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Parshat Vayikra (5763)

This week's section begins the complicated and mysterious laws of the Temple sacrifices.

For example: in the end of this week's section we find the laws regarding the 'Chatat' and the 'Asham' sacrifices.

The 'Chatat' is brought when one becomes certain that he did a sin accidentally. (Sacrifices only atoned only for sins done in ignorance - i.e. he didn't know it was forbidden - and had to be accompanied by true regret and confession to G-d.).

While the 'Asham' is brought when one is uncertain that he did a sin (i.e. he discovers that the piece of meat he ate might have been non-kosher).

The interesting thing is that the Talmud (Z'vachim 48a) tells us that the Uncertainty sacrifice was more expensive than the Certainty one. The former must be worth at least TWO 'Dankas' while the latter could be worth as little as ONE!

At first this seems strange. Why should the price of a SURE sin offering be less than that of an UNSURE one? It could be he did nothing wrong at all?

Also what connection does this have with Parshat Zachor (a special Maftir we read this Shabbos about the arch anti-Semite 'Amalek'). And what does it all mean to us today.

To understand all this, here are two stories that I heard from Rabbi Mendel Futerfass,

Rabbi Mendel spent several years in a Siberian labor camp because of his Jewish outreach activities. And although his life was constantly in danger from cold, hunger disease, anti-Semitic prisoners and guards, nevertheless he often said that those were the best years of his life. He had to force himself every second to find reasons to be happy.

Now, in Siberia the winter nights are long and often the prisoners passed the time telling stories. Here are two.

The first story Rab Mendel heard from a Cossack.

It seems that Stalin eventually imprisoned everyone that he thought might possibly oppose him. And soon all the Cossacks, because of their previous loyalty to the Czar, soon found themselves in Siberia.

One Cossack told a funny story. Once he had been assigned to ride a long distance on horseback for some important mission.

It so happened that one afternoon while riding he felt very tired. So he got off his horse and lay down to sleep under a tree near a brook with his horse standing guard over him.

After a half hour he woke, threw some cold water on his face from the river, again mounted his trusty steed and resumed his journey. But as he was riding through a small village he noticed a terrible smell. Agh, it was so strong! 'Probably there is a tannery here' he thought to himself as he sped through the place as fast as possible.

As he left with the fresh wind in his face it seemed that the smell went away. But then after a minute it returned even stronger than before.

"Maybe there was a plague and they threw their dead carcasses outside of the village" he thought. So he spurred his horse even harder and soon the smell was far behind them.

Or so he thought. Suddenly, as if from nowhere, the stench returned as he was riding through a plowed field.

'Hmm, probably the farmers just spread manure' he thought to himself and he galloped faster and faster.

But when he returned to a main road and the smell was still there, as strong as ever, he began to have doubts. He stopped his horse, looked in all directions and twirled his mustache immersed in deep thought.

Suddenly he felt something in his mustache. He took his hand from his mustache gave a look and began to smile. It seems that when he lay down to sleep some of his horse's excrement got caught there!

"I was trying to run from myself!!" And he broke out in hearty laughter slapping his knee and then Rav Mendel on the back.

And that is why a 'doubtful' offering was more. According to the Baal Shem Tov when one suspects that he has committed a sin it's sort of a 'holy' doubt; it is a sign that hidden in the soul there is a fault that must be corrected.

But because we have a tendency to ignore our faults (like the Cossack ran from himself) therefore a doubtful sin requires more attention and the sacrifice costs more.

But there is another type of doubt that is destructive:

One of Rav Mendel's fellow prisoners was a hard core atheistic Jew. Before the revolution he had been a very active 'Bundist' (Jewish socialist). Then he became an avid Communist and eventually a high Party official.

But suddenly he found himself arrested, tried, convicted and condemned to twenty years of 'correction' in Siberia on 'suspicion of counterrevolutionary activities'.

To say the least, he became bitterly disappointed in Communism. But as much as Rav Mendel tried to get him to become even vaguely interested in Judaism he flatly refused.

Maybe he would consider Zionism, but Judaism NEVER! He didn't believe any of it.

And one night he told the following story.

'"When I was a teen I was a fervent Bundist. Our philosophy was based on politics, work and good deeds. So every day after a few hours of studies in our meeting place we would walk to a nearby factory and work until sunset.

"Our group of twenty or with an older 'member' as leader, was assigned to a mill working with huge machines that ground wheat into flour.

One day on our way to work we passed a group of young Chassidim walking on the other side of the street dressed in black Chassidic garb with long 'paiot' (earlocks) waiving in the wind. And none other than the Rudziner Rebbe himself was leading them.

To us, these people with their ancient Jewish beliefs and customs were despicable; a remnant from some old museum.

"Aha!!" shouted our leader, "Look at the little horses led by the big horse!" And we all burst into hearty contemptuous laughter. I mean, we were all Jews ourselves, but we hated Judaism so much that if we weren't in a hurry to the factory we would have torn them apart.

But their Rebbe just waited silently until we finished, gave a strange look at our leader and said. "Ahh, I see that you want a strange death! (Misa M'shina).

Our leader turned to us and mockingly repeated the words "Misa M'shina" upon which we broke into gales of laughter and began picking up stones and throwing them at those odious creatures.

We arrived at the factory in good spirits, turned on the machines and our leader, still smiling from his encounter with the Chassidim, again yelled out 'Misa M'shina'! But as he turned to see if anyone was laughing the corner of his coat got caught in the mill and in an instant he was being drawn toward the grinding stones.

He tried to get out of his coat but the machine was pulling too quickly. Someone else rushed and hit the stop button but the momentum of the huge stones was too great and before our eyes he was slowly pulled into the grinder and pulverized; a real 'Misa M'shuna'.

You think it took away any of our doubts about Judaism? No way!!! We just shrugged our shoulders, cleaned up the mess, ran some water through the mill and went back to work.

We saw a miracle and it had absolutely no effect on anyone. That's how much we doubted G-d. But now, to tell you the truth, I'm having my doubts about all of it; Bundism, Communism it's all the same lies.

This is a totally different type of doubt and it's called 'Amelek' (the numerical value of 'Suffik' which means 'DOUBT'). It doubts the reality of G-d, His Torah and His People.

And it's only antidote is to REMEMBER.

To remember that we are Jews, we came from the essence of G-d (we are called His 'sons') and that our job is to bring Moshiach (though learning Torah and doing the commandments) and transform the world into a 'Holy Temple' filled with the awareness of the Creator.

That is why only Moses (and the unique leader; the 'Moses', present in every generation – who I believe is the Lubavitcher Rebbe in this one) can defeat Amelek; because he 'reminds' us of all these things.

An example is the teachings of Chassidut (called Torat HaMoshiach – the teaching of Moshiach); the ideas that remind us of our true identity and defeat all destructive 'doubts'.

This is the message of this Shabbos, Parshat Zachor (Remember) when we read a special Maftir telling us to destroy Amalek – 'Suffik' the arch enemy of the Jews. As the Rambam writes that this will be the job of Moshiach.

May this Shabbat bring the end of all doubts and the revelation of …..

Moshiach NOW!!

Copyright © 1999-2017 Rabbi Tuvia Bolton. All rights reserved. No unauthorized reproduction or copying of this material shall occur without prior permission.

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