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Parashat Tzav

Dedicated in Honor of My Wife Dina by Albert Jammal

Parashat Tzav

Don’t Get Complacent...

This week’s Parasha Tzav, continues the discussion of the sacrifices that B’nai Yisrael were commanded to bring to the Bet Hamikdash. The Parasha begins (6:1), "Hashem spoke to Moshe, saying: Command Aharon and his sons, saying: This is the law of the Olah offering." An Olah offering is one which is burnt entirely on the altar. Rashi comments according to Masechet Kidushiin (29a), "Every place where the word Tzav(command) is used, it is an indication that the Torah is giving us a command that should be carried out with zeal and immediacy for all the future generations to follow the same way." This also applies to Pesukim 5 and 6: "The fire on the altar shall be kept burning, it shall not be extinguished. A permanent fire shall remain aflame on the altar; it shall not be extinguished." We can learn from this that we must keep a flame burning constantly within us for Torah and Mitzvot. We must keep our enthusiasm as strong as on the day of our Bar Mitzvah and we must be careful not to fall into the trap of mediocrity. This of course includes our sacrifices of today which are our tefilot, that we must concentrate on so that they will not become routine.

Rabbi Frand says Aharon and his children were given the tremendous responsibility of the Temple Service. But the first thing that Aharon was instructed to do as it says, (Vayikra 6;3)...“And the priest shall put on his linen garment and his linen pants shall he wear on his flesh, and take up the ashes to which the fire had consumed the elevating-offering on the altar, and lay them down at the side of the altar”.

There is a biblical command known as “Terumat HaDeshen.” One of the first things that had to be done every morning as part of the service was to remove the ashes of the wood and offerings that had burnt the previous night.

The Chovot HaLevovot, one of the classic works on Ethics and Jewish philosophy, says that the rational behind this is that the Torah is particularly careful that people should not let things go to their head, so they don’t become a Baal gayvah and haughty. Here, the Kohen thinks he is something special — and in fact he is something special. He is among the select few who were chosen to do the Avodat HaMikdash. The Torah, nevertheless instructs him, “Take out the ashes!” The Torah is very sensitive to human emotions. Not that Aharon would come to think too much of himself, the Torah tells him to begin his day by the lowly task of taking out the ashes.

One’s Honor Is Worth Something!

We see how the Torah was very particular about the honor of the less fortunate. On the one hand the Kohen Gadol should not become a Baal gayvah; but on the other hand the poor person should not become depressed and broken. There’s a very interesting gemara in Baba Kama [92a]. The wealthy people used to bring their Bikurim in golden and silver baskets. The poor people couldn’t afford golden baskets, so they had baskets made out of straw. That is what they used to carry their fruits when they presented them to the Kohen.

The Gemara says that the gold and silver baskets were returned to the wealthy. The Kohanim had no right to keep these precious utensils as a fringe benefit that came with the first fruits. But the straw baskets from the poor people they did keep. Rava applies to this the old rule “basar anyah azla aniyusa,” which loosely translated means “the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.”

It is ironic that the rich fellow gives his basket and gets it back while the poor person who can’t afford it, doesn’t get his basket back. This was always a concept that was hard to understand. Why do we keep the poor fellow’s basket?

I once read that the reason the Torah takes the basket, is to bolster the ego of the poor person. Keeping the fruit in the basket makes it look like a more substantial gift. The Torah says, let the Kohen keep the basket and let the poor person suffer the financial loss, but let him at least keep his pride and dignity in tact. Better the poor person should lose the basket, in order to give the Bikurim the appearance of looking plentiful, rather than return the basket and make him swallow his pride. The Torah is very sensitive and goes to great lengths to protect a persons honor.

I remember a person asking me about raising money for another Jew to help him make a wedding for his daughter. The fellow who approached me wanted to raise money on the other person’s behalf so that he could make the wedding.

