THE PURPOSE of the Egyptian Exodus is realized – the Divine Presence has
taken up residence in the midst of the Children of Israel.
THE DETAILED DESCRIPTION of the Mishkan in Shemot included very
little about sacrifices. Before
discussing this topic, the Torah begins an entirely new book, Vayikra.
Perhaps because the primary goal of the Mishkan is for Hashem to
dwell among the people, sacrifices almost seem secondary to this purpose.
FIRST CATEGORY of offerings discussed are those brought voluntarily, as the
result of a vow:
to the Children of Israel and say to them:
When any man of you bring an offering to Hashem, from animals
– of the cattle, of the herd, and of the flock shall you offer your
sacrifice (Vayikra 1:2).
ORDER OF THE WORDS KORBAN LA-HASHEM – an offering to Hashem – which
places the Name of G-d second, is noteworthy, and gives rise to the following
analysis in the Talmud (Nedarim 10a-b):
It has been taught: R. Shimon says: What is [the source for the notion] that a person should not say “To Hashem a burnt-offering”; “To Hashem a meal-offering”; “To Hashem a thanksgiving-offering”; or “To Hashem a peace-offering”? The verse teaches: “An offering to Hashem.”
FIRST, THIS SEEMS to be a decree without reason:
when uttering a vow that obligates one to bring an offering, one should
place the name of Hashem second – even though that is counter-intuitive –
simply because it is the model given by the verse. But then the Talmud extrapolates:
THE MORE SO: if it is true of
this one, who intended only to utter the name of Heaven for an offering, that
the Torah says “An offering to Hashem”, then it is certainly so of
one who [utters the Name] in vain.
THIS IT SEEMS that placing the Name first would be disrespectful, one
step short of uttering the Name in vain!
But why? The reason
appears earlier in the discussion:
HE WILL SAY “To Hashem” and not say “an offering,” and he will have
uttered the Name of Heaven in vain – which would violate an application of
the prohibition: You shall not take the name of Hashem your G-d in vain
(Shemot 20:7). In other words, it is R. Shimon’s contention that one who
vows should follow the example of the verse, so as to avoid uttering
Hashem’s Name unnecessarily by not completing the vow.
IS STILL DIFFICULT. Why is the
Torah concerned that, between uttering the name of Hashem and the word KORBAN
a person might not complete his statement?
What will stop him?
Baruch ben Yechiel Michel HaLevi Epstein 1860-1942) writes that there are
two theories to explain this concern:
1.The Commentary to Nedarim (although the column heading in the
Talmud says Rashi, it
is known that Rashi did not write it; thus, it is usually called HaMefaresh,
the Commentary) states: Perhaps,
after saying “Hashem,” he will change his mind and decide not to vow.
2.Says the SHeLaH (Shenei Luchot HaBrit, written by R.
Isaiah ben Avraham HaLevi, c. 1565-1630): Perhaps he will die before he is
able to say “an offering.”
FIRST GLANCE, what the SHeLaH says is difficult to accept.
Why should we fear that a person will die suddenly before he can
complete his intentions? If this
were so, the repercussions would be far-reaching: for example, before
performing many mitzvot,
we first say a bracha, a blessing (Megillah 21b). If we were
truly concerned that a person might die unexpectedly, we should then require
that the bracha be said after the fulfillment of the
commandment! Instead, the general
principle is that the possibility of unanticipated death is so remote that the
does not take it into consideration (Yoma 2a, 13a; Yevamot 26a).
So, why should we worry in the case of a vow to bring a sacrifice?
THE OTHER HAND, the SHeLaH has a strong point, against that of the Mefaresh.
The halacha requires one to make a blessing before a mitzvah,
and it does not seem to be concerned that the person will change his mind and
decide to ignore the mitzvah, even though the obligation is imposed
from without. In the case
of the person who has decided, of his own volition, to offer a sacrifice, the
motivation comes from within. That
decision must have preceded his utterance; he is motivated by an inner
yearning to draw nearer to Hashem. So,
there is no cause to be worried that such a person will abruptly change his
mind between “To Hashem” and “an offering.”
Therefore, concludes the SHeLaH, the only reason for the Torah’s
insistence that he say, “An offering to Hashem” must be the
possibility, albeit remote, of sudden death, the one factor not in his
LOGICALLY the SHeLaH is right, the Mefaresh is based upon a keener
understanding of human nature. A
person may be stirred by a sincere desire to attach himself to Hashem, but
when required to translate this ideal into action, he may hesitate, and the
Name of Heaven will have been uttered in vain.
Therefore, the Torah recommends that one confirm his commitment to deed
first, and then invoke the Divine Name.
A RABBI APPROACHED a wealthy man for a donation to charity, and the man
responded with a long discourse from the Talmud on the importance of tzedakah.
“And how much will you give?” the rabbi asked.
. . .”
cannot feed the poor with divrei Torah!” said the rabbi.
MANY WORTHY CAUSES have been abandoned, not for want of sympathy, but for lack
of action. The Torah way is to
convert ideals into deeds, and then sanctify them.