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Making the meal offerings come alive Print E-mail
Friday, 24 March 2023

A few months ago, I had the honor of being part of a workshop run by Matan and led by Rabbanit Shani Taragin at Meshek 48 in Rosh Tzurim. The goal of the workshop was to make Menachot (meal offerings) similar to the ones offered in the Beit HaMikdash (Temple).

What exactly does that entail?

We learn about the Menachot in Parhsat Vayikra in the first ten verses of Chapter 2:

The Torah lists five types of meal offerings. They are all made of the same ingredients.

The first type, Minchat Solet- Fine flour meal offering (Vayikra 2:1-3) is a simple offering which is not cooked or baked:

When a person brings a meal-offering to God, his offering shall be of fine flour; he shall pour oil upon it and place frankincense upon it. He shall bring it to the sons of Aharon, the Kohanim; from there a Kohen takes a fistful- from its flour and oil- with all its frankincense. The Kohen shall burn its memorial portion on the altar, a fire offering of pleasing fragrance to God. Whatever is left of the meal-offering belongs to Aharon and his sons; It is holy of holies of the fire-offerings of God.

At the workshop, we divided up into four groups in order to prepare the four different baked/cooked/fried offerings. We took fine flour, oil and a little bit of water as needed and mixed them together in large bowls.

The following are the Menachot that we prepared:

The second and third types of menachot are in the category of Maafe Tanur- Baked in the Oven:

The maafe tanur can either be unleavened loaves (challot matzot) mixed with oil or unleavened wafers (rekikei matzot) smeared with oil. As we see in Vayikra 2:4:

When you offer a meal offering that is baked in an oven, it shall be of fine flour: unleavened loaves mixed with oil, or unleavened wafers smeared with oil.

Rashi quotes the Talmud, Menachot 76a: All the meal offerings which are baked before the fistful is taken, and their fistful is taken by breaking the loaves of wafer into pieces- all of them come in groups of ten loaves, and those which it is said wafers come in groups of ten wafers.

When the Maafe Tanur that we prepared came out of the oven, our challot matzot came out like pita bread while the rekikei matzot came out like matzah.

The fourth type is Mincha al Machvat, Pan-baked offering (Vayikra 2:5-6):

If your offering is a meal offering on the pan, it shall be of fine flour mixed with oil, it shall be unleavened. You shall break it into pieces and pour oil upon it- it is a meal offering.

Rashi comments that the pan was a vessel used in the Temple, in which they would bake the meal offering in oil on the fire; the vessel was not deep but flat. And the resulting meal-offering made in it was hard, since it was flat, the fire burnt the oil.

These came out like pancakes.

The fifth kind was Minchat Marcheshet- Deep-pan meal offering (Vayikra 2:7):

If your offering is a meal offering in a deep pan, it should be made of fine flour with oil.

Rashi explains that the pan was deep. Its oil was gathered at the bottom and the fire did not burn it. The meal offering looked like it was creeping (rochashin). Everything soft because of the liquid contained in it appears as though it is creeping and moving. Therefore it is called marcheshet.

These were deep fried. They came out like oily matzah balls!

Since this was just a workshop and because the Beit HaMikdash has not yet been rebuilt, we did not have to give our Menachot to a Kohen. Rather, we separated challah in the same way that challah is taken when baking any type of bread and when the Menachot were ready, we were able to eat them.

I personally liked the Mincha al Machvat, the pan baked offering the best!

I highly recommend this type of workshop to anyone who wants to understand what the vegetarian sacrifices were all about.

The Vegetarian Sacrifice Print E-mail
Friday, 19 March 2021

The Korban Mincha (meal offering) is unique in that it is a vegetarian sacrifice.  What makes this sacrifice special is that it is much less expensive than an animal sacrifice which makes it affordable for those who are too poor to offer an animal.

According to Nechama Leibowitz, flour represents our principal food. The minimum quantity of the Korban Mincha is an “isaron” which is equal to the “omer” (the daily portion of manna). In other words, it is the amount needed for a person’s daily maintenance.

Rabbi David Hoffman explains that when bringing a Korban Mincha, the poor person consecrates to God the choicest possessions needed for his sustenance; these he regards as God given.

