This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
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Parshat Vayikra (5767)
In this week's section we begin to learn in detail about the different types of animal sacrifices. One of the details is that with each sacrifice must be included a small amount of 'salt'! (2:13)
The entire topic of the sacrifices is very foreign and almost primitive to our western, civilized minds. And it especially doesn't seem to make much sense that G-d would take the Jews out of Egypt with massive miracles…. for them to kill innocent animals!!
But if we think about it, it begins to makes sense.
First we have to believe in G-d.
Consider that today even most of the scientists agree that at one point the world had a beginning. So it could be that G-d created it.
Then we must admit that it is difficult to attribute the amazing micro and macroscopic order and detail of /in the world to 'chance'. So it could be that G-d arranged it.
And, no one knows what force is it that keeps the entire creation in existence, alive and running in all its details. So it could be that G-d creates and sustains it.
And finally, it's a bit hard to swallow that 'good and bad' are subjective and that might 'makes' right.
So it could be that G-d really cares what we do and gave the Torah. And if so, it could be that there are things in the Torah that we can't understand.
And one of them is the sacrifices.
In fact our Torah portion even tells us that the Creator 'enjoys' the sacrifices (1:9)!
Even more, the works of Chassidut explain that the word for 'sacrifice' is almost the same as to 'come close' "Korov"… indicating that the sacrifices actually brought everyone 'closer' to G-d. (That is why we long and pray for the Third Temple; to again resume the closeness.)
But what does 'salt' have to do with it? Why must there be salt on every sacrifice?
To understand this here is a story.
Some two hundred years ago in Poland lived a great Tzadik (Holy Jew) called Rabbi Meir of Parmishlian.
He was famous for his erudition and wisdom but most renowned for his miracles. Just as Moses did miracles to free the Jews from their problems so did the Tzadikim in every generation. (In fact it would be safe to say that the only reason the Jewish people could survive almost 2,000 years despite being a lone sheep surrounded by millions of wolves, is in the spiritual merit of these men.
One night a desperate Jew came before Rabbi Meir with a terrible story. He was the owner of the local inn and had been doing very well. The local populace was friendly with him, frequented his place regularly and always paid their bills. In exchange he gave them good service, fresh food, good advice and, most importantly, un-watered down whisky.
But recently things took a change for the worst. People stopped coming, almost every morning he was greeted by a broken window or two and he and his family began receiving threats.
After a bit of investigation he discovered the cause. A new priest had arrived from a neighboring town and was preaching hatred. At first no one listened but gradually it began to catch on by the simple folk. He convinced them that if they got rid of the Jew they could get his money and even have free drinks.
The Rebbe closed his eyes for a moment looked up at the innkeeper and asked. "Tell me, do you believe that G-d took the Jews from Egypt?"
"Rebbe!" he exclaimed in surprise "Of course I do! Why I, and my father and his father before him… we all believe in G-d and in all the Tzadikim like it says in the Torah (Exodus 14:31)."
"Because now is the month of Nissan, the month the Jews left Egypt" the Rebbe continued. "And the prophet Micha (7:15) says; 'Just like when you left Egypt… so G-d will show you miracles'.
"If you believe it will happen… then it will. Now, take this and go to the priest. "
The Rebbe took out a blank piece of paper, wrote something on it, put it in an envelope, sealed it and handed it to him.
"Don't worry about getting in, just tell the guards you have an important message. Then, when you enter his room, tell him you want to be alone and as soon as the door closes tell him 'Reb Meir of Parmishlian knows something that no one knows; that your mother was Jewish.' Then give him the letter."
He took the letter and left but the further away he got from the Rabbi's house the more petrified he became and the smaller and more hesitant his steps were. But the words of the Rebbe echoed in his ears; "Do you believe that G-d took the Jews from Egypt?"
He never really gave it much thought… till now. Going out of Egypt was a lot more scary than he ever dreamed!!
