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Parshat Tzav (5772)

This week's Torah portion continues the laws of the sacrifices.

It is really difficult to understand why G-d would want us to kill animals for Him? What can possibly be the point? Why not just give the value of the animal to the poor or do more good deeds and let the animals live?

To understand this here is a story about the Baal Shem Tov.

Zalman (fictitious name) was depressed. Months had passed without any income and his landlord, the evil Baron Stanislaus, was threatening to evict him and his family into the cold if he didn't get the back rent.

But what could he do? He had already borrowed money from everyone that he could and besides the Baron he owed a fortune to the local market, to the young man who was teaching his children Torah and to several others.

So his wife suggested that he visit the Baal Shem Tov; Rabbi Yisroel Baal Shem, who was reported to be a great miracle worker and mystic.

At first Zalman didn't want to do it. He wasn't sure who this Baal Shem was and he had heard some not good rumors. But his wife insisted. She claimed she had made a thorough investigation and knew beyond any doubt that the rumors were totally and utterly baseless.

So Zalman, against his better judgment, went. It was a two day journey but finally he was standing before the Besh't (anagram for Baal Shem Tov) and relating his sad story.

"Do not worry" the Besh't assured him. "This is all for the best and I promise that everything will be better than you can imagine. What you must do is to go to the market place in your home town and buy the first thing that someone offers you for whatever price he asks. Then return here."

Zalman did as told. He returned home, found the market place and stood there for a few hours as conspicuously as possible for something to happen, but it didn't…… until a strange looking fellow approached him, held up a large sheepskin and said "Four hundred Zlotys". Without hesitating Zalman took all the money he had in his pocket, counted it out, found it was exactly the amount that was being demanded, and the exchange was made.

The seller looked at him, put his finger to his own head. spun it around indicating that Zalman was a fool for paying so much, and walked away.

Zalman returned home a broken man. He really was a fool! He paid all the money he had for a smelly sheepskin worth perhaps three Zloty! Now, how would he buy bread for his family?

But his wife was happy. "Go to the Besh't, show him what you bought and for sure everything will be fine! Have a little faith!"

Two days later he was again standing before the Besh't who congratulated him on the purchase and said, "In two days will be the birthday of the Baron who you owe money to. Go to his castle and give him this sheepskin you bought as a present and G-d will bless you."

Zalman dutifully shook his head yes and set off back home. But as he sat in his carriage behind his horse plodding down the road he suddenly realized the insanity of what he was about to do. Giving the Baron this disgusting skin would be sure death! Maybe he should just take his family and run! But when he arrived home his wife refused to listen to reason. She prepared his best Shabbat garments, blessed him with success and joyously sent him off.

Zalman felt as though it was all a terrible nightmare getting more bizarre and terrible every moment. Sure enough, when the guard at the castle door saw him and heard the reason for his coming he snatched the hide from poor Zalman's hands and ordered him to not move.

Moments later the Baron himself came running out in a mad fury screaming "Where is that Jew! I'll kill him!! Where is he??!!!" And as soon as he saw poor Zalman standing there he began pelting him with the small whip he always carried and ordered that he be thrown into the dungeon.

The Baron smoothed his hair, straightened his garments and returned to his party as though nothing happened. But something bothered him.

Why would the Jew do such a stupid thing? What could his motivation be? It eventually troubled him so that he picked up the sheepskin from the corner where he threw it and took it to his room to examine it. Perhaps it contained a hidden diamond or some precious manuscript. He should have at least let Zalman explain.

But as he held it up and turned it around suddenly he noticed something strange...there were letters written, perhaps dyed, into the wool! He began to decipher them and, behold, it was as clear as day! They spelled out:

"To the great and wise Baron Stanislaus on his birthday. May G-d grant much success and joy."

Then, as he looked more closely he realized that the wool had not been dyed but rather...the letters were NATURAL!

He immediately ran outside and called all his guests to see if they agreed and they did! It was quite a miracle! The letters were actually part of the wool. No wonder Zalman brought it… who knows how much it cost him!

The Baron ordered that Zalman be brought before him and, instead of chopping off his head as Zalman thought he was going to do, showed him the sheepskin, thanked him and apologized profusely. Then he cancelled Zalman's debt, gave him the house he was renting as a permanent gift, presented him with a huge sum of money and finally declared that from now on his attitude to the Jews would be completely different.

This explains our question. In fact the sacrifices make no sense. They are totally not understandable and there is no logical reason why G-d should request such a thing.

Except that He wants us to do things that are AGAINST our understanding without question.

Something like how Zalman in our story had to follow the Baal Shem Tov's advice against all logic.

But unlike Zalman, who went to the Besh't to alleviate his problems, we must do what G-d says without hope of remuneration; only because G-d wants it.

This attitude is the essence of Judaism and it is the gift that Abraham gave us when passed ten tests, especially the binding of Isaac.

But, on the other hand, we must be assured without ANY doubt that G-d wants the best for us in this physical world… not just in heaven.

Indeed, G-d wants Heaven on Earth! That will be the job of Moshiach who will rebuild the Temple, reinstate the sacrifices and fill the world with pure blessing, meaning and joy even more so than it was in the Garden of Eden.

It all depends on us! We can to reveal him even one moment sooner. Perhaps it makes no sense but...just one more good deed, word or even thought can tilt the scales of destiny and bring….

Moshiach NOW!

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