Rav Kook points out that by the end of time, the knowledge of God will extend to the animals who will revert back to their status before Noah’s ark when they were herbivorous, not carnivorous as stated in Yishayahu 11:6-9:

The wolf shall dwell with the lamb and the leopard shall lie down with the kid and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a small child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall graze together; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And an infant shall play on the hole of the cobra and the weaned child shall put his hand on the viper’s nest. They shall neither harm nor destroy in all My holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of God as the water covers the sea.

Rav Kook closes: whereupon this offering- the vegetarian mincha “will be pleasant to God as in the days of old and as in former years.”

Rav Kook’s view was that after the flood, the descendants of Noah (all of mankind) were permitted to be carnivorous (Breisheet 10). Since the land had become filled with violence and man had given free rein to his worst instincts, man was no longer required to make the supreme moral exertions to forego the slaughter of animals. It was far more important that he should, at least, utilize what moral fiber he possessed in refraining from killing his own kind and respecting the life of his neighbor.

Nechama Leibowitz concludes that it was for this reason Rav Kook maintained that mankind has been permitted to slaughter animals as food. He calls this a transitional tax or a temporary dispensation until a brighter era is reached.

We see from here that the Korban Mincha served two purposes, it provided the opportunity for the needy to still be able to bring a meaningful sacrifice and it taught us that not every sacrifice needs to be an animal and maybe the ideal in the time of Mashiach will be that we won’t need to offer animals at all.

May we find out speedily in our days.

Getting Closer Print E-mail
Friday, 27 March 2020

In Parshat Vayikra, we read about the Korabanot, usually translated as sacrifices. However, the word korban actually comes from the root “karov” which means close. We bring the korban to get close to God.

The word karov in Hebrew also means family member (karov mishpacha).

Over the past few weeks, we have been told not to go near anybody as you don’t know who may be carrying the virus or who you can catch it from. You are only permitted to be near family members from your household and even then there are limitations.

That basically leaves us with getting close to God. Many people are having trouble with this concept as their image of prayer is limited to praying in a synagogue or with a minyan. They are trying desperately to grab on to whatever they can whether it is setting up backyard minyanim which could still be a problem of people standing too close together or not remaining close to home as per the new restrictions or arranging livestream minyanim over the internet.

I would like to suggest a different approach. Prayer which has replaced the Korbanot after the destruction of the Beit HaMikdash (Temple) is meant to build our relationship with God and bring us nearer to Him. Private prayer which can be done anywhere is each individual’s opportunity to become closer to God.

This week, all houses of worship of all religions in Israel have closed their doors. This does not mean that we now stop praying. This means that we should use this time to pray for healing and anything else that we may want or need

This is our chance to build our private relationship with God without the distractions of the other synagogue members and friends.

May this difficult time quickly be put behind us and may we return to our synagogues as soon as it is safely possible to do so.

Should we be using the secular date? Print E-mail
Friday, 16 March 2018

When writing a check in Israel, one can choose to date it with the "Jewish" date (ex: 1 Nissan) or with the secular date (ex: March 1). But is the "Jewish" date really Jewish and if not then why are we using it?

The Ramban teaches on the topic of Parshat HaChodesh that we should count the months based on the first month of the redemption so that we will always remember the Exodus from Egypt. Therefore, the months in the Torah have no individual names. Just as in counting the days of the week we always remember Shabbat since the weekdays have no specific Hebrew name of their own, but are instead called "the first day in the week of Shabbat", "the second day in the week of Shabbat" so too the months have no name other than "the first month", "the second month", "the third month" to our redemption (from Egypt).