Before he knew it he was standing before the huge black gate with the huge cross on it in the high iron fence that surrounded the Church. His blood curdled. He just wanted to run home, load his family on his wagon and just leave but then the Rebbe's face loomed before him saying "….so G-d will show you miracles'. If you believe it will happen!'
He said a prayer, pushed open the gate, walked down the path to the massive church and, to his surprise, met with no resistance at the door. He was shown in and ushered directly to the evil priest's study. But the priest was not happy to see him. "What is this!?" he shouted at his servants. "What does he want here!?"
"I want to see you alone" the innkeeper said calmly. "I have a message from Rabbi Meir Parmishlian."
The priest ordered his servants to frisk the visitor and when they were sure he was harmless they turned, left and closed the door behind them.
The innkeeper immediately announced as calmly as he could, "The Rabbi says that he knows something about you that no one knows… that your mother was Jewish. Now, he wants you to read this letter. "
The priest looked startled and said. "What! Jewish? How did he…? Does anyone else know this? Did you or he tell? Who else knows?"
"As far as I know… no one." The innkeeper answered.
"Good. Good!" The priest said quietly. "If what you say is true and no one knows then … well …. things will be different. I'll read the letter, now please leave."
The letter was a request by Reb Meir to the priest to speak only positively about the Jews from now on and to encourage the gentiles to do the same.
And it worked.
The next Sunday the priest explained that what he said earlier was what the Egyptians said before G-d punished them with ten plagues thousands of years ago. But we must love the Jews! As G-d said to Abraham, "Those who bless you I will bless and those who curse you I will curse. (Gen 12:3).
In any case, it worked and from then on the feeling of brotherhood in the town was as never before.
But the priest was not satisfied. He took the first opportunity to go visit the Tzaddik in private and ask him how he knew about his mother?
"Why, I myself only knew a few weeks ago!" the priest said. "She called me to her deathbed and whispered that she was Jewish and it was a secret that she had kept her whole life. She told me that she sent me to priest's school because she didn't want me to suffer as she had suffered. But how did you know? She never told anyone… I'm certain!"
"Don't be surprised." The Tzaddik answered. "Everything is written in the Torah. That day I was learning the Torah and suddenly it was revealed to me… your name, your mother's name and her secret. But I didn't understand why until the innkeeper came with his story.
"Now" Reb Meir continued, "I advise you to secretly return to the religion of your father's. I will teach you what to do but outwardly you must continue to be a priest and teach brotherly love. By merit of this G-d will forgive your past and reward you in the future." (From the book "The Power of Ruach HaKodesh pg.160)
This answers our questions.
The reason G-d took the Jews from Egypt was to be a Holy Nation (Ex.19:6) and "Holy" means to act in a way that is above nature; namely above understanding.
And the sacrifices are exactly that. But, on the other hand, they also have a very deep and lasting effect on the world. The mystical book 'the Zohar' teaches that 'The secret of the sacrifices reaches to the secret of G-d'. And the Chassidic book the Tanya teaches that this 'secret' of G-d is that He wants this world to be transformed to Holiness (Chapt. 37).
That is where the salt comes in. The nature of salt is to sweeten what is bitter… just as the service of G-d sweetens up this bitter world. Also the word for 'salt' is the same as the word for sailor "Melach".
Namely that just as salt sweetens up bitter food and a sailor churns the water with his oars so through serving G-d above understanding the Jews sweeten the world and 'churn' the 'waters' of the spiritual and bring them 'near' to earth.
Something like how the Reb Meir and the Chassid in our story sweetened the priest and brought him near (korov) to G-d.
And as the Lubavitcher Rebbe pointed out time and time again; only by doing all we can to bring Moshiach in a way that is above our understanding will it actually happen. Only then will the third Temple be built and we will be close as never before to the Creator.
As Reb Meir said in our story; 'Just like when we left Egypt… so G-d will show us miracles'. If we believe it.. it will happen.
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