In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. Prov.3;6 ב”ה
Vayikra- Coming Close with Willing Regret 5777
What a blessing, baruch Hashem! We have come to the Lev’Ha Torah, the Heart of the Torah- the book of Leviticus, sefer Vayikra. It is known as the book of Priests, and if we are meant to be a nation of Priests this sefer will hold for us treasure. Perhaps within Christian circles the most glossed over, deemed as irrelevant book, sefer Vayikra is the book which Jewish children begin their study of the bible in. They will get a sense of structure, order, design, law, the idea that there is a standard set by God and this standard is relevant and important for their lives. Children are void of the cynicism of preconceived notions, therefore while they may have many questions regarding this content they will not come to it already having categorized anything as inconsequential to them. We should KNOW by now that nothing in this sacred Book of the Torah is without consequence and even application to our modern and daily lives. Even the sacrificial system? Let us approach Vayikra- He called, truly as a calling to us as individuals and as a community. Let us DRAW NEAR with the lev- heart of children.
“Let pure souls come to study the laws dealing with purity.” For a cynical, sophisticated age that feels entitled to call anything and everything into question, the Torah code of sacrifices and purification may appear ancient, primitive, complicated and irrelevant. But if we are willing to explore the Torah with the fresh eyes of children, ready to take the word of G-d on trust, with faith and belief, we can discover that the sacrificial system contains the keys to repentance and the healing of the soul and the entire world.” Rabbi Greenbaum
Sh’mot 36;3They received from Moses all the contributions הַתְּרוּמָה [t’rumah] which the sons of Israel had brought to perform the work לִמְלֶאכֶת [m’lachah]in the construction עֲבֹדַת [avodah]of the sanctuary הַקֹּדֶשׁ [kodesh]. And they still continued bringing to him freewill נְדָבָה [n’davah]offerings every morning. 4And all the skillful men who were performing all the work of the sanctuary came, each from the work which he was performing, 5and they said to Moses, “The people are bringing much more than enough for the construction work which the LORD commanded us to perform.” 6So Moses issued a command, and a proclamation was circulated throughout the camp, saying, “Let no man or woman any longer perform work for the contributions of the sanctuary.” Thus the people were restrained from bringing any more. 7For the material they had was sufficient and more than enough for all the work, to perform it.
# 5068 (v) nadav נָדַב – to impel oneself, to show oneself willing, to offer oneself freely, to give spontaneously, willingly.
Sh’mot 25;2 Speak unto the children of Israel, that they bring me an offering: of every man that giveth it willingly with his heart ye shall take my offering.
# 5071 (fem.n) n’davah נְדָבָה – freewill, readiness of mind, freely with a willing mind, a spontaneous offering, a freewill sacrifice, largeness, abundance.
Remember what we have learned thus far from our studies in Sh’mot about the Mishkan. This is a place where Hashem designed for His covenant people to draw near to Him. It is a place for worship, to repent, to celebrate, to find reconciliation. From start to finish the IDEA to the ACTUALIZATION of the Mishkan’s journey we saw clearly the heart centered spirit motivated constitution of it’s constructors, and ALL those involved. While The House was a place where Hashem’s glory cloud would be visible and evident remember that He said He would dwell within the people. We are the Mishkan. Therefore every service in the Physical ‘place’ will somehow find it’s counterpart in our spiritual lives as well. Remember: Who was the Mishkan ‘for’? It was for God’s people and all those longing to “know” Him. So too for the offerings. The construction of the place had everything to do with the heart and the spirit, so too for what would take place “inside”. Just as the articles and materials were lifted up from the heart, freely…without compulsion, thus would the offerings be. In some sense all the offerings were meant to be freely given from the heart. Whether for worship, feast, sin, guilt, thanksgiving, there are so many things to explore. Indeed it would be a true privation to gloss over these texts. In English there may be one word- sacrifice, while in the Hebrew there are upwards of 5. What about the word ‘sin’? For the one in English there are at least three in Hebrew all with different connotations. Furthermore, if at the Center of our faith is our Savior (Yeshua-whose name means Salvation) one might ask where first were we given the concept of WHAT we ‘needed’ to be saved from? I believe it is right here in Vayikra.
