Parshas Emor:
Why Details are Important

By Rabbi Yosef Landa

In this week's Torah Portion it says, "Any [animal] in which there is a blemish you shall not offer, for it will not be favorable for you." The Torah commands us against sacrificing an animal that has a physical defect. The Torah then proceeds to detail exactly which defects are unacceptable.

    Why does G-d refuse these imperfect offerings? Isn’t G-d mainly interested in what goes on in one’s heart and mind? If a poor man brings an imperfect offering wholeheartedly, and the rich man brings a beautiful healthy animal — wondering all the while how the money could have been better spent, — whose gesture is more worthy?

    The truth is, there are many Halachos which raise questions of a similar nature. For example, in Hilchos Krias Shma and Shmoneh Esrah, there are numerous detailed requirements such as cleanliness of where one is praying, that the area should be free of foul odors, those present must be dressed in proper fashion, and the man praying requires a head covering. He also must not need to use the bathroom, etc. Additionally, there are a host of other Halachos dealing with the dress and manner in which one prays. Why does this matter to G-d? Should not the only real concern be that our hearts are in our prayers? Does the foul odor bother G-d?

    Long ago there lived someone who also thought this way. His name was Cain. "And Cain brought from the fruit of the ground an offering to G-d. And Abel too brought of the first of his flock and the choicest. And G-d turned to Abel’s offering, but to Cain and his offering he did not turn." Cain reasoned, since G-d was not going to eat the fruit he brought as an offering, the quality did not matter as long as his thoughts were meritorious.

    The reality of life, however, is that we are human and to us these things matter a great deal. In order for our service to G-d to be real and true, we must approach Him as our human selves with all that involves. It was not a coincidence that Cain brought inferior fruits, for his whole heart was not in it. Abel’s was. Someone who really feels G-d’s presence when praying would naturally fulfill all the aforementioned Halachos. And the fulfillment of these Halachos helps the rest of us to start feeling it.

    The verse in Malachi, Chap. 1 Verse 8, in regards to a sacrifice with defects says, "When you present a lame or sick animal for a sacrifice is nothing wrong? Present it if you please [as a gift] to your ruler. Would he be pleased with you and show you favor?" Of course not! We therefore cannot present them before G-d. From our attitude toward and reverence to someone who has power over our life and death we can draw a parallel to how we should serve G-d.

    Upon the verse which says, "And they shall make for me a sanctuary and I will dwell amongst them", the Rabbis comment, "Amongst every single one of them." It is precisely through attention to these seemingly mundane and down to earth details, that we cause the Divine Presence to dwell among us.

    May we merit through these Halachos to sanctify, uplift, and immortalize our very human and temporal lives.

1997 by The Chicago Community Kollel

Published Wednesday, May 14, 1997


By Rabbi Yosef Landa a full-time member of the Chicago Community Kollel



Copyright 1999 to present by Chicago Community Kollel