Thursday, March 22, 2018

mah ha'avodah ha'zos lachem -- the concept of tzibur

We all know that "v'ahavta l'rei'acha kamocha" is a klal gadol baTorah.  It's the key to all mitzvos beis adam l'chaveiro.  But there is another view in Chazal that there is an even greater klal gadol, and that is "es ha'keves ha'echad ta'aseh ba'boker," the pasuk that tells us to bring a korban tamid every morning and evening.  Why should that be so?

The gemara (Menachos 65) writes that there was a machlokes between the Baysusim and Chachaim on what seems to be a technical point of law with respect to the korban tamid.  The Baysusim held that anyone who wanted to could donate the korban to the mikdash and it would be offered on behalf of the community.  The Chachamim held that the korban must be bought only with public communal funds.  

The fact that the day the Chachamim won the debate became a Yom Tov tells us that we are dealing with more than a technicality.  Rav Kook, the Shem m'Shmuel, others explain that there was something fundamental at the heart of the dispute.  The Baysusim saw Klal Yisrael as no more than a collection of individuals.  The nation is like a big partnership between all its members (see Rashi/Ramban at the beginning of Vayikra).  When you have a partnership and one partner wants to contribute more, kol hakavod -- why not let him/her?  The Chachamim, however, held that Klal Yisrael is more than a partnership.  The whole is far greater than the sum of its parts.  The concept of tzibur is a new entity, distinct from its individual members.  Therefore, the korban tamid can only come from communal funds.  The funds of any individual member of the whole is not the same as funds of the entity called tzibur.

"V'ahavta l'rei'acha" means that there is a you and there is a me that are distinct entities, but we have to play nice together and work to get along.  "Es ha'keves ha'echad...," the concept of korban tzibur, tells us that there is something greater than that -- there is a concept of tzibur.  A tzibur means there is no longer a you and a me -- there is instead one united whole.  We have to get along and because you and I are part of one and the same body, part of one and the same unit -- if I hurt you, are am hurting myself.

The rasha asks, "Mah ha'avodah ha'zos lachem?"  He understands that if you do a mitzvah, G-d gives you points and all is good; if you do an aveira, the opposite happens.  He understands "mah  ha'avodah... lecha," what your benefit is from doing pesach.  What he doesn't get is the "lachem" -- plural.  How does your pesach, your seder, benefit everyone else?  What's in it for them?  What the rasha doesn't understand is the concept of tzibur. 

Thursday, March 15, 2018

the relationship between korbanos and mishkan

There seems to be a basic disagreement between Ramban and Rambam regarding the relationship between korbanos and the mikdash.  Rambam writes in hil beis ha'bechira (1:1) that there is a mitzvah "la'asos beis Hashem muchan l'heyos makrivin bo korbanos" -- korbanos are the goal, mikdash is the means or context.  Ramban, on the other hand, in many places compares the mishkan to Har Sinai.  Both are places where the Shechina rested and Torah was revealed -- this is the goal.  Korbanos are just a means of attaining kapparah to prevent the Shechina from departing, the means to the end.  (We've discussed this before here, here, here, here, here, here but you want new stuff, right?)

The truth is that how you view the role of korbanos and their relationship to the mikdash may depend on which korban you are talking about.  Chatas, asham, and olah to some extent, all serve a kaparah function.  On the other hand, what about the korban tamid?  In parshas Titzaveh it's noteworthy that the tamid alone is mentioned -- absent is any reference to those other korbanos that bring kaparah.  The placement of the tamid at the end of the Terumah-Titzavehm unit, after the instructions on how to build a mishkan and make bigdei kehunah, indicates that it is the end for which everything else is the means.  The pesukim that speak of the tamid closeswith the words, "V'no'aditi shama... v'shachanti b'toch Bnei Yisrael... v'yad'u ki ani Hashem..." (29:43-46) -- the tamid itself brings about hashrah'as haShechina.

Abarbanel comments that the opening words of the parsha of tamid, "V'zeh ta'aseh al ha'mizbeiyach," are suggestive of a miyut: "zeh" -- this is the korban everything was meant for, to the exclusion of other offerings.  The Torah is telling is not to think of the mishkan just as the place to go when you need forgiveness, to offer your chatas or asham.  Ideally we should never need a chatas or asham!  The mishkan ideally is meant to be the place you offer the tamid, a korban to praise G-d and come closer to him.

