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Beit Midrash Torah Portion and Tanach Vayikra

Parashat VaYikra

His Partners

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Parashat VaYikra opens with Hashem commanding Moshe Rabbeinu to tell B’nei Yisrael, "A man, when he sacrifices from you (adam ki yakriv mikem) an offering to Hashem, from the animals, from the cattle and from the flock shall you bring your offering." This passuk could have been written more succinctly as follows: "When you bring a sacrifice to Hashem...," leaving out the superfluous words "adam, a man," and "mikem, from you." Why does the Torah add these words?

Rashi explains that the word "adam" teaches us that, like Adam HaRishon, who sacrificed animals belonging to him, we must not bring sacrifices from stolen animals. Rashi does not, however, address the superfluousness of "mikem." What is the reason behind the Torah’s uncharacteristic verbosity here at the beginning of VaYikra?

Additionally, in next week’s parasha, Tzav, the Torah discusses the daily service of the kohen, beginning with the siluk hadeshen (removal of the ashes and leftovers of the korbanot), as it says, "And he shall separate the ash (deshen) of what the fire consumed" (VaYikra 6:3). The question that must be asked is why the daily service of the kohen doesn’t begin in an active, positive way, such as sacrificing a korban or lighting the Menorah. Why does the daily service of the kohen begin with the removal of the deshen?

To answer these two questions, it is helpful to understand the following: After we eat a k’zayit of bread, we recite Birkat HaMazon, consisting of four brachot. After eating any one of the seven species for which Eretz Yisrael is praised (grapes, figs, pomegranates, etc.), we say only one bracha, the bracha achat me’ein shalosh. Why the difference? R’ Soloveichik explains that bread represents a partnership with HaKadosh Baruch Hu. We actively participate in the "creation" of bread, planting, plowing, harvesting, etc. This enables us to recognize our Partner that much more, and our gratitude is therefore much greater. For fruit, on the other hand, our input is much less significant. We plant the tree and HaKadosh Baruch Hu basically does the rest. Our partnership is much less recognizable and therefore so is our gratitude.

If we develop the Rav’s reasoning a bit further, it becomes clear that HaKadosh Baruch Hu wants us to be His partners in all acts of creation. This is perhaps the reason why the first mitzvah a Jew does is brit milah - through this act, HaKadosh Baruch Hu allows us to complete ourselves, so to speak, thereby completing our own creation.

But in order to truly be partnered with Hashem, we must make room for Him in our lives. This is why the first part of the daily service in the Beit HaMikdash was the siluk hadeshen, making room both literally and figuratively.

This may explain why the Torah says, "Adam ki yakriv mikem korban laShem, A person, when he sacrifices from you an offering to Hashem." Everyone must sacrifice of himself, a part of himself, to make more room for HaKadosh Baruch Hu in his life.

This is why the midrash homiletically derives from the word "mikem," which totals 100 in gematria, that one who recites 100 brachot per day is as if he offered a sacrifice. The Tur explains in Orach Chaim that in the time of David HaMelech there was a terrible plague during which 100 people died mysteriously on a daily basis. David didn’t know how to end the plague, until it was revealed to him through ruach hakodesh that the plague would end if he instituted the practice of saying 100 brachot per day. The Tur’s explanation poses some difficulty, however, because the gemara in Menachot (43b) suggests that this practice was already instituted in the time of Moshe Rabbeinu. What did David HaMelech add? The answer is that in the time of Moshe Rabbeinu, every person would make 100 brachot of his choosing. David HaMelech instituted a specific set of 100 brachot to be recited over the course of the day, realizing that the brachot would then "escort" a person from the moment he woke up until he went back to sleep that night, protecting him from danger and granting him long life.

Chazal say on the words "lech lecha," again totaling 100 in gematria, that when a neshama descends to this world, HaKadosh Baruch Hu tells it to remember one thing: I give you 100 "keys of brachot," with which you must open doors for Me to make room for Me in the world. This is how our lives begin.

The first to harness the power of the 100 brachot was Avraham Avinu, who opened doors for the Creator in places His Name had never been. Therefore "Hashem blessed Avraham with everything (bakol)" - bet kol, twice kol, again totaling 100. The reason why the recitation of this passuk after Hallel on Rosh Chodesh is a segulah for longevity is now quite clear.

One who recites 100 brachot per day is as if he offered a sacrifice because through the 100 brachot, this person realizes that his task in this world is to increase the glory of Hashem and to make more room for Him, even if this requires sacrificing of himself. This is the very idea that lies behind bringing a korban in the Beit HaMikdash.

This is also the meaning of the gemara in Sanhedrin (7a): "When the love between my wife and I was strong, we were able to lie together on the blade of a sword." In other words, neither of us took up space, each of us giving space to the other. "But when our love was weak, there was not enough room for us to lie together even in a bed of 60 amot." The more we let HaKadosh Baruch Hu into our lives, into our world, the more room we will have with which to continue to sanctify His Name in all of our actions.

More on the topic of Vayikra

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