Thursday, March 15, 2018


לזכר נשמת זקני ר' אברהם יוסף בן נפתלי הערץ הלוי (ד' ניסן)
 מלכה בת אברהם יעקב הלוי (ג' ניסן)


Simon Sinek[2] related the following anecdote:
 “I was present recently at a large conference where a former undersecretary of defense was invited to speak. He was standing at the podium with a cup of coffee in a Styrofoam cup, and delivering his prepared remarks with a power point behind him. Then, he stopped to sip his coffee, and smiled.
“He then looked at the crowd and said he wanted to share something personal: “Last year when I spoke at this conference, I was still the undersecretary. I was flown here business class and when I arrived at the airport there was somebody waiting for me to take me to my hotel. When I arrived, I had already been checked in and I was led straight up to my room. The following morning, when I came downstairs, I was greeted cheerfully in the lobby, and was chauffeured to this venue. I was led through the back entrance into the green room and was handed a cup of coffee in a beautiful ceramic cup.
“But this year I am no longer the undersecretary. I flew here coach, took a taxi to my hotel, and checked myself in. When I came down the lobby this morning I took another taxi here, and I came in the front door and had to find my way backstage. When I asked someone if there was any coffee available, he pointed to the coffee machine in the corner. I then poured myself a cup of coffee into this Styrofoam cup.
“It taught me a very important lesson. The ceramic cup I was given last year was never really meant for me; it was meant for the position I held. In truth, I deserve a Styrofoam cup.
“Remember this as you gain fame, as you gain fortune, as you gain position and seniority. People will treat you better; they will hold doors open for you. They will get you a cup of tea and coffee without you even asking. They will call you sir and ma’am and they will give you stuff. You have to remember that none of that stuff was meant for you; it’s meant to honor the position you hold. It is meant for the level you have achieved of leader or success or whatever you want to call it. But you will always only deserve a Styrofoam cup.”

One of the laws the Torah states about offerings is, “For you shall not cause offerings to [go up in] smoke with any yeast or honey.” Shortly after, the Torah instructs, “you shall offer salt on all your offerings...”[3] Every offering brought on the altar required that it first be salted. Yet, it was absolutely forbidden to ever place sugar on an offering.
Rav Mordechai Gifter zt’l[4] explained that these laws contain a poignant symbolic message for us: There is a fundamental difference between the way sugar and salt impact food. When a sweetener is added to food, it alters the taste of the food. When sugar is added to a bowl of oatmeal, the oatmeal itself doesn’t become sweet, it’s the sweetness of the sugar that is now tasted in every bite. Salt however, enhances the essential taste of the food by strengthening the actual taste.
The symbolic message is that yeast, which inflates, and honey, which changes the true taste of a food, should not be brought on the Altar. Only salt, which brings forth the true flavor of the food, is required. The Torah wants the true essence of the Korban to come forth and not be masked or transformed into something different.
Although we want to imbue our children with confidence and self-esteem, we need to be careful to not inflate their perceptions of themselves, thereby promoting arrogance and egocentricity. Our role as educators is to try to build our children by promoting and enhancing the uniqueness they naturally possess. We cannot make them into something they are not! The greatest thing we can do is help them appreciate and love who they naturally are, all the while helping them improve and learn to navigate their deficiencies and challenges.[5]

