Rabbi Krakowski: Parshas Vayikra


This week’s Sedra focuses on the various different types of Korbanos. The Torah relays all sorts of important instructions as to what can be brought as what sort of Korban and as to how each Korban is supposed to be sacrificed.

Korbanos aren’t something foreign to us. Adam’s sons (Kayin and Hevel) brought Korbanos, Noach brought Korbanos, and the Avos Hakedoshim brought sacrifices as well. From this Parsha on, however, the approach to Korbanos changes.

Until Parshas Vayikra, except for Korban Pesach, a Korban could be brought from what one wanted, when one wanted, and how one wanted to. However, in our Sedra already the entire process is transformed through the appearance of all sorts of rules and regulations.

It would seem that the idea of offering a Korban to Hashem should ideally be a mitzvah fulfilled out of a passion for Hashem. As such it would only seem right that there should be significant room for originality. One would think it should be a passionate spontaneous act; that one should be able to bring whatever one might want to, whenever and however one might want to. Why is it that the Torah seems to be robbing from us this most basic privilege?

Korbanos are a highly personal expression of love for Hashem. In human interpersonal relationships a gift or an offering may be brought to someone who is truly loved by the giver. The giver may surprise their loved one and give them something the loved one never asked for. The receiver may appreciate it immensely. This is all true when both giver and receiver have similar or mutual mentalities and likes. When, however, the subject is our relationship with Hashem, we are dealing with an entirely different order of things. We cannot begin to understand what sort of offering we could design that would truly please Hashem. At the same time Hashem doesn’t need our offering; there is nothing that Hashem is gaining by having us offer Him things.

Hashem designed for us the perfect gift for Himself, but these gifts were custom- tailored for the sole purpose of enabling us to give something to Hashem to express our absolute love for Him. Thus when we offer a Korban to Hashem we initiate a spontaneous act of affection for Hashem while at the same time we know that it will be viewed in a favorable light by Him.

We might imagine that serving Hashem means expressing our love and enthusiasm spontaneously, with the highest, biggest, most expensive buildings, objects or other expressions of our love. Hashem therefore reminds us that the highest expression of our love for Him is our ability to submit ourselves to His Will. In other words, it is precisely by adhering exactly to every detail of every instruction for building the Holy Temple, for offering sacrifices, for any activity undertaken to serve him, that we can manifest our love. Hence, Hashem’s extensive, and detailed, instructions on what, when, where, and in what ways we are to build the Sanctuary, offer sacrifices, etc. It is within the implementing of such Commands that Hashem has integrated a very real expression of our artistic and other abilities. The Torah explicitly refers to the artistic gifts that Hashem bestowed on Bezalel, for instance.

We live in a liberal age. It’s à la mode to be creative in the way one serves Hashem. What is oft forgotten is that only Hashem can determine how He can best be served.

A very warm Good Shabbos, Rabbi Y. Dov Krakowski