His question was that if he told people who he was raising the money for, there was no question that he could raise a lot of money quickly because the person was a well-known and well-respected person in the community. On the other hand, if he didn’t use the persons name and made the collection anonymous, he would not be able to expect that much, for these type of requests come in a several times a week. I went to my Rabbi weather he should mention the name which would allow him to raise more money or to keep it anonymous and raise less money? Without batting an eyelash or thinking for a minute, the Rabbi said it should be anonymous — “because a person’s pride is worth a whole lot as well”.

That is what we see over here from the baskets. A person’s respect and honor is worth a lot. Its even worth it if it would cause him to lose money over it. Money can always be replaced, but kavod habriyot and pride is much harder to replace.

The Ultimate Guarentor

Around forty years ago, a wealthy Jewish philanthropist in London suddenly lost his fortune. He did not tell anyone what happened, because he did not want those in need to hesitate approaching him to ask for help. He loved giving, and he did not want to stop even after his financial collapse. The man went to a prominent wealthy Jew in Manchester and requested a loan so that he could continue helping people. He explained that he has a number of investments that would be maturing in two years, and so he asked for a two-year loan of 2 million British pounds, which was roughly equivalent to $4 million dollars. The man was prepared to provide the loan to the philanthropist but asked if he had a guarantor for the loan. The man from London explained that he’d rather not give any guarantors because he did not want anyone to know about his reversal of fortune. Therefore he preferred borrowing the money without a guarantor.

“You are asking me to do the impossible,” the man from Manchester said. “How can I lend you so much money without a guarantor?”

“I am doing this I’shem Shamayim,” the man explained, “in order to help people. I know Hashem can be the Guarantor.”

The man from Manchester, with complete faith in Hashem, responded, “You are correct. Because this money is needed I’shem Shamayim, we will name Hashem as the Guarantor.” And he gave him the sum he requested!

Two years later, the man from London returned to Manchester – without the money. He explained that he did not yet have the funds to repay the loan, and that he needed another two months. The man from Manchester began thinking that he would never see the money again, and so he went into his private room and spoke to Hashem. “You are the Guarantor for this loan,” he said, “and the time has come for it to be repaid. But I don’t want the money. I have a daughter who is already of age and has not been able to find a shidduch. Hashem, please send her husband and I will consider this as a payment of the loan.”

The man’s daughter was engaged less than three weeks later. He also closed a profitable business deal that yielded almost the complete sum he had lent to the man from London.

Two-and-a-half months later, the man from London returned, ready to repay the loan. But the lender refused, explaining that Hashem, the “Guarantor” had already repaid the debt in full, and the man did not owe him anything. But the man from London insisted, saying that he did not take free gifts and was intent on repaying the money he had borrowed. An argument ensured between them as each party was insisting that the other keep the money. Remarkably, they brought the case to a beit din in Israel. One of the judges who presided over the case, Rabbi Zickerman, who related this story, said that the judges were all in tears and overcome with emotion upon seeing the honestly and sincerity of these two Jewish men. They eventually ruled that the money should be returned to the “Guarantor,” to Hashem. It happened to be a shemittah year, and so the money was given to a special fund set up to assist farmers in Israel who observed shemittah.

Both these men put their faith in Hashem: the one who borrowed the money in order to continue giving tzedakah, and the lender who gave the loan relying on Hashem as the Guarantor. And Hashem did not let them down; He was there ready to catch them. As David HaMelech says (Tehillim 25:2), My Hashem, I trust in You, so I shall not be shamed.”

May we all be able to make sacrifices with our heart in order to get closer to Hashem and may we always have the same enthusiasm for our mitzvot and tzedakot weather we have a gain or not. May we also learn from Hashem to be careful with our neighbors honor, no matter what his financial situation is.

· When dealing with a poor person do you give him the proper respect that he deserves?

· Did you ever find yourself in a similar predicament as in the story where you prayed to Hashem to handle it for you?

Rabbi Amram Sananes as written by Jack Rahmey

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