 When the Torah describes a person who sins, it refers to him as "ונפש כי תחטא"  a soul that sins, emphasizing the role of the nefesh in his misdeed.
However, when the Torah introduces the korbanos at the beginning of the parashah, it uses the term adam אדם כי יקריב, which refers to the physical component of a person[6]. Why is that?
Rabbi Nissan Kaplan explains that truthfully it is the nefesh of a person that bears responsibility for all iniquity, because it is a failure of one’s spirituality that he failed to restrain himself from committing the sin. However, when discussing a korban, the Torah emphasizes that it must come from the physical component of the sinner, from the adam. In bringing a korban, a person must sanctify the physical part of himself and demonstrate self-sacrifice by offering part of his physical being.
Rashi[7] notes that when the Torah discusses the minchah of a pauper, it says ונפש כי תקריב, and not אדם כי יקריב , as it does in regard to other korbanos. The pauper doesn't have anything to give - he scrapes together whatever he can until he manages to bring a minchah. Therefore, Hashem considers it as if he offered his nefesh. Regarding other korbanos however, the sinner has to offer a piece of himself to demonstrate a genuine desire to rectify his sin.
Rabbi Kaplan relates that a wealthy individual once approached him saying that he felt he needed a tikkun (spiritual rectification) and was therefore prepared to donate a large amount to tzedakah. Rabbi Kaplan replied that although he should undoubtedly give tzedakah, that was insufficient for him because it wasn’t hard for him to give. In addition to the tzedakah, he had to demonstrate personal sacrifice for Hashem, such as adding time to Torah study, resolving not to talk during davening, or not to browse on his phone at things he shouldn’t be looking at. 
For a korban to have its desired effect, the one offering it had to offer his “adam” a piece of himself.
The Medrash notes that there is an ancient custom that when children begin learning Chumash, they begin with Parshas Vayikra because, יבואו טהורין ויתעסקו בטהורים  - let those who are pure (children) come and engage in (the study of) matters of purity (korbanos).
We start with Chumash Vayikra to symbolize to the young child the concept of אדם כי יקריב that a person has to offer Hashem the part of himself - the adam - that is hard for him to sacrifice.
The harder it is to sacrifice something for Hashem, the greater the korbon it is.
In a Sefer Torah, the opening word of the Chumash, in fact, the word that gives the title to the entire sefer – Vayikra – has a small aleph. The Baal HaTurim explains that in his humility, Moshe wanted to write the word vayikar (Vayikra without the aleph), which sounds like the word mikreh – a chance occurrence. Moshe didn’t want to write Vayikra which implies a calling of love. Hashem had instructed him to write Vayikra, so as a compromise he wrote the aleph small.
The entire Chumash contains that lesson in its title; the incredible humility of Moshe. It is that humility which contains the secret for how korbanos are effective. When we humble ourselves before Hashem and seek to build ourselves from within, we connect with Hashem and discover our true greatness.

Our egos are compared to ‘the yeast in dough’. Our ego comprises our sense of self, which is vital to a healthy identity. It is our ego which propels us to accomplish and to grow. But at the same time our egos are always in danger of becoming inflated with ‘hot air’. This occurs when our sense of identity becomes befuddled, and we no longer appreciate our uniqueness. A false ego can persuade us that trivialities are hugely significant, and we can easily be distracted from what truly matters. Just as a healthy ego helps us love, compassionate, and sensitive to others, it also can cause us to become self-absorbed, envious, and hateful.
Matzah, which consists of nothing more than flour and water which has not been allowed to leaven, symbolizes self-negation before G-d. It is flat and contains nothing other than the barest essentials, demonstrating that we are nothing without G-d.
Matzah which symbolizes humility contains the lesson of the korbanos. This is part of the depth of the special mitzvah we are blessed to be able to fulfill by eating matzah throughout Pesach.[8]

One of the humblest people I was privileged to know was my Sabbah, Mr. Abe Staum, Avrohom Yosef ben Naftali Hertz a’h. He was a beloved personality to his neighbors and friends, always with a smile and a pleasant word. Much of the chessed he performed we will probably never know about. Such quiet greatness stems from a sense of humility and simchas hachaim – genuine happiness with life. His yahrzteit, 4 Nissan, is this Tuesday. May his neshama have an Aliyah, and may he be a maylitz yosher for his family and Klal Yisroel.     

“When a man will offer from you a korbon to Hashem”
“You shall offer salt on all your offerings”

Rabbi Dani Staum, LMSW
Rabbi, Kehillat New Hempstead
Rebbe/Guidance Counselor – Heichal HaTorah
Principal – Ohr Naftoli- New Windsor

[1] Based on the lecture given at Kehillat New Hempstead, Shabbos Kodesh parshas Vayikra 5777.
[2] Simon Sinek is an author, motivational speaker and marketing consultant. He related this story during a lecture entitled “Find your Greatness”.
[3] Vayikra 2:11,13
[4] Pirkei Torah
[5] This educational thought based on Rav Gifter’s explanation is from Rav Mordechai Shifman, Head of School, Emek Hebrew Academy, Sherman Oaks, CA
[6] Adam comes from the word adamah – earth, a reference to the fact that Adam was created from the dust of the earth.
[7] Menachos 
[8] Although there are opinions that hold matzah is only a mitzvah to eat at the Seder, and is merely permitted the rest of Pesach, the Vilna Gaon holds that every bite of matzah eaten throughout Pesach is a mitzvah and gives us a spiritual infusion of faith in Hashem.


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