Past Weekly Shabbat Message
Rabbi Dovid Saks
(Torah Portion Vayikra) Hope and Optimism
The primary focus of this week’s Torah portion is the laws of sacrifices and offerings that were presented on the Temple altar.
One of the penitential sacrifices discussed in the portion is when a High Priest ruled erroneously on a particular law and then himself followed his incorrect ruling. Once he learns that he himself erred, he is obligated to offer an elaborate sin offering.
The Torah instructs that the animal including its hide must be burnt in a ritually holy place, outside of the confines of the Temple.
Baal Haturim explains that the High Priest’s sin offering is taken outside of the confines of the Temple so that onlookers would take notice. They will then say: Just as the prestigious High Priest has been honest with himself, admitting his wrongdoing, so too, let us not be embarrassed or hesitate from offering a sacrifice in case we sin.
A question raised is why does the Torah specify that the animal be burnt in a ritually clean and undefiled place? If the animal is to be burnt and reduced to ash, what difference does it make if the place is ritually clean or not?
We can derive a wonderful and encouraging lesson from this law. Even if one feels that he strayed so far from the path of Judaism that he feels like a heap of sparkless ashes of the burnt sacrifice, he should be encouraged by the fact that the Torah tells us that even this animal is burnt in a ritually holy place, instructing us that it is even possible for one who abandoned his Judaism to reconnect to his roots. Every Jew is precious. No matter how estranged he feels, he retains the privilege and is entitled to draw close to a pure place and reconnect to his roots.
Additionally, as Jews, we can never give up on our brothers who have left the camp. They are always welcome back with a purified place reserved for them affording them the opportunity to embrace our sacred Torah teachings and values.
During the recitation of the Hagadah, we will recite a verse quoted from the Torah, “V’yaraiu Osanu Hamitzrim. – And the Egyptians treated us badly.”
The great commentator Alshich explains that the Egyptians’ method of abuse was to convince the Jews that they were inherently bad people and therefore not worthy of redemption.
Rabbi Avrohom Schorr further explains that Pharoh figured that the Jewish people’s spirit was uplifted due to their hope and optimism for redemption. He employed a tactic of psychological warfare. He tried to cause them to feel that they were intrinsically bad people, and thinking negatively about themselves they would lose hope in redemption.
To the chagrin of the Egyptians, their scheme did not succeed, for the Jews did not fall into despair. As the next verses that we recite in the Hagaddah indicate, “The Jews called out to G-d, and Hashem heard our voices and miraculously took us out of Egypt.”
The Mishna in Ethics of our Fathers states, “Don’t consider yourself to be a wicked person.” Rambam explains that when one considers himself as a wicked person, he will not be surprised about anything bad he does, and he will never be able to creep out of it.
A person must always realize that he has a pure and untainted soul, to which he can always connect and ignite a desire to do the pure and the good.
Wishing you a restful, peaceful
and inspirational Shabbos!
Rabbi Dovid and Malki Saks