Parashat Tzav / Seder Nights
Dedicated Le'ilui Nishmat Esther Bat Menucha, Esther Kishk A'h by Her Children, Grandchildren and Great - Grandchildren
Parashat Tzav / Seder Nights Keep the Fire Burning! This week, Parashat Tzav continues the discussion of the 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. 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 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 and tells Aharon to begin his day by the lowly task of taking out the ashes, so he wouldn’t think too highly of himself. One’s Honor Is Worth Something! 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 out of 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. 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. The person who was in need was a well-known and respected member of the community. Although, if he didn’t use the person’s name and made the collection anonymous, he would not be able to expect that much, for these types of vague requests are made several times per week. I asked a Rabbi whether he should mention the name, which would allow him to raise more money, or keep it anonymous and raise less money? Immediately, the Rabbi said it should be anonymous — because a person’s pride is worth a whole lot as well. A person’s respect and honor are worth a lot. It’s even worth monetary loss. Money can always be replaced, but kavod and pride are much harder to restore if lost. Korbanot Rabbi Fishman discusses the concept of the korban and sacrifices to Hashem. The idea of the korban Olah was taught when Noach brought this sacrifice after the mabul. After he brought the offering, Hashem declared He would never bring another flood to the world again. When Avraham brought his son Yitzchak to be sacrificed to Hashem, Hashem rewarded Avraham with the very famous covenant, Brit Ben Habetarim, a promise that after galut, Avraham’s descendants will become a great nation, vast and strong. In Parashat Tzav, along with last week’s Vayikra, we learn that sacrificing for Hashem and Torah are not for Hashem’s benefit, but for ours. Rabbi Fishman says to bring a korban is to bring a piece of oneself. We must have this attitude, to give pieces of ourselves over to Hashem and to serve Him with love, even in trying times. Hashem will always see our actions and reward us for our “korbanot” of today. Instructing Our Children This motzei shabbat begins the holiday of Pesach, on which we are commanded to celebrate our freedom from slavery in Egypt over 3,300 years ago. We express our gratitude and dedication to Hashem for saving us and giving us the Torah, the greatest gift a nation could ever receive! We will all gather with our families to celebrate the Pesach Seder meal where we will read the Haggadah. The word Haggadah means to tell over. We have an obligation from the Torah to tell our children the story of the Exodus from Egypt and how Hashem saved us from the hands of Pharaoh. There are four times that the Torah commands us to instruct our children. The first mention of this obligation is in Parashat Shemot where it says, “And it shall be when your children say to you, what is this service to you? You shall say, it is a Pesach feast offering to Hashem, Who passed over the homes of the children of Israel when He killed the firstborn of the Egyptians, but He saved our households (12:26)!” The parasha continues and says, “And it shall be when your son will ask you at some future time, what is this? You shall say to him, ‘With a strong hand Hashem removed us from Egypt from the house of bondage (13:14).’” The second time we hear of instructing children is in Parashat Yitro. The Torah teaches us to refrain from work on Shabbat. The passuk says, “The seventh day is a Sabbath to Hashem; you shall perform no labor, neither you, your son [or] your daughter (20:10).” Rashi points out “to instruct the adults regarding teaching the children” the Shabbat laws. The third time is in Parashat Emor, “Speak to the kohanim, the sons of Aharon, and say to them (21:1) …” Rashi explains the word “speak” is the command for the adults, and the “say to them” is the obligation for the adults to teach the children about the laws of the kohanim. The fourth and final time is in Parashat Shemini, where we are instructed to refrain from eating insects, blood and unkosher animals. The passuk uses a spelling that can be read two ways, “do not eat them” or “do not give them to eat,” meaning “instruct the adults regarding teaching the children” about forbidden foods. Rabbi Rachamim Aboud wrote in the JSOR Passover pamphlet about these instances. Why are we instructed to teach our children about these specific mitzvot – Yetziat Mitzrayim, Shabbat, the mitzvah of kohanim, and refraining from unkosher foods? Rabbi Aboud answers that these teach a fundamental aspect of Judaism: emunah —belief in Hashem through the generations.
The Exodus teaches that Hashem runs the world, can change nature, and He rewards and punishes for one’s deeds.
Shabbat teaches that not only does Hashem run every aspect of the world, but He created it in six days.
The kohanim are dedicated to serving Hashem and must teach their children to preserve the sanctity of the kehunah, which solidifies faith.
The Torah says that when someone eats nonkosher food, he creates a blockage in his heart and brain which prevents his understanding the wisdom of the Torah. Therefore, the Torah says we must instruct our children to avoid eating any nonkosher foods so that we retain a clean mind where Torah wisdom can penetrate.
Linking the Generations The main part of the Seder is called Magid which comes from the same root as Haggadah. Both mean to tell over. As we mentioned earlier, we are required to tell our children the story of Pesach. The Seder is a process that we practice one time each and every year that links the generations! As Jews we have been following this practice from our fathers, who learned from their fathers and so on, going back over 3,300 years. Before the eighth plague of locusts, Pharaoh finally told Moshe to “Go and serve Hashem,” but without the children, thereby creating a division between father and son. Pharaoh intentionally tried to disconnect the generations so the sons will not carry on their fathers’ beliefs. Once that connection from the fathers’ observance of Torah and mitzvot is severed, it would be quite simple to integrate the sons into the corrupt Egyptian culture. Before long, they would intermarry and eventually the name of Israel and the Jewish nation, has veshalom would be lost. This was the ongoing theme of the nations throughout the ages, like the Persians, the Greeks, the Romans, the Spanish, and the Germans. This theme has been repeated with the destructive objective of causing Judaism to become extinct. We read in the Haggadah, “Vehi she’amdah lavotenu velanu - And this [Hashem] stood firm for our fathers and for us.” It continues, “In every generation from that time on, there were those who would try and annihilate us, but the Holy One, Blessed is He, saved us from their hand!” When we say this paragraph above, we cover the matzah and raise our wine glasses. This represents how we are supposed to approach difficult situations. When someone is going through a hard time, he should ‘cover’ his suffering, and not allow his suffering to take away from the way he raises his cup and praises Hashem for His infinite kindness. The Four Cups The Torah brings up the four progressive stages of our redemption from Pharaoh and Egypt, which correspond to the four cups of wine that we are obligated to drink on the Seder nights. These four expressions from the Torah as explained by Rav Bahya are:
Vehotzeti - I shall take you out. Hashem will remove the Jewish people from the burdens of slavery even before they were allowed to leave.
