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The Altar of the Grave

16/03/13 16:57:58


R Pesach Siegel


The Altar of the Grave



 Parshas VaYikra 5771

This week's parshah marks the start of the third book of the Torah. Vayikra is not only the name of the Torah portion, but also the title for the entire sefer.

The parshah starts off with the words, "Vayikra el Moshe vayedaber Hashem el Moshe me’ohel mo’ed laymor"
[1] - And He called to Moshe and Hashem spoke to Moshe from the tent of meeting, saying.


What follows are the laws of ritual sacrifice. As the posuk says, Adam ki yakriv mikem korban laHashem[2] – Adam, when he offers from you a sacrifice for Hashem.

 Rashi comments on the word "Vayikra," and writes that this term, when used, is a term of endearment. He explains that whenever Hashem's malachim call to one another, the same term is used; this expression of love. Hashem is expressing how precious Moshe Rabeinu is to him.




This is not the first time Hashem is speaking to Moshe Rabeinu. Why is this term of affection chosen specifically here?

The entire sefer is called Sefer VaYikra. The name of a sefer defines the sefer. What is it about the name VaYikra that contains the theme of the entire sefer?


Why is the topic of korbanos prefaced with the term “Adam?”



Rabeinu Bachai writes that there are three fundamental articles of emuna – faith.

1 - Creation ex nihilo.  Hashem created the entire universe, anew, from nothingness.

2 - Supervision – hashgacha. This is manifested in the giving of the Torah. Hashem displayed an interest in the world, an active connection.

3 - Resuscitation of the dead - techiyas hamaysim, where those who were thought to have died will be reborn again in their perfect form, to live forever.

These three elements clearly parallel the past, present, and future; that of "Hashem melech, Hashem malach, Hashem yimloch li’olam  va’ed." We recognize Hashem as the interactive ruler of the present, the source of creation in the past, and the one whose majesty we look forward to in our future.


In the time when prophecy reigned, these fundamental beliefs were evident. It was clear that Hashem interacts with creation by his very speech to the prophet. The miracles wrought by the hand of the prophet are evidence that nature of this world is in the hands of Hashem and can be changed at His whim. If Hashem can be mechadesh (bring renewal) within the confines of this world this is a basis for Him being the original mechadesh of all reality. Finally, if Hashem brought the world into existence and he shows interest by interacting with the world, surely He has a purpose and a final goal in doing so.


Sefer Breishis is the sefer of briyas ha’olam, the emuna of creation of yesh me’ayin.


Sefer Shmos is the sefer of Matan Torah.

The term of "Vayikra," is reserved for the third and final of the three aspects of emunah. It is the sefer of techiyas hamaysim.

The Kli Yakar gives us an insight into the korbanos.
[4] He explains that when a Jew would think about sinning but yet refrain from doing so, he would bring a korban olah. The korban olah was to be a male and not a female. The basis for this is because one who sins by thought possesses the power of restraint. Though one entertained the thought of sinning, it remained in the realm of thought and never came to action. The male animal possesses more strength than the female, thus a male korban is brought.

The korban chatas was brought by one who sinned by action. Therefore it was brought from a female animal. There was a lack of restraint, a weakness.

The korban shlamim, being a korban brought whenever the person desired, had no rule regarding what gender the animal had to be since it carried no restraint or sin.

In addition, a member of the Sanhedrin who sinned was required to bring a cow, a wealthy person a sheep, and a poor man sufficed with birds. This directly reflects on the damage caused by their individual sins. A raging bull causes more damage than a sheep, and a bird causes only minimal damage. The more prestigious a person is the more impact his sins have.

It is clear from the words of the Kli Yakar that the person bringing the sacrifice WAS the korban being brought.
[5] The essence of the person and the cause for the korban were represented by the type of animal and its gender.




The first man, Adam Harishon was created in the image of G-d. He was the perfect man. Hashem created the entire world for him, Hashem communicated with him, and Hashem created him to live forever. He was the repository of all three forms of emunah.



Prior to Adam’s sin, he represented G-d’s will in totality. However, when he sinned, he tainted himself. What he then became cannot exist forever. He would have to die. His soul would separate from his body. His body would be interred in the ground. It would decompose and revert to its former elements, the dust he was formed from. 



This is the exact same process as that of a korban. The ground that one is buried in is his mizbe’ach.


After one goes through the process of bringing a korban, in his own way, one has reverted back to the level of Adam HaRishon before the sin. Hashem refers to such an individual as yakar – precious. He calls to him with a term of endearment, and He says to him, “You are worthy of living forever.”


This is why the term “Adam” is used here. The path of return is laid out in Sefer VaYikra. The entire sefer is the sefer of korbanos. It is the sefer of the final precept of emunah. The posuk says, “Adam ki yakriv mikem,” – If you wish to be an Adam, if you wish to be a yakar, fulfill “ki yakriv mikem – offer from you. You are the korban.

And this is why we are precious.

[1] VaYikra, perek1, posuk1

[2] VaYikra, perek1, posuk 2

[3] See Yeshayahu, perek 48, posuk 12 – Shma aylay Yaakov viYisroel mekora’i (Representing Matan Torah), ani hu, ani rishon (hischadshus habriya), af ani acharon (techiyas hamaysim).

[4] VaYikra, perek 1, posuk 2

[5] See Ramban, VaYikra, perek 1, posuk 9

[6] The medrash tell us that the body of Adam HaRishon was formed from the dirt at the site of the future mizbe’ach (Yalkut Shimoni, perek 2, remez 20).


Mon, September 21 2020 3 Tishrei 5781