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? Isnt G-d
mainly interested in what goes on in ones 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 Abels
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
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. Abels was. Someone who really feels G-ds
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
May we merit through these Halachos to sanctify, uplift, and
immortalize our very human and temporal lives.
The Chicago Community Kollel
Wednesday, May 14, 1997