Torah Insights for Shabbat
Shabbat Parashat HaChodesh
March 28, 1998
Rosh Chodesh Nisan 5758
There is a famous dispute between the Ramban and the Rambam as to the meaning behind all the different animal sacrifices described in Parshas Vayikra. The Rambam in his Moreh Nevuchim posits that the sacrifices described in the Torah have as their forerunner the general sentiments of the time to bring sacrificial offerings, and Hashem elevated those sentiments through the mitzvos of the sacrifices.
The Ramban strongly disagrees. No mitzvah is a reaction to a generally accepted, standardized form of worship. He emphasizes the necessity to accept Hashems mitzvos as originative and not a product of or a concession to human frailty.Perhaps one can understand the Rambams view as underscoring the importance of sacrifices in human terms. For a sacrifice to be meaningful, one must give of himself that which is important. Thus, Cains jealousy of Abel in the book of Bereishis, was a result of Abels ability to give everything he had to Hashem through the medium of a sacrificial offering. Cain could not bring himself to do the same.
The Rambam reminds us that through an offering--korban in Hebrew, from the root karov, near--we achieve closeness to Hashem. Recognizing that everything belongs to Hashem tells us that we must give over, we must sacrifice, that which is meaningful rather than that which is insignificant.
For the same reason, prior to the Exodus, the Jews were commanded to bring as a sacrifice the Egyptian god, a lamb, to teach them that everything belongs to Hashem.Parshas Hachodesh represents these ideals as well. As the first mitzvah given collectively to the Bnei Yisroel, declaring the new month gives us the opportunity to participate in G-ds renewal of the world and brings us to an awareness of His majesty and greatness. No other mitzvah better brings to the fore the realization that Hashem is involved in our lives every day. Especially on the eve of Pesach, therefore, we need to rededicate our efforts to be part of G-ds world.
We live in a society too riddled with divisiveness and pettiness. We recall through our daily prayers, themselves a commeration of the korbanot of old, the importance of Hashems world and we remember the Exodus from Egypt.
We must not allow ourselves to be wrapped in our own obsessions and instead appreciate the potential each of us has to become close to Hashem.
Rabbi Alan M. Abramson
Rabbi Abramson is rabbi of Congregation Anshei Motele in Chicago, Illinois
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