Friday, March 26, 2010

For Whom We Slaughter

Parshas Tzav opens with the most fundamental of all the korbanos (the sacrifices) - the Olah. The morning communal Olah (עולת הבוקר) was the first korban brought during the day, and the evening Olah (עולת בין הערביים) was the last korban of the day. The Olah was also purchased from the budget raised by the half shekel census so that the entire population has a stake in it.

Seeing how important the Olah is to the general scheme of korbanos we are left with a glaring question - why wait until the second parsha dealing with korbanos to introduce it ? In parshas Vayikra we dealt with all the personal korbanos - even getting to some infrequent cases like the korban brought by a Beis Din who erred in judgment. What is it about a personal korban, a korban yachid, no matter how infrequently brought, that seems to take priority to a public one, a korban tzibbur, even one as basic as the Olah ?

Perhaps we can understand the role of public korbanos like this :
The essence of a korban is a visceral connection with the slaughtered animal. We devote ourselves to Hashem vicariously through the animal. This is essentially a private act. Every Jew must dedicate himself to the One Above at his pace and on his own terms - some an Olah, some a Shelamim and some a sin offering. It is personal to each Jew.

The purpose of korbanos tzibbur is to make sure that everyone gets in on the action.

No member of klal yisrael should be without this potent divine service - and no divine service can really function without the participation of all of Hashem's children. Thusly, a korban tzibbur is there because every Jew should be bringing korbonos yachidim, which epitomize the sacrificial service.

A korban tzibbur also demonstrates that it would be unthinkable to engage in any service alone that doesn't also have a component that all klal yisrael participates in.

The korbanos tzibbur are for everyone - those who are actively sacrificing and those who have yet to.

Similarly, when we have a tefilas tzibbur, we fulfill the same thing. When we say kedusha or kaddish or anything else that is said only in a quorum - we are of course demonstrating that our unity is significant component of our service - but we are also acting as a tzibbur for all those who may be out there without it.

Hatzlacha !!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

But Is It A Sacrifice ?

When we approach the idea of korbanos we first think of the translation - sacrifices. A sacrifice is an act of self deprivation for a greater good or cause. Pretty accurate, but not entirely. You see, in a sacrifice the recipient is more needy or deserving of the item which we deprived ourselves of. It is in this point that the analogy between korbanos and sacrifices fails.

Hashem does not need our sacrifices - but we need to make them.

Let us take a few moments to study the different types of korbanos and see the different ways to draw close to Hashem. And the different occasions which call for them.

Hatzlacha !!

Friday, March 05, 2010

Ahhhhhh, Smells Great !

Why did Hashem command us to have, as part of our service to Him, ketores ?

The Korbanos are necessary for two reasons - firstly, we must envision ourselves being sacrificed upon the altar if we are to achieve the proper remorse and penance for our misdeeds; secondly, the very act of slaughtering something is a very fundamental act - making us acutely aware that the service in which we slaughter is of paramount importance.

But incense ?

The message of the incense is important too.

Chazal teach us that of the myriad of spices the "chelbna" had a horrible odor. But, the ketores was invalid without it. A sacrifice is the 'meat and potatoes' of worship - incense is the icing on the cake. Any one person can bring a sacrifice - but the ketores was only brought by all the Jews.

With a sacrifice we offer Hashem our selves in service. With ketores we offer Him our unity.

What have we done to bring the service of ketores back ?

Hatzlacha !!