Friday, March 11, 2011

VaYikra 5631 Fifth Ma'amar

I am dedicating this week's Ma'amar l'ilui nishmas our dear cousin Ilan Tokayer z"l whose shocking ptira occurred last Thursday.  He was 25. 
בלע המות לנצח ומחה ה' א-להים דמעה מעל כל פנים

Chumash VaYikra begins with an explanation of the burnt-offering, "ושחט אתו על ירך המזבח צפנה לפני ה' .../He shall slaughter it on the northern side of the altar before God …" (VaYikra 1:11).  This pasuk appears in the paragraph explaining the laws of sheep and goat burnt-offerings.  In the previous paragraph explaining the laws of bull burnt-offerings we find, "ושחט את בן הבקר לפני ה' .../He shall slaughter the young bull before God …" (VaYikra 1:5).  The bull, too, must be slaughtered on the northern side of the altar.  Why, then, is there no mention of the north side of the altar here?

The Midrash[1] answers that when the nation of Israel would bring this sacrifice and read this pasuk, "... צפונה לפני ה' .../… on the north side before God …" God remembers the Akeidas Yitzchak.  Apparently, the Midrash views the sheep as an allusion to the ram that was actually sacrificed instead of Yitzchak.  But what is the connection between the north side of the altar and the Akeidas Yitzchak?

The word צפון/north also means hidden.  The Chiddushei HaRim teaches that there are two parts to every sacrifice.  First, there is the physical sacrifice.  The second component is the intent of the one who brings the sacrifice.  When one brings a sacrifice, he should desire to deliver his own soul up to God.  This concept is hinted at in the words at the beginning of the parsha, "... אדם כי יקריב מכם קרבן לה' .../When a person from among you shall bring a sacrifice to God …" (VaYikra 1:2).  This pasuk can also be understood as, "When a person shall sacrifice (himself) from among you to God …"  Akeidas Yitzchak is the personification of the hidden component since it entailed the ultimate sacrifice before God.  The Midrash therefore, associates, "... צפונה לפני ה' .../… on the north side before God …" with the Akeidas Yitzchak.

The Sfas Emes explains that the intent behind the sacrifice is really the main thing.  A person brings a physical sacrifice to help him reach a deep level of subordination to God.  Just as a sacrifice so too every activity has a hidden spiritual component that represents the will of God that underlies the activity.  Therefore, this subordination applies to every activity and to every facet of our lives.  It's just easier with a sacrifice because of the obvious association between the physical act of the sacrifice and the subordination of the one who brought it.  Our job is to live with a view towards accomplishing God's will through every action that we take.

This concept can help us understand why we do not bring personal sacrifices on Shabbos[2].  During the week, we experience God by striving to subordinate ourselves to His will through our actions.  We want our actions to be a manifestation of His will.  On Shabbos, because of its holiness, we are able to experience God even without the tool of physical activity.  This is why creative activity, in the form of the 39 categories of creative work, is prohibited on Shabbos.  The purpose of physical activity is to help us reveal God in our lives.  On Shabbos we can reveal God in our lives without the activity.  So, on Shabbos, the goal of the sacrifice can also be attained simply by intending to subordinate ourselves to God, without the need for a physical sacrifice.

[1] VaYikra R. 2:11
[2] Temurah 2:1

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