The rabbis taught in the Yerushalmi Rosh HaShana 1:2, "The names of the months came up with us from Babylon", since at first we had no names for the months. The reason for this adoption of the names of the months when our ancestors returned from Babylon to build the Second Temple was that at first their reckoning was a memorial to the Exodus from Egypt, but when we came up from Babylon the words of scripture were fulfilled as it says in Yirmiyahu 16:14-15 “And it shall no more be said: As the Eternal lives, that brought up and led B'nai Yisrael from the land of Egypt, rather: As the Eternal lives that brought up and led B'nai  Yisrael from the land of the north.” From then on we began to call the months by the names they were called in the land of Babylon. In that way we are reminded that there we stayed during the exile and from there God brought us up to our Land. The names- Nisan, Iyar etc. are Persian names and are only found in the books of the prophets of the Babylonian era (Zecharia, Ezra, Nechemia) and in Megillat Ester and are often used alongside the original numbers of the months as in “In the first month, that is, in the month of Nisan,” (Ester 3:7). Through the names of the months we remember our second redemption as we have done until then with regard to the first one.

Today, we are living during the era which we hope is "the first flowerings of the third redemption" so it actually makes sense to use the secular date (as in March 1) to remind us that we were once again in exile and now Jews from all over the world are returning to Israel as part of what we hope is the process of the third redemption.

What is interesting is that most Israelis call the secular months by the number of the month so March 1 would be called the first day of the third month which sounds a lot like the way the dates are outlined in the Torah.

Before long, checks will become obsolete as all banking will be done online so this won’t even be an issue at all.

Settling the Land of Israel as in the days of King Solomon Print E-mail
Friday, 31 March 2017

In Parshat Vayikra (Vayikra 4:13-15) we read:

If the entire congregation of Israel erred and the matter was concealed from the eyes of the community and they did transgress one of the commandments of God that should not be done, they icur guilt. When they realize the sin which they committed, the community shall bring a young bullock as a sin offering and they shall bring it to the front of Ohel Moed, the Tent of Meeting. The elders of the congregation shall lay their hands on the bull’s head before God and he shall slaughter the bullock before God.

Rav Assi teaches in the Talmud, Horayot 3a:

In regard to the sacrifice brought for an erroneous ruling (the communal bull) follow the majority of the inhabitants of the Land of Israel and do not take account the Jews living in the Diaspora. For it stated in Melachim I 8:65 “And Shlomo (King Solomon) instituted at that time the celebration and all of Israel was with him, a huge congregation from the approach to Chamat until the River of Egypt, before God…”

Rav Assi explains that we learn from here that only those Jews who live within the borders of the Land of Israel are referred to as the “congregation” but those Jews who live elsewhere are not referred to as “congregation.”

The Rambam states that the people of Israel are called “congregation” and God called them the entire congregation even if there were only ten men living there.

We see from here the power of those who settle the Land of Israel. The fact that even small groups of Jews lived in the Land of Israel throughout the ages still made them count as the entire congregation.

Now that we are living at a time where the State of Israel is open to immigration we are able to build large and impressive congregations throughout the Land of Israel from the north to the south the same way that the land was settled in the days of King Solomon.

Pesach Celebrates the Redemptions that the Jewish People Experienced Throughout History Print E-mail
Friday, 20 March 2015

 The beginning of the Maftir of Shabbat HaChodesh (Shmot 12:2), describes how the Jewish calendar is set up: “This month shall be for you the beginning of months it shall be for you the first of the months of the year.”

What is the meaning of the words “for you”?

Ramban points out that the month of the Exodus is not the first month of the year. However, it is the first month of the redemption from Egypt so it is meaningful for the Jewish people and therefore it is the first month on the Biblical calendar. The Torah counts the months from the redemption from Egypt so that the redemption will constantly be on our minds.

In the Yerushalmi, Rosh HaShana 1:2 the Rabbis taught that the names of the months (Nisan, Iyar etc.) were brought to the Land of Israel when the Jews returned from Babylonia thus fulfilling the prophecy of Yirmiyahu (Yirmiyahu 16:14-15) “Therefore behold days are coming, says the Lord, when it shall no more be said, as the Lord lives that brought up B’nai Yisrael out of the land of Egypt, but as the Lord lives that brought up B’nai Yisrael from the land of the north and from all the lands into which he had driven them: and I will bring them back into their land that I gave to their fathers.”

We call the months by the Persian names (Nisan, Iyar etc.) which we see in Megillat Ester 3:7: “In the first month which is the month of Nisan, in the 12th year of King Achashverosh the lot was cast…” to remind us of the redemption and the ingathering of the exiles which took place after the destruction of the first Beit HaMikdash.