Vayikra 1;1Then the LORD called to Moses and spoke to him from the tent of meeting, saying, 2“Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘When any man of you brings an offering to the LORD
יַקְרִ֥יב מִכֶּ֛ם קָרְבָּ֖ן לַֽיהוָ֑ה מִן, you shall bring תַּקְרִ֖יבוּ your offering of animals from the herd or the flock. 3‘If his offering קָרְבָּנוֹ֙ is a burnt offering from the herd, he shall offer it יַקְרִיבֶ֑נּוּ, a male without defect; he shall offer it יַקְרִ֣יב at the doorway of the tent of meeting, that he may be accepted לִרְצֹנֹו before the LORD.
- #7126 (v) קָרַב karav – to come near; to admit, to recieve, to be very near, to cause to approach, to bring near, to offer, to draw near.
- Sh’mot 28;1 And take thou unto thee Aaron thy brother, and his sons with him, from among the children of Israel, that he may minister unto me in the priest’s office, even Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar, Aaron’s sons.
- #7133 ( masc. n) קָרְבָן karban – ‘offering’.
קָרְבָן [korban- offering] It is truly regrettable that we have no word [ in Western languages] that would adequately convey the concept inherent in the Hebrew term קָרְבָן. Unfortunately the German term Opfer which, in fact, as seen from its Latin source, offero, simply means ‘offering’, has come to imply that he who makes the ‘sacrifice’ is giving up something and destroying it to his or her own detriment. But this notion is altogether foreign and indeed totally contrary to the character and the connotation of the Hebrew term קָרְבָן [korban]. Not even the concept inherent in the term “offering” adequately conveys the significance of קָרְבָן [korban]. For the concept of “offering” or “presenting”implies that the one to whom the gift is being “presented” has a desire, a wish or a need to be gratified by the gift. The concept implicit in קָרְבָן [korban] has no relevance whatsoever to such notions. Scripture never employs the term קָרְבָן [korban] to denote a “present” or “gift”. Indeed, Scripture uses it exclusively with reference to man’s relationship with God, and it can be understood only in the connotation implicit in its root קָרַב [karav]. For קָרַב [karav] means “to approach”. – Hirsh (Pentateuch)
- # 7521 (v) רָצָה ratsah- to be graciously accepted, to make oneself pleasing, to obtain anyone’s favor.
1Ch 29:17 I know also, my God, that thou triest the heart, and hast pleasure in uprightness. As for me, in the uprightness of mine heart I have willingly offered all these things: and now have I seen with joy thy people, which are present here, to offer willingly unto thee.
- # 7522 (masc.n) רָצוֹן ratson- delight, satisfaction, will, pleasure, goodwill, favor, benefits.
Sh’mot 28:38 And it shall be upon Aaron’s forehead, that Aaron may bear the iniquity of the holy things, which the children of Israel shall hallow in all their holy gifts; and it shall be always upon his forehead, that they may be accepted לְרָצֹון before the LORD.
This is indeed the goal of anyone drawing near to Hashem. We’d love to believe that we are accepted by Him. The problem is that as humans we tend to disbelieve. Once we have sinned and become “dirty” its often easier to have the attitude, ‘well I am already dirty, what difference does it make now’. It is easy to feel hopeless, defeated by sin, and unworthy of Hashem’s love and affection. We will have the entire book of Vayikra to learn about the differen’t offerings and their purposes, to speak about clean and unclean but I believe it would do us good to start with the essential concepts of “sin” first. Please always bear in mind that the WIDE majority of the offerings brought in the Mishkan and Holy Temple were THANKS GIVING, OLAH- WORSHIP, and FEAST- PEACE Korbanot. I also want you practice using this term instead of “offering” or “sacrifice”. This will distill the concept of KARAV- drawing close into your heart and understanding of what Temple Service is all about.
