Points to Ponder – VaYikra 5774

VaYikra – And he called to Moshe (1:1) – The letter Alef in the word Vayikra is written with a small Alef. The Baal Haturim explains that Moshe, who was a humble individual and only wanted to say VaYikar – that Hashem “happened upon Moshe.” Hashem compromised with him and allowed him to make the Alef small. The problem is that this is not the first time that Hashem called to Moshe. Didn’t he call him at the Sneh? Why isn’t the Alef small there too? Rav Yaakov Galinsky ztl. explained that in that and other instances, Hashem called to Moshe in the latter’s role of leader of the Jewish people. Moshe thus, was not being called for his own standing, rather that of the people. There is no Gaava in that – for that was his job. However, when being called by Hashem out of love, then Moshe was uncomfortable and asked Hashem to minimize the letter.

You shall bring your Korbanos (1:2) – the Ramban notes that when many people join together to offer to  bring a Korban Olah, it is still merely the korban of Shutfin (partners). Rav Moshe Tzvi Neriah ztl. explains the difference between a partnership Korban and one from the Tzibbur. The concept of Tzibbur is built on the principle of the unity of the people. A similar idea was expressed by the Rogachover who noted that Tzibbur is a concept of uniting into a single entity not a joining for a united cause. This, says Rav Kook, is why the Korban Tzibbur needs to be commanded – as it then is an expression of a united people. The Tziddukim had a different idea of unity. They understood that one person could “donate” the Korban Tamid – for to a Tzidduki as long as the job is done, the benefits of doing it go to those who spend and expend from their own.

For all sourdough and all honey shall not appear on a Korban before Hashem (2:11) – The Tiferes Shlomo of Radomsk noted that both Se’Or and honey are effective in making things that are otherwise untasty, palatable and desirable. The Torah is teaching us that it may be acceptable to make tastes acceptable in this world but in regard to Torah study, it is undesirable for it waters down the beauty that is Torah.


On all Korbanos you shall offer Salt (2:13) – The Torah identifies a Bris Melach (a salt covenant) which, the Talmud (Berachos 5a) compares to the covenant that exists when a person suffers. Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach ztl. notes that based on this, we can understand why Hashem heard the cries of the Jews in Egypt but remembered his “Bris” (See Shemos 6:5). When the Jews thought that it was the Egyptians who were enslaving them, they were in error and that everything that was occurring to them was because this was a natural event. By noting that Hashem remembered his covenant, he was letting the people know that their time was up – like the salt covenant which brings an end to meat spoilage, the Bris here would bring an end to the Galus.

Korban Chatas (4:3) – Conceptually, the idea of a Korban Chatas seems odd. Some have noted that it is an opportunity – almost a gift – for the person who broke the rules. Why does Hashem reward the sinner with an opportunity to bring a Korban – thereby doing a Mitzvah? Rav Shimshon Dovid Pinkus ztl.  explains that the Korban Chatas demonstrates a special love that Hashem has for us that can only be seen in dire straits. That’s why the Korban Chatas cannot be donated – it needs to come to show a particular Avairah and the love that exists despite it.     

If a single Nefesh shall sin inadvertently (4:27) – Maran HaRav Schachter Shlita noted the Midrash which identifies the difference between the identification of how Yaakov’s family came down to Egypt (70 NEFESH) versus the way we identify Esav’s descendants (Nafshos Beiso). Rav Schachter commented that in regard to the Jewish people we are always blended together  -- always in the same boat. But by the nations of the world, there is Pirud. Everyone worships something else. Rav Schachter added the famous boat moshol – that when everyone is in the same boat no one has a right to drill a hole in the floor under him because “its his.” That action will sink the whole boat. The same is true with Am Yisroel. We need to hold one another up – or we sink as well.

When the person denies (5:21)Rashi cites the Toras Kohanim where Rabbi Akiva notes that when one falsely denies owing anything, he is also a Kofer in Hashem. Why? Because he knows that only 3 know the truth, the borrow, the lender and Hashem. Clearly the Kofer didn’t care for Hashem’s displeasure and thus denies Him in the process. Rav Gifter ztl. explained that Torah laws are like a hedge of roses. The hedge serves as a deterrent to people going in but usually only because people accept the message. If one wanted to, s/he could stomp on the hedge and do what s/he wanted. The same is true with Torah law – technically one could do what one wants but when we believe in a Ribbono Shel Olam, that system is Michayev us.


Haftorah: V”Etna L’Cherem Yaakov – And I give Yaakov over for destruction and Yisroel for revilement (Yeshayahu 43:28) – Rav Shimon Schwab ztl noted the slippery slope that exists when the aura of holiness is removed from Jewish leaders. According to Rav Schwab , it is precisely this lack of princely holiness that led the Jewish enemies in every generation to feel free to attack the Jews. Rav Schwab told the story of the pogrom of Darmstadt in 1933 when the Nazis instituted a full fledged boycott of Jewish stores on Shabbos (Vayikra BTW). It never occurred to the Nazis that a boycott on Shabbos was foolish since the Jews were not exactly Shomrei Shabbos.