מציון תצא תורה
Read a Debar Torah from Israel Scholarship Recipient
The laws of the korbanot in which Sefer Vayikra consists of, do not straightforwardly relate to us in this day and age. We find minimal connection, and question why the Torah dives into such particular and minute detail. However, many commentators and Jewish thinkers strove to bridge the details of the sacrifices to our lives, and to understand the significance of them.
Sefer Vayikra begins with the sentence: “אָדָ֗ם כִּי־יַקְרִ֥יב מִכֶּ֛ם קָרְבָּ֖ן לַֽיקוָ֑ק מִן־הַבְּהֵמָ֗ה מִן־הַבָּקָר֙ וּמִן־הַצֹּ֔אן תַּקְרִ֖יבוּ אֶת־קָרְבַּנְכֶֽם,” “When a man from [among] you brings a sacrifice to the Lord; from animals, from cattle or from the flock you shall bring your sacrifice” (Leviticus 1:2). Among many commentators was Rabbi Sacks, who quoted from the first Rebbe of Lubavitch, Rabbi Zalman, that there is a “grammatical oddity” about this pasuk in the parasha.
In Essays and Ethics, Rabbi Sacks focused on the grammatical writing of this pasuk. We would expect it to read: adam mikem ki yakriv, “when one of you offers a sacrifice.” However, instead what it says is adam ki yakriv mikem, “when one offers a sacrifice of you.”
What is the significance of the wording of the pasuk? Why is it written of you and not from you, or one of you?
This phrasing illuminates the essence of sacrifice, which is “מִכֶּ֛ם”- “of you.” It is the idea that we offer ourselves and give something of ourselves.
What we offer God is not just an animal, but also the animalistic traits inside of us, or as Rabbi Zalman expresses it, our “nefesh habehemit.” In the second half of the pasuk, it states “מִן־הַבְּהֵמָ֗ה מִן־הַבָּקָר֙ וּמִן־הַצֹּ֔אן תַּקְרִ֖יבוּ אֶת־קָרְבַּנְכֶֽם,” “from animals, from cattle or from the flock you shall bring your sacrifice” (Leviticus 1:2). Rabbi Sacks revealed that in each of these animals is a specific quality that is evident in the human personality.
Behema, animal, “represents the animal instinct itself” (Sacks, 155). This word is referring to domesticated animals, ones whose lives are bound by the struggle to survive. The sacrifice of the behema within us is to strive to want something more; to not merely survive, but to thrive. As humans, and specifically as Jews, we search for a purpose in life. A meaning. A goal.
The Hebrew word bakar, cattle, reminds us of the word boker, dawn, literally meaning to break through. Cattle break down fences and disregard boundaries. To sacrifice bakar means to learn how to recognize and respect boundaries between “holy and profane, pure and impure, permitted and forbidden” (Sacks, 155). It means to respect boundaries between God and yourself, and with others as well.
Finally, we have tzon, flock, which represents the herd instinct. As Jewish leaders, Abraham and Moshe encompassed anything but that. They were in fact the opposite of tzon. They were distinguished and admired because of their ability to separate themselves from the crowd. To be Kadosh, holy, means to “set apart,” to rise above, and to lead by example. By sacrificing our tzon, we are differentiating ourselves, and not assimilating within the world surrounding us. As Jews, we must observe the paths of the great leaders of Judaism and learn from them.
As Rabbi Sacks expresses, “no animal is capable of self-transformation, but we are” (Sacks, 157). We have the ability to not be slaves to nature, to evolve, and to modify our ways. We have the ability to search for a purpose, respect boundaries, and emulate holiness. That is the essence of “אָדָ֗ם כִּי־יַקְרִ֥יב מִכֶּ֛ם קָרְבָּ֖ן,” one who sacrifices of himself.
Rochelle Hafif has attended Yeshivah of Flatbush ever since Atideinu all throughout her years of high school where she became involved in a variety of chesed programs, including Yachad. Last year Rochelle spent her winter vacation on Chesed Mission where her love for chesed grew into an abundance of desire and love to help others. Rochelle is looking forward to expanding her horizons and spending the next year growing and learning in Midreshet Moriah all while doing chesed for herself, and for others.