The most dramatic aspect, the spilling of the blood, is intended to serve as a symbolic reminder that the man who has sinned has, in a sense, forfeited his own life. It is the grace of God which will allow this person to achieve forgiveness. In this approach, it is not God who “needs” the offering, but man who needs to be rehabilitated. The blood of the animal which is sprinkled serves as a vivid reminder of man’s vulnerability. This “near death” experience is meant to be an impetus for spiritual growth, calling on man to sacrifice the animal within himself which allowed him to sin in the first place.In this view, the korban is a powerful cathartic experience which takes into consideration the psychological makeup of man.
The importance of the korban lies in the rehabilitation of man which is its intended result.
Judaism is a religion which sees value in the life of an animal. Animal sacrifice is not an expression of disregard for animals. Rather, it is a statement of the importance of human life: If the price to be paid for the rehabilitation of a person is the life of an animal, then it is not a high price. The key is in man’s rehabilitation, in his finding the image of God within him. Rabbi Ari Kahn – on Vayikra
The society, culture, the world tells us: “Be proud of who you are”, “No regrets!” Regret has a sad connotation. One might ask, if I trust in God being in control of everything, everything happening for a reason of what value is regret? IF one is SO very sure of himself without regret…there would be no sacrifice. If everything is always good, with nothing dark or bad at all- then there is no ‘punishment’ but also…no reward. If YOU are all good, there will be no korban brought. You will feel no need to improve the relationship or yourself. What is regretting? Regretting is saying, “This is not really the REAL ME.” I did something wrong, but that wrong was not what is in my heart. I did wrong, I still need to come close and repent, but my regret means I remove myself from what once defined me as ‘sinner’. I did this. It was wrong. I regret because THAT was not the real me. What I did, is not who I am! Korbanot help me find out WHO I REALLY AM: “ I really didn’t want to sin!” What a beautiful thing. So why is regret construed as being so negative? When someone approaches us and points out a WRONG in our lives, instead of thinking “I wish he wasn’t telling me this!” Consider, how thankful I should really be that a wrong that I can attempt to remove (to become better) is being brought to my attention. Really, when someone seem’s critical, instead of being angry or defensive- perhaps I should be jumping for joy! ‘Now I have what to fix.’ Now I know what really needs to “die” in my life. Paul explains how the Torah as the revealer of sin allowed for him to die to himself. That is was in fact a sacred and good thing!
Romans 7; 7 What then shall we say? Is the Torah sin? By no means! Indeed, I would not have been mindful of sin if not for the Torah. For I would not have been aware of coveting if the Torah had not said, “Do not covet.” 8 But sin, seizing its opportunity through the commandment, produced in me every kind of covetous desire. For apart from the Torah, sin is dead. 9 Once I was alive apart from the Torah; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died. 10 So I discovered that the very commandment that was meant to bring life actually brought death. 11For sin, seizing its opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through the commandment put me to death.12 So then, the Torah is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous, and good. 13Did that which is good, then, become death to me? Certainly not! But in order that sin might be exposed as sin, it produced death in me through what was good, so that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful.
Sin comes when there is a distance between the body and the soul. When we forget why we are here and in whose ‘likeness’ we were created. The tselem elohim, the ‘image’ of God is that little spark, the little piece of heaven inside each one of us. The idea of bringing the chatah is not just: ‘ I sinned. I’m punished. I have to pay.’ Because with this what resolution to the real ‘problem’ is reached? Making the effort, freely, to drawing near with the korban is saying: ‘THIS is not where I want to be in my life.” Then one feels regret and INSTEAD OF FEELING LOWERED…the whole world OPEN UP! Because here there is potential! No, you’re not a ‘fixed person’ yet. You have not at this moment in time ‘changed’. But there is a sense of where you want to be and where you DON’T want to be. From HERE I can SEE the tselem elohim again and I have a goal for which to strive. The REAL YOU is that tselem elohim, and ‘failing’, and regretting, repenting is the very avenue by which we can find the DESIRE TO COME BACK to it!
Kohelet 7; 19 Wisdom strengthens a wise man more than ten rulers who are in a city. 20 Indeed, there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and who never sins. 21 Also, do not take seriously all words which are spoken, so that you will not hear your servant cursing you. 22 For you also have realized that you likewise have many times cursed others.
חֲרָטָה Charatah- regret, remorse.
