Parashat Tzav / Pesach
Dedicated for a Refuah Shelemah for Rachel bat Sarah, Mrs. Shellie Rahmey, from her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.
Parashat Tzav / Pesach
Keep the Fire Burning!
This week, Parashat Tzav continues the discussion of the korbanot—sacrifices that B’nei Yisrael were commanded to bring to the Bet Hamikdash. The parasha begins, “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 Kidushin (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.” It says in Tzav, “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 be careful not to fall into the trap of mediocrity. Now is the time to reinvigorate our dedication to Hashem.
One’s Honor Is Worth Something!
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 was “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 (6:3).” 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 HaLevavot says that the Torah is particularly careful that people should not let things go to their heads, so they don’t become a baal ga’avah—haughty person. Here, the kohen thinks he is something special — and 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 and tells Aharon to begin his day with the lowly task of taking out the ashes, so he wouldn’t think too highly of himself.
On one hand, the Torah ensures the kohen gadol does not become a baal ga’avah, but on the other hand, the Torah is also very particular about the honor of the less fortunate. There’s a very interesting Gemara in Baba Kama 92a. Every year, the people would bring the first fruit that sprouted for the season and give it to the Bet Hamikdash and present them to the kohen. The wealthy people used to bring their Bikkurim—first fruits in golden and silver baskets. The poor people couldn’t afford golden baskets, so they had baskets made from straw.
The Gemara says that the gold and silver baskets were returned to the wealthy, but the straw baskets from the poor people were kept by the kohen. Rava asks why this rule applies, “Basar anyah azla aniyusa—the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.” The rich man gives his basket and gets it back, while the poor person who can’t afford it, doesn’t get his basket back. Why is that?
The reason the kohen 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. It’s better for the poor person to lose the basket, rather than take back the basket and swallow his pride. The Torah is very sensitive and goes to great lengths to protect a person’s honor.
Years ago, right after World War II, there were many orphans that arrived here on American shores, after being left without a family. A lot of these orphans were sent to New York to learn in Rabbi Moshe Feinstein’s yeshivah on the Lower East Side. The people involved with the yeshivah started collecting money to buy the orphans clothing.
The president of the shul in the city planned a huge fundraiser, a black-tie dinner, to help collect the money these young orphans needed for clothing and essentials. Everyone from the community was invited to help raise money for them. The well-meaning president stood up in front of all the guests and began to thank the very generous benefactors for their donations for the “Orphans of World War II.”
He said, “I would like to ask the orphan boys in this crowd to stand up and give a respectful hakarat hatov to the donors here tonight.” Of course, these young boys would stand out of humility and respect, but before anyone could get up, Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, Rosh Hayeshivah, ZT’L, shot up from his chair in the front of the room. When the people saw the great Reb Moshe Feinstein standing, the entire room stood up to honor him. And with the whole room standing, no one could tell who was an orphan, and who was not.
The greatness of this gadol was so incredible. With barely a second to think, he immediately reacted and thought about the honor of the children there that day. He was known to have an enormous amount of sensitivity, and just as we learned in Tzav, the Torah goes to great lengths to protect the dignity of those less fortunate.
Rabbi Mansour discusses the prophecy read in this week’s haftara, which comes from the Book of Yirmiyahu. Yirmiyahu criticized the people for offering korbanot without undergoing a process of repentance and change. Parashat Tzav spoke about the sacrifices, and this prophecy in the haftara reminds us that sacrifices alone do not suffice. In order to achieve G-d’s atonement and favor, the sacrifices must be accompanied by a genuine commitment to improving one’s conduct.
After his rebuke of the people, Yirmiyahu said “They did not listen to Me, they did not turn their ear; they made their necks stiff (7:26).” The people refused to accept the prophets’ rebuke, stubbornly persisting in their wayward conduct.
Rav Avraham Pam elaborated on the importance of humbly accepting criticism. Our instinct upon hearing it is to reject it, to insist that we’re correct and that we have no need to change anything. But if we never accept criticism, we will never grow. There are many improper things that we do of which we are unaware until somebody draws our attention to the fact that we act wrongly. Thus, we cannot possibly hope to change and become better if we refuse to accept criticism, to listen with an open mind and ear when people point out to us our mistakes.
Rav Pam related a humorous story about his father, Rav Meir Pam, who served as a Rabbi in Brownsville. Once, Rav Meir found it necessary to harshly rebuke the congregation and delivered a speech critical of their conduct. Afterward, one of the members approached him and said, “Wow, Rabbi, you really gave it to them!”
“I had to bite my lip not to laugh or say anything,” Rav Meir later told his son. “He was exactly the person I was talking to!”
This exemplifies the natural tendency that we all have when it comes to criticism. It’s uncomfortable to admit that we act wrongly, so we prefer to deflect it, to insist that our behavior is perfect and beyond reproach, and it’s everyone else who needs to hear criticism. We must keep our minds open, humbly acknowledging that we are far from perfect, and being prepared to accept the uncomfortable criticism given to us by others. If we live this way, then we will continually grow and become better, thereby fulfilling our purpose here in this world.
