Thursday, July 12, 2012

korbanos - prelude to leadership

Once again I am short of time, but I hate to leave a parsha with nothing said beforehand, so here's something quick and maybe more next week.  Why does the Torah juxtapose Moshe's request of Hashem to appoint a new leader with the parshiyos of the korbanos?  Rashi quotes from Chazal that the parshiyos of korbanos were part of Hashem's response.  "Before commanding me about my children," said Hashem to Moshe, "Command my children to obey me."

Why korbanos?  If the idea was simply to remind Bnei Yisrael of their obligation to Hashem, wouldn't any parsha or mitzvah do?

When Hashem answered Moshe, He was not trying to change the subject -- i.e. let's talk about korbanos, what you owe Me, before we talk about leadership and what I can do for you -- but rather Hashem was in fact directly responding to Moshe's request to appoint a leader.  Hashem was telling Moshe that before He can fulfill Moshe's request to appoint a new leader who is palatable to *all* the people, Moshe must first reinforce the idea of the parshas hakorbanos.  The theme of all korbanos in a single word is (k'shemo kein hu) "sacrifice." 600,000 people will by definition have 600,000 different ideas of what the perfect leader should be like.  If every single person felt that "it's my way or no way," there is no one person who could possibly take charge. There had to be sacrifice.  Everyone had to give a little bit.

The weakness with this idea of mine is that from reading Rashi you get the impression that Yehoshua was somehow able to meet everyone's expectations in the fullest sense, without anyone having to budge from their conception of the ideal.  The Shem m'Shmuel takes a slightly different approach that avoids this problem.  He focuses on the daily korban tamid which consisted of sheep.  Why are sheep the staple, the bedrock korban upon which all others are added?  Chazal say that just as sheep have one voice, so too Klal Yisrael act as one unit.  In other words, when sheep are out in the pasture, you never find that one sheep heads in one direction and another sheep wanders off in the other direction.  There is no concept of "Im ha'smol v'aymina, v'im ha'ymin v'asmi'ila," among sheep.  One sheep never says to his fellow sheep, "You head right and I'll head left so we don't cross paths."  No -- the whole chevrah moves together.  All the sheep head to the right, and then all the sheep in the flock head to the left.  That's how Klal Yisrael is supposed to act -- we are one unit.  And we get a reminder twice a day, once in the morning, once in the afternoon, when those sheep are offered in the Mikdash. Hashem was telling Moshe Rabeinu that the only way you can have one leader is if you first have one people.  Reinforce the idea of korbanos, reinforce the idea of unity among Klal Yisrael, create a shared purpose and shared mission, and then I, Hashem, can provide someone who will help bring that purpose and mission to fruition through his leadership.

We can now understand, writes the Shem m'Shmuel in the name of his father, the Sochotchover, what we read a few weeks ago in Parshas Korach, when Moshe Rabeinu, in response to Korach's rebellion, asked that Hashem disregard and reject the rebel's portion in the daily korban tamid (see the post on that topic here).  Machlokes is by definition antithetical to the spirit of unity which the korban tamid represented --there can be no notion of a korban tzibur, no communal korban, if there exists no shared sense of community.

R' Tzadok and others note that the reading of the parsha of korbanos always coincides with this period when we mourn the loss of the Beis haMikdash.  Perhaps the reading of korbanos is not simply a reminder of the service that took place in the Mikdash, but is a reminder of the spirit of achdus that is necessary if we are to be zoche to once again see a Mikdash rebuilt.


  1. Anonymous1:02 AM

    adam ha'Ivri "b'tzelem elohim", in the image of
    sheep, the god of Mitzrayim?!

  2. great unknown10:08 AM

    Perhaps the title of this entry should have been "Korbanos - prelude to followership"
    While the concept of reducing a Ben Yisroel to the iniative-level of a sheep
    [-note that the singular and plural of that species are identical in English, at least]
    is disturbing, it seems to be a corollary of "אדם ובהמה..."
    Or, as the aphorism goes, "G-d gave us free will; our mission is to give it back."