In contrast, Rashi (Yeshaya 1:1) comments on the words "tzedek yalim bah" that the righteousness of the city of Yerushalayim was preserved by the tamid.  The morning offering served as a kaparah for any wrongdoing done at night and the evening korban served as a kaparah for any wrongdoing done during the day.  Whether that was the primary goal of the korban or an ancillary benefit, the fact remains that according to Rashi even the tamid served a kaparah function.  

It is possible to iron out the differences between these approaches.  Parshas Titzaveh with its focus on the tamid may reflect the "ideal" role of the mishkan, pre-cheit ha'eigel, where Klal Yisrael at least potentially stood to achieve a lasting tikun where cheit/kaparah would be no more, or have a vastly diminished role.  The reality post-cheit is that korbanos primarily serve our need for kaparah, to remove the burden of sin. 

That sets the groundwork for us to appreciate a beautiful Shem m'Shmuel that I'm you will remember when you daven musaf on Rosh Chodesh in all the coming months.  "Roshei chodashim l'amcha nasata...  s'i'rei chatas l'chapeir b'adam..."  Nebach, what can we do -- need korbanos, we need the korban of Rosh Chodesh, to bring us kaparah.  However, "mizbeiyach chadash b'Tzion tachin..." we will one day have a complete geulah and we will return to the ideal state where we won't need constant kaparah.  When that happens, "... u's'i'rei Rosh Chodesh na'aseh l'ratzon" -- we will offer the korban not to atone, but "l'ratzon," simply to come closer to Hashem, for the sake of ritzuy, to increase our favor in G-d's eyes.

Thursday, March 08, 2018

parah and shabbos

 Why read parshas parah davka on Shabbos?  Why not during the week just before rosh chodesh Nisan?  (The same question is asked with respect to all of the 4 parshiyos, as they could all just as well have been done during the week.)

Both in last week's parsha and in this week's parsha we learn the halacha that building the mishkan is not doche Shabbos.  Rashi in last week's parsha explains that the word "ach" in "ach es shabsosai tishmoru" is a miyut that excludes work on the mishkan from being done on Shabbos.  Chazal explain that the juxtaposition of Shabbos and mishkan in this week's parsha teaches the same idea.  (Why you need two limudim is not my topic -- that's a question for homework : )

Sefas Emes on last week's parsha explains: cheit ha'eigel tainted all of creation.  The world post-cheit ha'eigel was a different world; it was like the world of Adam after the cheit, after gan eden was no more.  However, the cheit could not taint Shabbos -- Shabbos stands apart from the other six days of creation and is the nekudah pnimit that can never be sullied.  Building the mishkan was a tikun for the cheit ha'eigel.  On Shabbos, you don't need that tikun -- you don't need to do meleches hamishkan to effect your tikun because on Shabbos you are in a state that needs no tikun, that is unaffected by sin.  Therefore, meleches hamisihkan is prohibited on Shabbos.

The Midrash tells us that the secret of parah adumah was understood only by Moshe.  We can't relate to it.  Sefas Emes explains that Moshe alone was absent from the camp during cheit ha'eigel and had nothing to do with it.  Moshe was untainted by sin; therefore, only he stood on the level necessary to learn parshas parah.

On Shabbos we too return to that untainted level.  The crowns we lost due to cheit ha'eigel are returned to us on Shabbos -- we are as if we are in the pre-cheit stage.  Therefore, it is davka on Shabbos that we read parah, as davka on Shabbos we have the ability to understand a little more deeply, a little like Moshe, what the parsha is all about. 

when less is more than enough

The money collected for the building of the mishkan is described as "dayam," enough, just what was needed, and "hoseir," there was extra.  Everyone asks: isn't that a contradiction in terms?  If there was just enough, then how was there be extra?

The mishkan was a microcosm of the world, and the building of mishkan parallels the creation of the world, as Midrash Tanchuma explains at length. 

