Parshas Tzav

This week we read parshas Tzav, the second parsha of Sefer {Book of} Vayikra. As we mentioned last week, Vayikra deals primarily with the different offerings brought to the Mishkan {Tabernacle}. Last week we discussed some aspects of the animal sacrifices which can be applied to us. This week I’d like to examine the korbon mincha {meal offering} and see what we can learn from it.

The korbon mincha was a mixture of flour (usually wheat but some were brought from barley) sometimes mixed with oil and/or levonah {frankincense}. There were four services performed which paralleled the four services of the animal sacrifices. The k’mitzah, which was the kohen taking a palm-full of the flour paralleled the slaughtering of the animal. Placing that palm-full into a holy vessel paralleled the collecting of the blood in a vessel. Bringing the vessel toward the altar paralleled the bringing of the blood to the altar and burning the palm-full on the altar paralleled the sprinkling of the blood.

The korbon mincha is often associated with the poor. Our parsha mentions an interesting aspect of the korbon mincha. “Minchas pitim takriv rayach nichoach la’Hashem {A meal offering in broken pieces you shall offer it, as a pleasant fragrance to Hashem} [11:14].” Rashi explains this breaking as folding it into two pieces and then again folding the two into four.

What was the point of this folding?

The Lev Aharon explains that the Torah was concerned about the honor of the poor. Others are bringing far more elaborate and extravagant offerings. Whereas the poor are bringing a simple meal offering. They might feel embarrassed or at least second class. The Torah therefore commands the kohanim to fold it and then fold it again, in order that the pan and the offering will appear to be full and overflowing.

The Lev Aharon demonstrates how this sensitivity is also shown by the voluntary offerings. If one couldn’t afford an animal sacrifice then a bird offering was brought. The wings were not removed but were burnt together with the rest of the bird on the altar. Rashi points out that these wings emitted a very foul (fowl?) odor. If so, why did the Torah instruct that they be burnt? In order that the altar would be full and adorned by the sacrifice of the poor man.

Without the wings, the offering would have been consumed on the altar in a mater of minutes. The poor man would have been crestfallen; the wealthy man’s animal was on the altar, tended to by the kohanim for a lengthy period of time, whereas his didn’t receive that same consideration. The Torah therefore commanded that the wings not be removed. The poor man feeling respect and accomplishment leads to what is stated at the end of the passuk {verse}: “i’shay rayach nichoach la’Hashem {a fire offering that is a pleasant fragrance to Hashem} [11:17].”

The Torah then continues with the voluntary meal offering, beginning with a term that wasn’t used by the others. “A nefesh {soul} when he sacrifices a meal offering to Hashem [2:1].” Rashi quotes the Talmud [Menachos 104B] that explains why the term “nefesh” is only used by the meal offering. Hashem says: This poor man has brought me this offering, I consider it as if he brought me his soul...

The Lev Aharon uses this same concept to explain an interesting law found by the bikurim--the first fruits brought as an offering to the Bais HaMikdash. The Talmud [Baba Kama 92A] teaches that the rich would bring their fruits in gold and silver baskets while the poor would bring theirs in baskets made of willow branches. As a seeming proof to the expression that ‘the rich get richer and the poor get poorer’, the baskets of the rich were returned to them, while the kohanim kept the baskets of the poor!

He explains that the rich, from their beautiful and finely managed orchards, brought beautiful fruits as their offering. Those fruits were removed from the baskets and the baskets were returned to the owners. The first fruits of the poor, however, were the products of their simple and impoverished orchards. Had the kohanim removed those sparse and second-rate fruits in order to return the baskets, it would have caused the poor much humiliation. Therefore, the kohanim would accept the baskets with the fruits in it.

Shlomo HaMelech {King Solomon} teaches in Mishley [18:23]: The poor speak with supplication and the rich “ya’aneh” with harshness. The Malbim explains that when the poor speak with pleading, then the rich subdue {ya’aneh} their harshness and accede to the requests of the poor. The Metzudos Dovid takes a different approach in explaining this passuk. He writes that even though the poor man humbles himself before the rich man and speaks to him in pleading terms, nevertheless, the rich man answers {ya’aneh} him harshly.

It seems that Shlomo HaMelech is taking the rich man to task for treating the poor man in such a way. The Saba from Kelem, however, also sees an error on the part of the poor man. Why do you feel that you have to humble yourself? Why do you feel that you are lower and that you must grovel?! Does the amount of money that one has tell us anything about the person? Can a person’s actual value be measured in any way by his financial worth? Is that what’s important in the eyes of Hashem? Be a good person! Serve Hashem to the best of your ability! Only that determines one’s true worth. There’s no need to humble yourself before others that you might be greater than, simply because they have more money.

Over the years I’ve developed a warm friendship with the father of one of the boys who studied at the yeshiva where I teach. He is a wonderful man with limited financial means but unlimited drive and determination to connect more and more to his Judaism. He once shared with me a story which illustrates the attitude a person is supposed to have.

He was once approached by a friend of his who told him that a prominent Rabbi would be speaking at a parlor meeting, trying to raise funds for his institution. His friend, who was in a similar financial situation as he, suggested that they go and participate. He explained that this Rav was an excellent speaker and was promoting a very worthwhile cause. My friend was hesitant at first. “I don't think we are the clientele they are trying to attract. They’re looking for the big givers to come--not us!” His friend, however, insisted and he finally agreed to accompany him.

At the parlor meeting, the Rav spoke excellently and afterwards different people started to call out their pledges to the institution. “Five thousand dollars,” a few called out. There were then other pledges ranging from a few thousand dollars down to a few hundred dollars. All of these amounts were a bit out of the range of these two men.

My friend was feeling a bit uncomfortable and unsure of what to do when he saw his friend pull out his checkbook and motion to him to do the same. His friend then proudly wrote a check for twenty five dollars, an amount that he could afford, and then urged my friend to do the same.

“We have the same obligation and privilege as anyone else to donate that which we can. We have nothing to be ashamed of. In the eyes of Hashem our donation is at least as pleasing as that of everyone else.”

“A nefesh {soul} when he sacrifices a meal offering to Hashem [2:1].” Hashem says: This poor man has brought me this offering, I consider it as if he brought me his soul. The epitome of a “rayach nichoach la’Hashem {a pleasant fragrance to Hashem}.”

Good Shabbos,

Yisroel Ciner

This week’s parsha-insights are dedicated to the memory and z’chus of my mother, Miriam bas Aharon Aryeh, a”h, whose yahrtzeit is this Shabbos, the tenth of Nissan. May the lives of her children and grandchildren be a ‘rayach nichoach’ to both her and to Hashem.

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