Vehitzalti - I shall rescue you. Hashem will take the Jewish people out of Egypt.
Vegaalti - I shall redeem you. This alludes to the splitting of the Red Sea, when Hashem's outstretched arm literally saved B'nei Yisrael while crushing Egypt’s army in front of a demoralized Pharoah.
Velakahti - I shall take you. Hashem took the Jews as His people when He gave them the Torah at Har Sinai. That was the ultimate climax to our redemption and the purpose of the Exodus!
The Haggadah has 1,820 words describing how Hashem came down, and not a malach- angel to save us from the hands of the Egyptians. Hashem's name also 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. The Four Sons The Haggadah presents Four Sons who represent four different types of Jews. The four sons are hacham - wise, rasha - wicked, tam - simple, and V’she’eno' Yodea Lish’al - he who does not know how to ask. The first letter of each one, put together, spells herut - freedom, which is the central theme of the holiday and another name for Pesach: Hag Herut. The four sons also remind us that we have an obligation to teach our children in their own way and at their appropriate level. The hacham is opposite to the son who doesn't know how to ask, and the tam is the opposite of the rasha. Why? We learn that no matter what, they're all our sons, and even the rasha can make teshuvah! Why do we say echad hacham achad rasha etc.? This is to show that we have an obligation to teach each child in his own way and at his own pace that will help him reach his potential. Emunah in Hashem Similar to Rabbi Aboud’s approach, Rabbi David Sutton explains that the main focus of the Seder night is to strengthen our emunah in Hashem. The source of all our emunah is Yetziat Mitzrayim, as it’s 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! There are many lessons to learn from Yetziat Mitzrayim. Two very important ones are:
Hashem can create something from nothing, which we learn when He sent the Ten Plagues to destroy Egypt.
Hashem’s involvement in each one of our lives is on an individual basis. It’s our job to recognize Him from both the open miracles, and the hashgacha peratit-Divine Providence that we all experience in our daily lives.
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 as slaves. With each time we raise a cup of wine, we are celebrating the deduction of 344 total years from galut (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 to bring us and all of Klal Yisrael to the days of the Mashiah 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! Amen! Do We Really Feel Redemption Today? During the rest of the year we can eat hametz which is flour and water that's been left alone long enough to rise. Matzah, though also flour and water, must be watched. This exemplifies Hashem’s “hands on” approach, guiding us through every moment of our lives. We must ask ourselves if we really feel the redemption that our ancestors experienced so many years ago, while living as we with luxury and convenience. We have to be thankful for everything we went through in our pasts and feel confident that Hashem will continue to guide us for the rest of our lives. May we learn from the parasha to be careful with our friend’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 hessed, give tzedaka, look out for our fellow Jew, and make the most of this time. With all the troubles the world is now facing, there is also a ray of hope. People are slowing down and reflecting, realizing what is truly important, how little we are truly in control, how much we depend on one another. How great is the resilience of the human spirit! May Hashem hasten our ultimate salvation. May we strengthen our emunah in Hashem and look forward to the coming of the Mashiah in our days! Amen! Hag Kasher Ve Sameach and Shabbat Shalom! Rabbi Amram Sananes as written by Jack Rahmey Discussion Points:
Do we give the less fortunate the proper respect that they deserve?
Are we making the most of our time to sacrifice for Torah and bring Mashiah closer?
Le’ilui Nishmat… Eliyahu Ben Rachel Rabbi Shimon Chay Ben Yaasher Avraham Ben Garaz Sarah Bat Chanah Esther Bat Sarah Avraham Ben Mazal Shulamit Bat Helaina Rabbi Meyer Ben Chana Rahamim Ben Mazal Batsheva Bat Sarah Esther Rafael Ben Miriam Ovadia Ben Esther Rav Haim Ben Rivka Moshe Ben Mazal Moshe Ben Yael Yitzchak Ben Adele Avraham Ben Mazal Meir Ben Latifa Chanah Bat Esther Yaakov Ben Rachel Malka Bat Garaz Moshe Ben Garaz Avraham Ben Kami Yaakov Ben Leah Mordechai Ben Rachel Chacham Shaul Rachamim Ben Mazal Natan Ben Rachel Saadia Ben Miriam Eliyah Ben Latifa Simhon Margalit Bat Mazal Ovadia Haim Ben Malaky Rabbi Aharon Chaim Ben Ruchama Yehoshua Ben Batsheva Luratte Bat Masouda Esther Bat Menucha Uri Ben Rahel Anyone interested in Dedicating this Divre Torah Le'ilui Nishmat or Refuah Shelemah or In Honor of someone, can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Checks can be made out to “Mikdash Melech” for $101 and mail to 1326 Ocean Parkway, Brooklyn, NY 11230 (please put in the memo “Divre Torah Food for Shabbat”). Anyone interested in past parashiot please go to the website ParashaPerspective.org