Charitah – engraving, #2801 (v) חָרַת Charat– to engrave
Sh’mot 32:16 The tablets were God’s work, and the writing was God’s writing engraved on the tablets.
#2747 (masc n) חֶרֶט Cheret – a graving tool, a style.
Sh’mot 32:4 He took this from their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool and made it into a molten calf; and they said, “This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt.”
Yeshayahu 8:1Then the LORD said to me, “Take for yourself a large tablet and write on it in ordinary letters: Swift is the booty, speedy is the prey.
- As much as sin is ingrained in our lives, so teshuvah should be engraved in our hearts. The awareness of sin, regret and teshuvah should come to a completion when we accept God’s forgiveness. (Sometimes we need to train our hearts to be receptive to God’s mercies, unfathomable as they are. 2 Chronicles 6;18 “But will God indeed dwell with mankind on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain You; how much less this house which I have built.) The Korbanot were so that men could KNOW that we are forgiven. It was not Hashem who ‘needed’ the Temple service or offerings, it was adam (man).
Sh’mot 34:6 Then the LORD passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; 7 who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives (נָשָׂא nasa-to lift, bear) iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave [the guilty] unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations.”
# 5771 (masc. n) avon עָוֹן-perversity, depravity, guilt contracted by sinning,
[shoresh : #5753 (v) avah עָוָה – to be distorted, to writhe, to be perverse.]
# 6588 (masc.n) pesha פֶּשַׁע- a fault, trespass, transgression, sin
[shoresh: #6586 (v) pasha פָּשַׁע- to break, turn away, sin, transgress.]
#2403 (fem.n) chattah חַטָּאָת- a miss, misstep, slip with the foot.
[ shoresh: #2398 (v) חֵטְא Chet- bear the blame, sin, miss, wander.]
Tehillim 51;1- 5 Be gracious to me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness; According to the greatness of Your compassion blot out my transgressions (pesha-פְשָׁעָֽי). Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity (avon– מֵעֲוֹנִ֑י) and cleanse me from my sin (chatah– וּֽמֵחַטָּאתִ֥י). For I know my transgressions (פְ֭שָׁעַי- pesha), and my sin (chatah– וְחַטָּאתִ֖י ) is ever before me. Against You, You only, I have sinned (chatah-חָטָאתִי֮) and done what is evil in Your sight, so that You are justified when You speak and blameless when You judge. Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity (avon-בְּעָו֥וֹן), and in sin (chata-וּ֝בְחֵ֗טְא) my mother conceived me.
There are things that we do carelessly, but they still harm others. There are things we do unintentionally, but are still ‘unlawful’ or unjust. There are things that we do out of succumbing to temptation. There are things we know are unsound to do but we do them anyway. Whatever the progression or ‘weight’ of a wrong we can admit regret, feel remorse, confess, seek forgiveness and find “covering” through Hashem’s limitless mercy. One way to actualize and affirm that forgiveness is to PRACTICE it ourselves. The following is the opening benediction from the “Bedtime Shema”, it is an excellent way to take stock of the day’s events and how we behaved throughout it all. It is a wonderful passage which can open our hearts to reconcilement before we drift into the most vulnerable moments of humanity. A place of complete trust in Hashem, while we sleep and all our senses and devices are at rest.
Master of the universe, I hereby forgive anyone who angered or antagonized me or who sinned against me- whether against my body, my property, my honor or against anything of mine; whether he did so accidentally, willfully, carelessly, or purposefully; whether through speech, deed, thought or notion- I forgive every one. May no man be punished because of me. May it be Your will, Hashem my God, that I may sin no more. Whatever sins I have done before You, may You blot out in your abundant mercies, but not through suffering or bad illnesses. May the expressions of my mouth and the thoughts of my heart find favor before you Hashem, my Rock and my Redeemer.
May we find happiness in identifying the missteps we have taken, may we be thankful for those whom Hashem will use to help us identify where we are ‘off’. May we draw near to Him willingly and desire a closeness that even our human frailties can orchestrate! May we practice forgiveness and in so doing value our own salvation more and more each day.
resources: see Homepage and My Resources entry. Much of this lesson from Rabbi Shlomo Katz and Rabbi Ari Khan.