next week. The bottom line: humans sinned, and poor unsuspecting animals were slaughtered. Not a bad deal; the RBSO is great. Alas, that Mishkan and other temples which followed, are long gone. And by long, we’re talking some 2000 years back. Korbonos too are gone. A gittin Shabbis!
Shoin, if only it were that easy. If only we were ordered to cut out the reading and studying regimens for mitzvis that are no longer relevant. It’s not! As we begin Vayikro, we are overwhelmed by the intricate detail with which the heylige Toirah describes the procedure of bringing korbonis. As a result, we typically tune out, daydream, wish we had sinned so that we could bring a korban, fall asleep, talk during laining, read handouts, 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 kohanim are bored stiff. Korbonos are long gone and as we said earlier, their comeback is questionable.
Why taka do we need to learn all about korbonis? Ver veyst? Ober the emes is that korbonis mamish follow where Sefer Shmois left off. For the greater part of that Sefer, Moishe was exhorting Paroy to let the Yiddin leave his country. Moishe kept hammering away the RBSO’s message: “Release My people and they will serve Me.” Shoin, finally they were free and we’re about to find out that ‘serve Me’ meant through korbonis, animal sacrifices in the desert and later in the Beis Hamikdash.
And why do we bring korbonis in the first place? Nu, a unified answer is hard to come by, ober here is what a few had to say. Said the RambaN (Vayikra 1:9) quoting the RambaM in Moireh Nevuchim azoy: the RBSO gave us korbonis because animal sacrifice was necessary for the Yiddin! It was? Seemingly, they needed a physical method of worship, having been a part of the pagan culture in Mitzrayim and other such places along the way. In other words: the Yiddin of previous generations, with the exception of a few good men and zicher also women, were pagan worshippers, say it’s not so but seemingly was. Oy vey! And to battle and rectify such attachment to avoido zoro (idol worship), the Yiddin were now directed and commanded to do a similar action. Going forward, these rituals would be for a sacred purpose.
Let’s read that one more time, maybe we can chap why the Yiddin were chosen. Sacrifices were seemingly only implemented in order to imitate the foreign style of worship the Yiddin had become accustomed to while enslaved. Korbonis then were instituted in a familiar manner. Says the RambaM (Moireh Nevuchim 3:46) azoy: Since animal sacrifices are no longer a feature of daily religious worship in most of the world, it is conceivable to suggest that the RBSO will do away with korbonos when the Moshiach arrives. OMG!
Nu, you can only imagine how well that went over with the kohanim who saw this as a threat to their entire future business opportunity in the messianic age. In fact, many Kohanim feel that they are preparing for the arrival of Moshiach by learning the halochos (laws) of the avoidah (temple service) in the Beis Hamikdash so that they will be ready for resumption of their priestly duties in the Third Temple. Of-course nobody is sure whether sacrifices will resume. Will animal sacrifice be featured in messianic times? All the sacrifices taught in our parsha? Some? Or none at all? Others, including the RambaN (Vayikra 1:9) weren’t too happy either and disagree with the RambaM’s hypothesis vehemently. Says he, korbonis can atone for our sins.
The first korban to be mentioned is the korban oiloh. It was seemingly designated for those who had sinful thoughts. Let’s get real: who among us doesn’t or hasn’t? Moreover, it’s how we are programed. Who programmed us? The RBSO! In fact, most of us have such thoughts daily. As teenagers, hourly, if you chap. And taka says the medrish (Vayikra Rabba 7:3): the korban oiloh is brought to atone for -among other things- sinful thoughts. Bad thoughts that went without follow up action. Ober, are sinful thoughts all that giferlich? Isn’t that what the yetzer horo’s job is? Isn’t that his tafkid (mandate)? And aren’t we rewarded for overcoming sinful thoughts? Why would one need to bring a sacrifice for sinful thoughts? And if that’s taka the case, one can easily chap how the oiloh and the korban chatos (also introduced in our parsha), the one for the real sinners, were the two most popular of all. Moreover, how are we to reconcile that medrish with the heylige Gemora which says quite the opposite, ver veyst? And taka says the heylige Gemora (Kiddushin 40a) azoy: “machashovo-ro’oh-ein hakodosh- Baruch-Hu-metzarf- al- a’mayseh –the RBSO does not deem the sinful thought an action.” That was a mouthful and what a relief! And good! In fact, givaldige news for most of you; the RBSO only punishes sinful acts, but not sinful thoughts that do not result in a sinful act (the only exception being the sin of avoida zoro; He abhors that). Ober still we ask, why would a thought require a korban, and if it does, wouldn’t most people go bankrupt bringing the korban oilohs daily? The bottom line: who says everything has to be reconciled? Is your checkbook reconciled? Do you reconcile your good deeds against your very bad ones? Certainly we hope that the RBSO understands human frailty; He did, after all, create us with a yetzer horo who does his job well. And as long as we don’t act upon our sinful thoughts the RBSO will typically not hold us accountable. Moreover, if sinful thoughts remain but those, whom have we hurt except ourselves? As well, sinful thoughts can enhance our pleasure, if you chap, and help us get by, especially when not chapping. Isn’t it in fact emes that many of you are having sinful thoughts even as you are performing certain mitzvis? No need to answer.
Ober does everyone agree? Not! It so happens that the Marsho and the Meiri argue over this very topic. Is a person held accountable for sinful thoughts he did not carry out because he was prevented from doing so. In other words: what happened if you had sinful thoughts, were in fact eager to carry them out, but somehow, something got in your way and you couldn’t execute the plan? What’s pshat? Nu, let’s say you ogled your chaver’s eishes chayil, you mamish wanted to do giferliche things with and to her. Ober she said no! Or a better example: you were prevented from acting out because of circumstances beyond your control. Let’s say you got pulled over on your way, or had a flat tire, if you chap. Taka nothing happened, ober are you held accountable for the bad thoughts? Are sinful but non-actionable thoughts, not executed because of circumstances beyond your control, still only thoughts? Or, are they considered actions and would require greater levels of atonement, if at all even possible? Ver veyst?
Ober raboyseyee, seemingly, your sinful thoughts contain the seed for sinful actions. Nu, it’s still better than discharging your seed with those thoughts, if you chap. And such sinful seeded thoughts could avada lead to sinful acts that include real seed, if you chap. What to do? We can now understand why a person who has sinful thoughts, while not facing divine punishment, must still bring a korban oiloh. The idea is that by going through the exertion and expense of bringing a korban, the sinner will focus on the great upheaval caused by his sinful thoughts. He will feel regret for the sinful thought and commit to elevate his thoughts in the future. That is, the actions affect his attitude towards his thoughts – i.e., sinful thought is not something to be lightly dismissed. Seemingly the korban oiloh is meant to compel the sinner to engage in a time-consuming and complex procedure that will reinforce within him the evil nature of his act and thereby hopefully cause him to refrain from repeating it in the future.
Does this work? Vey veyst? In real life, people have sinful thoughts kimat every hour of every day. And maybe it’s taka the case that with the coming of the Moshiach, the yezter-hora will be kaput, over and done. And so will the need for the korban oiloh and certain others. And now you know.
A gittin Shabbis!
The Heylige Oisvorfer Ruv