Parashas Vayikra

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Learning Self-Esteem from the Kohanim

Taste of Talmud

“Cattle, sheep, goats, turtledoves, and doves are the only species from which offerings may be brought in the Bais Hamikdash.”  There are only four different types of korbanos (offerings): Burnt, Sin, Guilt, and Peace (Rambam, Laws of Korbanos, 1:1-2). In the fifth chapter of Tractate Zevachim, all the laws pertaining to the various different types of offerings are detailed.  For example, peace offerings may be slaughtered anywhere within the inner courtyard of the Bais Hamikdash, while both sin and burnt offerings must be slaughtered in the northern side of that courtyard.  Whereas sin offerings must have their blood poured on all four corners of the Mizbayach (altar), the blood of burned offerings is only poured on two corners of the Mizbayach.  The meat of a peace offering may be eaten by any Jew in the entire city of Yerushalayim, but that of a sin offering is only eaten by Kohanim in the inner courtyard.  A sharp knife without any nicks in it must be used for slaughtering sheep, goats, and cows.  However, bird offerings must be slaughtered in a unique way, with the long thumb-nail of the Kohain! A flour offering brought for a sin does not have oil and frankincense but one brought for thanksgiving does. Only in reference to the most inexpensive of all offerings, the flour offering, does the Torah give the nickname, “Nefesh” (soul) to the one bringing the offering.   From here we learn an important lesson.  If you give the best that you can, it does not matter how big or small your offering is, it is beloved to G-d as if you offered your soul to Him.

Taste of Halacha

If a Kohain has an incorrect thought during any one of the four main actions of the offering, it becomes invalid. These include: 1) The Slaughtering, 2) The Catching of the blood in a pitcher,        3) The carrying of the blood to the Altar, 4) The pouring of the blood on the Altar.  There are three types of incorrect thought which invalidate an offering.  The first is if the Kohain thinks that he is performing the said act on one type of offering but in truth it is another type.  The second is if the Kohain thinks he will be able to eat this offering in a place where he may not.  The third is if the Kohain thinks that he will be able to eat the meat of the offering after the time in which it is permissible. The Rambam, in the laws of Pesulei Hamukdashim 8:14, notes: If a Kohain would eat from an offering which he thought he would be able to eat from for a longer period of time then is actually allowed,  he incurs the penalty of Kares (excision).

Taste of Parasha

WHY? Why are there so many details to the Korbanos and what difference does it make if I use this animal or that animal? If I take care of it a little to the right or to the left, if I think about something else while I am taking care of it, or if I pour its blood two times or four times?  Can it be that such minute actions could really make a difference in one way or another?  In his commentary to this week’s Parasha, Rav Yerucham Levovitz Zt”l, lays out a major principle of Jewish thought: “The entire Torah, with all of its stories and laws, is founded on the principal of “Gadlus Ho’odom” (the greatness of man).  We have the power to create or destroy. With the simplest of actions, thoughts, or words we affect the entire universe. He notes: It is already common knowledge that in the physical world the smallest particle of matter has in it atomic power. From the parashiyos of the korbanos, we become trained to be aware of and in tune with our own greatness, with which G-d has empowered us.  Whether we want to atone for a sin, give thanks, or just reach towards a loftier and more meaningful connection to    G-d, we may do so through the medium of the korbanos.  Through focusing on the details of the korbanos, we can begin to realize that each of us has great self worth and each person’s actions, words, and thoughts make a difference.  The greatness that G-d has implanted within each of us becomes clearer as we understand this parasha.

About tasteofyeshiva

RABBI YAIR FRIEDMAN teaches in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in YES and is the president of Visionary Reading. He was a Rebbi at The Torah School of Greater Washington, and a founding member of the Greater Washington Community Kollel he is the director of Yeshiva L' Baalei Batim and the owner of Camp Gevaldig LLC.
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