Friday, March 19, 2010
VaYikra 5631 Fourth Ma'amar + Practical Application
This week’s parsha begins with a description of the various sacrifices that we can bring. The Torah describes three types of sacrifices, animal, bird and flour. Generally people would bring what they could afford. The wealthy would bring a cow or goat. The poor who could afford nothing but flour, would bring that.
How do we know that in God’s eyes, the less expensive sacrifices are equal to the expensive sacrifices? The pesukim state in the description of each type of sacrifice, “... אִשֵּׁה רֵיחַ נִיחֹחַ לַה'/… a fire-offering of pleasing aroma to God.” (VaYikra 1: 9,13,17 2:2) From here Chazal understand that whether one brings a lot or a little, the proper intent is what counts. It’s better to bring a little intending to glorify the name of God than a lot without the proper intent.
It would seem though, that bringing a lot with the proper intent would be better than bringing a little with the proper intent. Why do Chazal completely discount the quantity?
The Chiddushei HaRim answers this question in the name of the Rav of Parshischa by way of a parable. Two merchants had to travel to the same place. One merchant left immediately and arrived soon thereafter. The other’s trip was delayed by various things and he arrived much later. When the people who expected both merchants asked him why it took him so long, he answered, “What’s the difference? I’m also here now!”
The parable is teaching us a profound lesson. The result is what counts. It matters little what happened along the way. The late merchant also arrived in the end, even though it took him longer to get there and his journey was more difficult.
Our goal is to direct our actions towards God, to fulfill His will. It matters not whether our actions involve a lot or a little amount of work. If we act with the proper intent – to fulfill God’s will – we’ve achieved our goal.
The same idea applies to the sacrifices. The quantity is not important in attaining the goal of giving something that belongs to us to God. The poor individual who brings a flour offering attains the same goal as the wealthy individual who brings a cow. Both have brought something that belongs to them to God.
The ultimate purpose of our actions is to reveal that God is the motive force within them. We do this by intending to fulfill God’s will through them.
There those among us who are unhappy with their station in life. “If only I were wealthy, I’d be able to do so much more.” People are not happy with how smart they are. “If only I had more brains and zitsfleisch, I’d be able to learn more and be a big Torah scholar.”
Chazal and the Sfas Emes are telling us that in order to fulfill God’s will and our purpose in this world, the amount of money and brains we have is totally irrelevant. Only one thing matters – intending to fulfill God’s will with what we have and through our actions.
There is a wonderful story written by Rebbi Nachman of Breslev about a Chacham and a Tam. The simpleton is a shoemaker and because he is limited, he makes poor quality shoes and it is difficult for him to make a decent living. Nevertheless, every time he makes a shoe, he’s happy, shows it to his wife, etc.
Why is he so happy? He may be simple but he’s not stupid. He knows that others make better quality shoes. He knows that because of his limitations making a living is difficult for him.
He’s happy because he knows that God made him the way he is and obviously wants him to make poor quality shoes with the resulting ramifications regarding his livelihood. He’s happy because with his poor quality shoes, he is fulfilling God’s will and thus achieving the highest goal a person can aspire to in this world.