By using the Persian names of the months, we are commemorating the fact that against all odds the Jews were able to return to the Land of Israel and build the second Beit HaMikdash.

Today, once again we are experiencing the prophecy of Yirmiyahu and Jews are returning to the State of Israel from all over the world.

In a senior center in Jerusalem where I teach there are six women who immigrated to Israel from Persia soon after the founding of the state. When we were studying about Purim they mentioned that they all come from Shushan HaBira! They celebrated Purim on Shushan Purim just as they do now in Jerusalem. They had the opportunity to visit the graves of Mordechai and Ester and they tell stories about how they prepared their own Shmura Matzah every year in honor of Pesach.

In Israel today we still go by the names of the Persian (now considered Jewish) months. When referring to the months on the civil calendar, Israel uses the numerical dates rather than the names of the secular months. Both the Jewish and civil dates are listed on the front page of the newspapers and we have the option of writing out checks using the Jewish or civil date.

At the Pesach seder, we can collectively celebrate all of the times that the Jewish people were redeemed throughout the ages. There are even Hagadot that describe the different times that the Jewish people were redeemed throughout history including the founding of the State of Israel.

For those of us who have already made aliya, the seder is a good opportunity to celebrate our coming home from the Diaspora. For those who have not made aliya, the seder is a time to reflect on making the words “Next year in Jerusalem” a reality!


Yom Kippur in March? Print E-mail
Friday, 07 March 2014

The Haftarah for Parsha Vayikra is from Yishayahu 43:21-44:23 and takes place when B’nai Yisrael are already in galut (exile) after the destruction of the First Beit HaMikdash.


Yishayahu explains that when B’nai Yisrael had the Beit HaMikdash, they didn’t take the service of bringing Korbanot (sacrifices outlined in Parshat Vayikra) seriously, at times they were even focused on worshipping other gods. God therefore destroyed the Beit HaMikdash and exiled the Jewish people. When He sent them into exile, God also forgave them for their sins. Now God is ready to start a clean slate, return them to the Land of Israel and rebuild the Beit HaMikdash.


Yishayahu 44:22 states “I will have wiped away your willful sins like a thick cloud and your errors like a mist, return to Me (shuva elai), for I have redeemed you (ki gaalticha).”


Since the Neviim (the books of the prophets) were written both for their own time period as well as for future generations, this pasuk is calling on all of the Jewish people in all of the generations to do tshuva and return to God. When a person does complete tshuva, all of their former sins will be erased (in the same way that clouds fully disappear) making room for the full redemption to take place.


The Rabbis adapted this concept into the Yom Kippur Musaf service:


Elokeinu v’Elokei Avoteinu, Our God and the God of our forefathers, pardon our iniquities on this Day of Atonement. Wipe away and remove our willful sins and errors from before Your eyes, as it is said (Yishayahu 43:25): ‘I have wiped away your willful sins for My sake and I shall not recall your errors.’ And it said (Yishayahu 44:22): ‘I will have wiped away your willful sins like a thick cloud and your errors like a mist, return to Me, for I have redeemed you.’ And it said (Vayikra 16:30): ‘For through this day He will atone for you to cleanse you; from all your sins before God you will be cleansed.’…For you are the  Forgiver of Israel and the Pardoner of the tribes of Yeshurun in every generation and other than You we have no king who pardons and forgives, only You! Blessed are You HaShem, the King who pardons and forgives our iniquities and the iniquities of His people, the family of Israel and removes our sins every single year, King over the world Who sanctifies Israel and the Day of Atonement.


We see from here that this call to do tshva is applicable in every generation.


Amos Chacham in his commentary (Daat Mikra on Yishayahu) points out that the words “shuva elai ki gaalticha” mean that the Jewish people should leave Bavel (Babylonia) and return to the place where the Shechina (Divine Presence) rests in the Land of Israel.


Since these words are true for all generations this is also a reminder for us to constantly work on returning to God by fulfilling the mitzvot and there is no better place to fulfill the mitzvot than in the Land of Israel.