Chazal tell us that Hashem created sheidim, mazikim, bad spirits, on bein ha'shemashos of erev Shabbos.  Hashem created these spirits, and then, before he created bodies for them, it was Shabbos, and so these creatures were stuck half-completed.   
Hashem is surely not like me, running into the house just before Shabbos, trying to get in one more thing, one more chore, and then your 18 minutes are up and you are stuck with that timer that wasn't set or a light not turned on.  If I was running creation so the mazikim would be like that timer that didn't get set because there was just not enough time to make it.  But Hashem can do anything, including making sure everything in creation is completed before even entering the 18 minute bonus time.  So what do Chazal mean?
Maharal explains that the mazikim and sheidim mean the world is incomplete.  Not because Hashem could not complete it, but because that is the nature of our world -- it is by definition something unfinished.  (A mazik or sheid is "bad" because it is a shorthand way of saying the world is missing something and is incomplete.)   Chazal are telling us that as great as our world is, as much ruchniyus and Torah you can find in it, as much as you can accomplish, there will always be something that is missing, some fraction that is left out no matter how hard you try.  There is always more that is beyond your grasp, beyond the grasp of what you can ever hope to accomplish.
The Mishkan reflects this reality.  There was more material brought than could be contained in the building.  The mishkan, as great as it was, could not encompass everything.  There was "hoseir," extra, but at the same time, it was "dayam," exactly enough and exactly the right amount because the extra that could not be contained, that could not be made into a finished product, a complete all-encompassing product, is a perfect reflection of our almost-but-not-quite finished world.   

Thursday, March 01, 2018

sh'eilasi u'bakashasi

We find the words sh'eila and bakasha used a few times in the megillah:  Achashveirosh asks Esther, "Mah sh'eilaseich... u'mah bakashaseich," at the first party, and she responds,"She'eilasi u'bakashashi..." is for Achashveirosh and Haman to come to the next party.  At the second party Achashveirosh repeats the question, and Esther responds, "Tinasein li nafshei b'sh'eilasi v'ami b'bakashasi..."

The GR"A (I thought I had posted this once but can't find it) writes that sh'eila is a personal request; bakasha is a request on behalf of another.  The Tiferes Shlomo points out that a sho'el is defined as "kol hana'ah shelo" -- when you borrow there is no cost to you and you enjoy all the benefits.  Esther's sh'eila is for her own life to be spared; her bakasha is for her people to be spared.

David haMelech asks of Hashem, "Achas sha'alti me'eis Hashem osa avakesh -- shivti b'veis Hashem..."  When one has the zechus to sit in the beis Hashem learning and growing it is not just to one's personal benefit -- a sh'eila -- but it is to Klal Yisrael's benefit as well, and therefore it is a bakasha as well.

The Tiferes Shlomo interprets "meshorsav sho'alim zeh la'zeh" that we say in kedusha of musaf to mean that the malachim are not serving Hashem for personal benefit.  The greatest benefit for them, what they are "sho'alim," is "zeh la'zeh," to do for each other, for the next guy.  Maybe that's what makes a malach -- when the thing that gives you the most pleasure is seeing someone else get something.

The Alshich and M'lo ha'Omer suggest that sh'eila is something that costs nothing for the giver; a bakasha is a greater request that has a cost.  When Esther responded to Achashveirosh that "sh'eilasi u'bakashasi" is for him to come to another party, what she meant is that what is for him just a sh'eila, something of no trouble, she considers a bakasha, as if she was asking him for something great and imposing upon him, and therefore it means so much more to her.

Retuning to David haMelech's words, the M'lo ha'Omer interprets as follows: "Achas sha'alti," for you Hashem, whatever I ask is a sh'eila because there is no cost, but for us, it's "osa avakesh," the equivalent request made to another person would be a bakasha.

I didn't check how they explain the pasuk, but it makes sense to say the idea of "Mah Hashem... sho'el ki im l'yirah," means you can't lose by having yiras Shamayim -- it's only something you can gain from, not an imposition.

On the other hand, "Bakeish shalom v'rodfeihu" -- true peace is something that entails bakasha.  Shalom requires compromise, and compromise means you have to be willing to give something up.  Even though it's a bakasha, shalom is worth it.

See Malbi"M for yet another approach to she'ila vs bakasha.