Yeshivat Yishrei Lev
Rabba makes a puzzling comment on the first words of this
week’s parsha, "Vayikra el moshe", and says
that from here we see that any talmid chacham without daas is worse than a
dead animal! The Medrash deduces this from the fact that Moshe
Rabeinu was the greatest person to live yet he still didn't enter
the mishkan without Hashem commanding him to do so. This
needs an explanation. How does this show us anything about Moshe acting with daas?
Shalom Schwadron zt”l asks two other questions on this Medrash.
First, if there was a lesson for Klal Yisrael to learn, it should
have been apparent to those who witnessed Moshe’s
behavour. Yet, Rashi says that only Moshe heard the
calling of Hashem. If that is the case, how did the rest of the Jews
know that Moshe was acting based on Hashem’s command and not his
own haughtiness? Secondly, why is such harsh language used to describe
a talmid chacham without daas?
answers by quoting the Medrash Tanchuma which says that after
the mishkan was completed, Moshe, in his humbleness,
joined the regular daily life of Klal Yisrael. Therefore, when he got
up abruptly and ran toward the mishkan, everyone realized
that Hashem must have called him. Moshe was concerned that this
lesson, not to act without Hashem’s instructions, would be lost on the rest of
the nation so he went out of his way to ensure that when the time came to act,
everyone would realize what was happening.
second question can be answered by understanding human nature. When a person
sees a dead animal, he instinctively runs away because it is disgusting and
smells bad. However, when a talmid chacham acts without daas, some may not realize what he is doing and learn the wrong
lessons from him. This is why such a person is referred to in such a demeaning
we can understand the intent of the Medrash. A talmid
chacham, especially someone as great as Moshe Rabenu, must use daas to ensure that others can learn from his actions.
The Meshech Chochmah
in his introduction to Sefer Vayikra, records the machlokes between the
Rambam and the Ramban as to what the purpose of korbanot are. Whereas
the Rambam (Guide for the Perplexed III 41) claims that the reason why
God instituted korbanot was as a reaction towards idol worship, the
Ramban (Vayikra 1:9) disputes this, citing many examples of individuals
sacrificing animals to God, where their actions could not possibly be
interpreted as being responsive to idol worship. The Ramban claims korbanot
serve a different purpose. While the Meshech Chochmah describes the Ramban’s
view of korbanot as having a sort of “spiritual electricity” which have
significant cosmological consequences, I would like to suggest a slightly
different, and perhaps more relatable interpretation of the Ramban.
One of the reasons the
Ramban lists for korbanot is that when the sinning individual brings a korban
and completes the entire sacrificial process, which consists of leaning on the
Korban, flaying the animal, and burning many of its limbs, he will think that
“he sinned to God, with his body and soul. Furthermore, it would really have been
appropriate that his own blood been spilled and had he been burnt.”
I find this difficult
to appreciate: surely for the pious this feeling can be attained, but what
about for those who are not so intensely religious. How can such emotion be
mustered up? By what magic does the korban cause the sinner to feel this
I suggest that the
Ramban means that one who brings a korban is forced to confront his own
mortality. One who witnesses the death of an animal, an animal that was alive
moments ago when he placed his hands on it, cannot help but think about death.
And a religious person, when thinking about death, invariably thinks about God.
This thought differs from other thoughts, however, because it is not summoned
by the mind to be analyzed in the abstract and dissected by the intellect from
whatever perspective. It is confronted. Death confronts man, and man
confronts death. Not by some whim of the individual, but because the question
becomes unavoidable, and it demands resolution.
Because of the nature of man’s thought in this
context, he naturally envisions himself, or, can more easily envision himself,
in the manner the Ramban describes. By making God more real, and by making
death more real, the individual’s sin is weightier, because death is so close
by and can be felt. It is due to this perspective that man can indeed think
that, “it would really be appropriate had his own blood been spilled and had he
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