Keeping the Covenant of the Salt Alive Today Print E-mail
Tuesday, 12 March 2013
In Parshat Vayikra, Vayikra 2:13 we read about the Covenant of Salt (Melach Brit): “You shall salt your every meal-offering with salt; you may not discontinue the salt of your God’s covenant from upon your meal offering- on your every offering shall you offer salt.”


Rashi explains what the words “Melach Brit” mean:


A covenant was made for salt from the Six days of Creation (on the second day of creation, God created a division between the heavenly waters above the firmament and the earthly waters below) when the lower waters were promised to be brought on the Alter in the form of salt.

The Midrash Yalkut HaReuveni elaborates:

The world is one part wilderness, one part settled land, and one part sea. The sea said to God: "Master of the Universe! The Torah will be given in the wilderness; the Holy Temple will be built on settled land; and what about me?" God answered: "The people of Israel will offer your salt upon the Altar."

According to Ramban, salt has two properties. It is destructive, for it prevents plants from growing (and it can corrode most substances) and it is helpful as it can preserve food. The Covenant of Salt teaches us that if the Altar service is performed properly and sincerely, it will preserve Israel, but if it is neglected, it brings about destruction and exile.

Today, unfortunately we do not have the Beit HaMikdash and we do not bring Korbanot. However, when we say Hamotzi at the Shabbat table, we dip our Challa in salt to remember the Covenent of the Salt. Our table becomes a Mizbeach (Alter). The salt reminds us that we must maintain our relationship with God as we pray for the rebuilding Beit HaMikdash when we can once again offer Korbanot (with salt)!

The Small Alef Teaches Humility Print E-mail
Friday, 23 March 2012

Parsha Points- Vayikra 5772


The Small Alef Teaches Humility


There are many different interpretations of why the Alef in the word Vayikra is written smaller than all of the other letters. The interpretation that we will focus on is the one from Rabbi Bunim of Peshischa.


Rabbi Bunim teaches that even though Moshe was on the highest level possible, he still carried himself in a very humble manner. Just as someone who stands on top of a mountain knows that he is only tall because the mountain is making him tall, so too Moshe knew that all of his greatness was a gift from God.


Rabbi Shimshon of Austropolly says that when Moshe wrote the word Vayikra (and He called), he wrote the Alef smaller because he was referring to himself. However, when he blessed B’nai Yisrael right before his death, he wrote the pasuk referring to the Jewish nation using all large letters: (Devarim 33:29) “Ashrecha Yisrael Mi Kamocha…”, “Fortunate are you O Israel: Who is like you! O people saved by the Lord, the Shield of your help, Who is the Sword of your excellency! Your enemies will try to deceive you but you shall trample upon their bamot.”


The last few words, “but you will trample their bamot” can refer to high places or haughty leaders. B’nai Yisrael will inherit the Land of Israel and neither the mountains nor the haughty leaders will stand in their way.


As humble as Moshe personally was, he understood that the Jewish people must take pride in themselves as a nation and with God behind them they will overcome their enemies and inherit the Land of Israel.

The Making of a Good Leader Print E-mail
Friday, 11 March 2011

Unfortunately, over the past few years there have been too many Jewish leaders who have ended up disappointing the Jewish community with immoral and unlawful acts.


There have been Rabbis removed from pulpits as well as members of the Knesset including a president who had to step down.


These “leaders” have desecrated God’s name, what is known in Hebrew as “Chilul HaShem.”


Should we be surprised? Is it unheard of for a Jewish leader to transgress?


In Parshat Vayikra, when we read about the Korbanot (sacrifices) that need to be brought after a person transgresses, it is not just the lay people who are expected to bring the korban, the rulers are expected to bring the korbanot as well.


In Vayikra 4:22 it says: “When (asher) a Nasi, a ruler, sins and does inadvertently something against any of the commandments of the Lord his God concerning things which should not be done and has incurred guilt. If the sin that he committed becomes known to him, he shall bring his offering, a male goat, unblemished.”


The Torah uses the word “asher”, “when” and not “im”, “if” since rulers are human and they are prone to sin. Sforno adds that often those who are wealthy and powerful may be more likely to sin.


