Tuesday, April 05, 2016

standing lifnei Hashem

There are what looks like three sections to the opening of Shemini:

A) Moshe’s instructions to Aharon and Bnei Yisrael as to what korbanos they need (9:1-5).

B) Moshe’s declaration, “Zeh ha’davar asher tzivah Hashem ta’asu v’yeirah Aleichem kvod Hashem.” (9:6)

C) A new round of instructions, “Vayomer Moshe el Aharon…” as to how to bring the korbanos. (9:7-on)

The meforshim struggle with step B. What is the “zeh ha’davar” that Moshe is referring to? Is it getting the korbanos? That’s step A. Is it offering the korbanos? That’s step C. What does this pasuk add? Ramban, Ibn Ezra, Netziv all offer answers, but it’s the Ohr haChaim’s fantastic diyuk that I want to focus on. O.C. explains that the “zeh ha’davar” that Moshe is referring to connected to the phrase that ends the previous pasuk: “va’ya’amdu lifnei Hashem” -- not “lifnei Ohel Mo’ed” but “lifnei Hashem.” That’s what Moshe complimented the people on as being exactly what Hashem commanded.

Here’s what I think that means: sometimes you come into shul to daven and it’s very hard to orient yourself. Sometimes there are a lot of children running around and it seems that you are in a playground. Sometimes it may seem like you are in a social hall, a baseball game, a bazaar. Sometimes the shat”z may even make you feel like you are in an auction house. For one reason or another, it sometimes can be very hard to feel that the place you are gathering to worship in is actually a place where you are standing “lifnei Hashem.

When the Mishkan was opened for business, “va’yikrivi kol ha’eidah va’ya’amdu lifnei Hashem.” The people got it -– it was not a playground, a bazaar, the trading floor of a bank or a newsroom. It was a place where they came to stand together “lifnei Hashem.” It’s such an obvious thing, yet it seems so hard to actually accomplish. 

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