Beit Midrash

  • Torah Portion and Tanach
  • Vayikra
To dedicate this lesson

The Torah study is dedicated in the memory of

Hana Bat Haim

Parashat Vayikra

Wanting Good Will


From the Chemdat Yamim Leaflet

Vayikra 5 Nisan 5764
One of a baby’s earliest sentences is invariably, "I want." We hope that as he matures, his interests will be less self-centered. But a person continues to have strong desires throughout his life. The idea is to channel those desires in positive directions. Let’s see what our parasha teaches on the matter.

Vayikra starts by describing the korban olah (burnt offering). While one who requires one can be pressured to bring the korban, it ultimately must come "willingly." This is derived (Bava Batra 48a) from the word "lirtzono" (Vayikra 1:3) which one translation renders as "voluntarily," based on the gemara’s phrase, "rotzeh ani" (I want). However, this is linguistically difficult, because throughout Chumash (as opposed to Chazal and parts of Nach), "ratzon" means to be accepted favorably ("chafetz" means to want). (If scanning a concordance does not convince you, see Ha’amek Davar, ad loc.). So how did Chazal know that "lirtzono" indicates agreeing to the korban, when the simple meaning is that the korban is accepted favorably?

The answer may simply be that Chazal understood that there is no way that Hashem will accept a korban favorably if there is no human desire or interest in the korban serving its purpose. So if it is lirtzono, the person could not have been totally coerced to bring it. Different levels of interest are needed to fulfill different mitzvot. All agree that if one is forced to repay a loan (which is a mitzva) he fulfills the mitzva (on the basic level) and need not pay again. If one is forced to eat matzah on Pesach, he fulfills his mitzva only according to the opinion that "mitzvot einan tzrichot kavana" (Rosh Hashana 28a). But to have a korban brought without any element of spiritual involvement whatsoever cannot bring any spiritual gain that can be described as lirtzono (see Shmuel I, 15:22).

If this is true, then we can see how the different meanings of "ratzon" relate to each other. When Hashem accepts a korban favorably, it is by virtue of the fact that the korban has served as a medium of bringing a feeling of closeness and desire for further interaction between Him and the person who brings the korban. Hashem "feels" the person’s desire to draw close and reciprocates in the appropriate, Divine manner. When someone desires something (the common use of "rotzeh") he wants the thing to be connected to him. Of course, we can use the phrase on the most mundane level, describing the least significant connections, like that between a baby and a piece of candy. But man has the ability, the opportunity, and the responsibility to use his ratzon to seek out Hashem and create a mature, passionate, and lasting relationship with Him. What is certain is that to the extent that he is sincere, his overtures will be reciprocated "b’ratzon."

Creating this connection is not be done all at once or independently, but is developed through the right, enthusiastic approach toward performing mitzvot. Maybe this is the intention of Avot 2:4, "Aseh r’tzoncha kirtzono k’dei sheyeaseh r’tztoncha kirtzono." When you do what Hashem desires (mitzvot) like your own desires, you will develop the favorable outlook towards Him that He is prepared to have towards you.

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