The problem with many of the current scandals is that the leaders try to cover up their mistakes instead of owning up to them.


The hope according to Sifra is that a leader who seeks atonement even for his unintentional sins will surely repent for his intentional sins.


Let’s hope and pray that our new leaders will not repeat the mistakes of the past and that the new leadership will sanctify, not desecrate, God’s name and be a true Kiddush Hashem. As humans, our role models may err from time to time yet to gain our respect and God’s approval, they must be big enough to admit their wrongdoings and serve as examples that we should be proud to look up to.

The Role of the Korbanot before the Giving of the Torah Print E-mail
Friday, 19 March 2010

Parshat Vayikra is all about Korbanot (sacrifices). Ramban’s view is that these offerings show a person’s readiness to sacrifice themselves for their God.


Nahama Leibowitz quotes Rabbi David Hoffman’s introduction to his commentary on Vayikra where he investigates the role of the Korbanot before the giving of the Torah, when the Korbanot were acts of self expression, separate from a superior authority:


The first offerings were those of Kayin and Hevel (Breisheet 4:3) where they were called Mincha, a gift. Hevel brought “of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat parts thereof” with the intention of presenting God with the best of what he possessed, in order to receive the rest as a Divine favor.


Hevel’s gift was the concrete expression of a noble sentiment and was therefore received as the Torah states (Breisheet 4:4) “God accepted Hevel and his offering”.


Kayin’s offering was not accepted since he was looking to appease God, afraid that God would deprive him of the produce of the land. This is the underlying idea in most pagan sacrifices. Fearing the “jealousy of the gods”, they tried to placate the superior forces that threatened their lives and possessions.


Although accepted, Hevel’s gift was only a gift and did not symbolize his life as belonging to and depending upon God.


It was Noach who, having witnessed the destruction of the world full of wicked people, his own life being saved by a Divine miracle, came to realize that he owed his life and existence to God’s will. This was expressed by Noach offering animal sacrifices. The blood of the sacrifice poured on the altar represented the human life and soul. Noach’s feelings found concrete expression in the sacrifices which symbolized that not only his possessions but also his very life- his blood- belonged to God.


Finally, in Akedet Yitzchak, the Binding of Isaac, God gives Avraham the most difficult test, to sacrifice his son. Obeying the Divine command and ready to carry it out, he is ordered to preserve his son’s life. Just then a ram appears, and Avraham sacrifices the Ram instead. This experience illustrates the idea of full submission to God’s will, which is the ultimate purpose of a person’s life- (which in this case was done) through an animal sacrifice. This is what the “fear of God” means, boundless obedience to God’s will.


Avraham was willing to sacrifice his son because that was God’s command to him. In the end God told Avraham to sacrifice the ram instead.


The Korbanot, when performed correctly, were an opportunity to bring people closer to God. Unfortunately there was a lot of abuse involved, starting with Kayin, which actually distanced man from God in many ways.


Today, we don’t have Korbanot, but we can still work on becoming closer to God through prayer (which has replaced the Korbanot) as well as through the observance of the mitzvot (commandments).

White Collar Criminals and the Guilt Offering Print E-mail
Thursday, 26 March 2009

Parshat Vayikra ends with the concept of the Guilt Offering: “And it shall be, because he had sinned and is guilty, that he shall restore what he took violently away or the thing which he deceitfully acquired, or that was delivered him to keep or the lost thing which he found, or all about which he has sworn falsely, he shall even restore it in the principal and shall add the fifth part more to it…and he shall bring his Guilt Offering to the Lord, a ram without blemish…(Vayikra 5:23-25)”
Nechama Leibowitz points out that before bringing his guilt offering he must first redress the wrong by paying his debt.
It is taught in Bava Kama 9:12: He who made restitution before bringing his Guilt Offering has complied with the law. He who brought his guilt offering before making restitution has not complied with the law.
The Rambam stresses (Hilchot Gzeilah va-Avedah) the fact that the Guilt Offering is not to be brought before the robber has returned the principal to the owner.
In Masechet Yoma 85b we find a similar concept: For transgressions committed against God, Yom Kippur effects atonement, but for transgressions committed against one’s fellow Yom Kippur does not effect atonement until he has appeased his fellow.
Unfortunately when a ‘religious’ person turns out to be a criminal people say: “How can he be a criminal, we see him praying in the synagogue every week?”
Sure he was in the synagogue- after all he had plenty of guilt that he was trying to get off of his chest!
It is hypocritical for a person who has wronged other human beings to go directly to God to ask for forgiveness.
Every day of the year, not just on Yom Kippur, we must be diligent in performing the mitzvoth ‘ben adam lechavero’, between a person and their fellow person as well as the mitzvoth ‘ben adam lemakom’, between a person and God.