The Significance of 15 Nisan
Next week, not only will we be celebrating the night that Hashem saved us from the Egyptians over 3,300 years ago, but the night of Pesach is significant as a “time of salvation” throughout our history as a nation!
On 15 Nisan, Avraham defeated the four kings, rescuing Lot from captivity. The Brit Ben Habetarim, the covenant where Hashem promised Avraham that he will father a big nation who will be redeemed from slavery also took place on the night of Pesach. On 15 Nisan, Sarah was given a salvation after years of struggling for many years to conceive, and Yitzchak was born. Years later, Yitzchak summoned his firstborn, who we know was Yaakov dressed as Esav, and he blessed him with the many blessings of the bechora on the first day of Pesach. Fast forward, and Yaakov was saved from the Satan before confronting Esav on the eve of Pesach, and Hashem gave him the new name of Yisrael, a name that embodies Hashem’s salvation of the Jewish people.
Exactly one year before Yetziat Mitzrayim, Moshe chased a sheep that had escaped, and found Hashem there in the form of the Burning Bush. Hashem told Moshe that He would redeem the Jewish Nation from slavery and save them from Pharaoh.
On the 14th of Nisan, the last and final plague had come for the Egyptians—where Hashem had killed the firstborns—which was the catalyst to the redemption. Over 600,000 men (and millions of people) from B’nei Yisrael were saved by Hashem and began their journey to Eretz Yisrael on the 15th of Nisan. After the miracle of Passover, many other miracles continued to occur on the anniversary of that date.
Daniel was thrown into the lions’ den on 15 Nisan. Miraculously, the lions did not touch him, and he emerged from the den unscathed. Esther had invited Achashverosh and Haman to the first mishteh—banquet on the 14th of Nisan, and it took place on Passover. She and the Jewish people had fasted over the holiday, the very dates of the Exodus, so that they may be offered another major salvation from Hashem. And they were!
Throughout Jewish history, 15 Nisan was a day that miracles happened. It was a day of salvation and hashgacha peratit. After Kiddush on Pesach, parents should bless their children, because the gates of beracha are opened. Friends and family should bless each other. Those that are going through a struggle in their lives should pray, because Hashem is ready to send a salvation on this day of miracles!
Emunah in Hashem
Rabbi David Sutton explained that on the Seder nights, we should strengthen our emunah—faith in Hashem. The reference to all our emunah is Yetziat Mitzrayim, as stated in the Ten Commandments, “I am Hashem, who took you out of Mitzrayim.” The Ro’sh says that if a person doesn’t believe in Yetziat Mitzrayim, then that person doesn’t believe in Hashem!
The Haggadah has 1,820 words describing how Hashem came down to save us from the hands of the Egyptians. Hashem’s name appears in our Torah 1,820 times, whereas Moshe’s name is not even mentioned once in the Haggadah. On this night, the spotlight belongs to Hashem.
Emunah is not something intellectual. Rather, it must become instinctive and automatic. When a challenging situation arises in our lives, our reactions must be to have complete emunah and trust in Hashem! The goal of the Seder is to feel as though Hashem just saved each and every one of us from the bondage of Egypt, and now we are on our way to receive the Torah at Har Sinai!
One way we remember this is from the arba kosot—four cups of wine that we drink at the Seder. The gematria for the Hebrew word for cup—kos = 86.
Originally, the Jewish Nation was supposed to be in Egypt for 430 years, but they actually only spent 86 years enslaved. Each time we raise a cup of wine, we are celebrating the deduction of 344 total years from galut—exile (430-344=86). Each cup represents another 86 years. 86x4=344, which leaves us with 86 of the 430 years of hard labor while we were enslaved in Egypt.
We must learn to have hakarat hatov—gratitude to Hashem for everything that we have in our lives, because if not for Hashem, we would have nothing! We must look forward to the geulah—redmption to bring us and all of Klal Yisrael to the days of the Mashiach where we, along with the rest of the world, will recognize Hashem as the only one true G-d and the Jewish Nation as His people forever!
May we learn from the parasha to be careful with our fellow Jew’s honor, no matter what his financial situation is. May we all be able to make sacrifices for Hashem and get closer to him. May we continue to do chessed, give tzedakah, and look out for our fellow Jew anonymously and with care. May we humbly accept criticism and constantly strive to grow and improve! May we strengthen our emunah, and all be blessed with happiness, health, and success always, and may the Final Salvation of Mashiach arrive now!! Amen!
Shabbat Shalom and Chag Kasher Vesameach!!
Rabbi Amram Sananes, written by Jack Rahmey
When we do chessed or give tzedakah, do we do it anonymously, while protecting the honor of the less fortunate?
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