White collar criminals (people of respectability and high social status who commit a crime in the course of their occupation) must also be aware that if they steal, they must return the stolen item(s) plus more to the rightful owner or in God’s eyes (no matter how hard they pray) they will never be off the hook.

The Mystery of the Small Alef Print E-mail
Thursday, 13 March 2008

The book of Vayikra opens with the words: “Vayikra, He called to Moshe and God spoke to him from Ohel Moed, the tent of meeting”.

If you open up a Chumash, you will find that the last letter of the word “Vayikra” is written in a smaller print than the rest of the word.

According to the Zohar, the reason why the alef is small is because although the mishkan was technically complete, it would only fully be complete when it would arrive in the Land of Israel.

The small alef reminds us that full spiritual completeness can only be achieved in the Land of Israel.

However, this does not mean that if you live in Israel your spiritual life is complete and if you live outside of Israel you lack spirituality. On the contrary, I have seen many who have reached higher spiritual levels outside of Israel. However, this is not the ideal.

Why is it that so many in Israel are lacking spirituality?

The Six Day Work Week- Most Israelis only have Shabbat off as a family. A large number of Israelis totally disregard the day and don’t observe it at all. Others rush through the prayer service in order to have more time to eat and get some rest.

Holy Sites- Although Israel is full of holy sites- the Kotel (Westen Wall), Har HaBayit (The Temple Mount), Kever Rachel (Rachel’s Tomb), Ma’arat HaMachpela (Cave of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs), Yoseph’s Tomb, Tomb of Shimon HaTzaddik etc, many are difficult to get to, dangerous or even off limits without a bulletproof bus and an armed guard. Many tourists have the opportunity to spend time at these places as part of their vacations. However, a person who is employed or home with young children often does not have the time and resources to visit these sites on a regular basis.

Rote- many Israelis have been praying their whole lives and practically know the siddur (prayerbook) by heart. Because they see daily prayer as an obligation that must be fulfilled they rush through the service in order to complete daily services before work, leaving little room for proper intent and even less room for spirituality.

A five day work week, better access to the holy sites and a synagogue with slower services could alleviate some of the problems that the average Israeli looking for spirituality may face.

An even better solution would be to look for a place to be inspired. Yeshivat Merkaz HaRav (where the horrible attack took place last week) as well as many other Religious-Zionist Yeshivot and Midrashot give their students a strong spiritual foundation that they can take with them to the army and beyond. These students can serve as an inspiration to us all.

Let’s do what we can to find ways to elevate the level of spirituality in our communities and throughout the world.

The Korban Mincha and its Relevance Today Print E-mail
Sunday, 25 March 2007

Vayikra 2:1 begins with the words: “V’nefesh ki takriv korban mincha l’Hashem”, “When a soul brings a mincha offering to God”

Rashi asks why specifically in reference to the mincha, voluntary offering made primarily of flour, the term “nefesh”, “soul”, is used instead of the word “person”. Rashi answers with a quote from the Talmud in Menachot 104b: Since a poor person is the one who brings the mincha offering, God said: “I consider him as though he had offered his own soul”.

Ba’al HaTurim explains that the poor person expends his soul in order to scrape together the coins necessary to purchase the ingredients for the mincha offering.
Vayikra Raba 3:5 recounts the story of a woman who brought a handful of flour to offer to God. The Kohen yelled at her and said: “This flour is not good for a meal or for the alter”. In a dream God appeared to the Kohen and said: “Do not scorn her, it is as if she offered up her soul”.

Although the cost of the mincha offering is less than that of a bird, let alone an animal, God does not value this offering any less than the other offerings. If all that a person can afford to sacrifice is flour, then God will fully accept the flour.

Today, we don’t have the Beit HaMikdash and therefore we can’t offer the mincha offering. Menachot 110a states that whoever engages in the study of Torah is considered as if he offered up a “mincha offering.”

At the end of the Shmoneh Esrei we say the words “Yehi Ratzon” May it be your will, Hashem our God and God of our forefathers that the Beit HaMikdash be rebuilt, speedily in our days. Grant us our share in your Torah and may we serve you with reverence as in the days of old and in former years. Then the mincha of Yehuda and Yerushalayim will be pleasing to Hashem as in the days of old.

Vayikra 2:1 begins with the words: “V’nefesh ki takriv korban mincha l’Hashem”, “When a soul brings a mincha offering to God”

Rashi asks why specifically in reference to the mincha, voluntary offering made primarily of flour, the term “nefesh”, “soul”, is used instead of the word “person”. Rashi answers with a quote from the Talmud in Menachot 104b: Since a poor person is the one who brings the mincha offering, God said: “I consider him as though he had offered his own soul”.

Ba’al HaTurim explains that the poor person expends his soul in order to scrape together the coins necessary to purchase the ingredients for the mincha offering.
Vayikra Raba 3:5 recounts the story of a woman who brought a handful of flour to offer to God. The Kohen yelled at her and said: “This flour is not good for a meal or for the alter”. In a dream God appeared to the Kohen and said: “Do not scorn her, it is as if she offered up her soul”.

Although the cost of the mincha offering is less than that of a bird, let alone an animal, God does not value this offering any less than the other offerings. If all that a person can afford to sacrifice is flour, then God will fully accept the flour.

Today, we don’t have the Beit HaMikdash and therefore we can’t offer the mincha offering. Menachot 110a states that whoever engages in the study of Torah is considered as if he offered up a “mincha offering.”

At the end of the Shmoneh Esrei we say the words “Yehi Ratzon” May it be your will, Hashem our God and God of our forefathers that the Beit HaMikdash be rebuilt, speedily in our days. Grant us our share in your Torah and may we serve you with reverence as in the days of old and in former years. Then the mincha of Yehuda and Yerushalayim will be pleasing to Hashem as in the days of old.

The Power of Jerusalem Print E-mail
Wednesday, 29 March 2006

Sefer Vayikra, the third book of the Torah, primarily deals with laws concerning korbanot (sacrifices).

In Devarim 12:1-7, The Torah explains that korbanot were only to be offered at the place that God would choose.

During the thirty nine year period that B'nai Yisrael spent in the desert, korbanot could only be offered at the mishkan (tabernacle) and not on outside bamot (alters). When they arrived in Israel, there were time periods that certain korbanot could be offered on bamot as well. Once the Beit HaMikdash, the Temple was built in Jerusalem, outside bamot became totally forbidden and all korbanot had to be offered at the Beit HaMikdash.

The Gemara in Zevachim 112b explains that once Bnai Yisrael came to Jerusalem, the bamot became forbidden and were never again permitted because Jerusalem was the "nachala", inheritance foretold in the Torah.

Shadal explains that having one Beit HaMikdash would ensure that the entire nation would gather in one place and that the tribes would become integrated into a nation. If everyone could offer their korbanot wherever they wanted, then they would have no connection to the greater Jewish nation. Since the Torah's wish is that all Jews are responsible for one another it makes sense that they should all come to one central location.

Shadal adds that if each family brought their own korbanot on their own private bamot there could be distortions and possibly even idol worship. With all of the service of the korbanot restricted to one place, distortion is less likely to occur.

According to Shadal, the purpose of the korbanot was to provide Israel with a sanctuary for the worship of God and make God's presence felt.

Although we don't offer korbanot today, we do have Jerusalem and it should not be taken for granted. Jerusalem serves as a vehicle to unite Jews from all over the world who come to visit, study and settle.

Let's hope and pray that the time will speedily come when all Jews will unite and ultimately the third Beit HaMikdash will be rebuilt.