Parshas Vayikra:
Generating Emotions

By Rabbi Mordechai Raizman

    Among the many Korbanos (sacrifices) discussed in this week's Parshah, is the Korban Nedavah (free will offering). This Korban has many intricate details, worthy of discussion, but before focussing on the details, one is struck by the irony of this Mitzvah. It is an optional or free will Mitzvah. Two terms (optional-Mitzvah) which at first seem to be contradictory. If it is good for us to offer the sacrifice, then we should have to offer it, if it is not then why the Mitzvah? How can we understand a Mitzvah that is dependant on personal choice and inclination? There are other Mitzvos with the same unique problem. Nazirus (taking the Nazirite vow) for example is a mitzvah with much detailed instruction, and yet each individual is left to decide whether to make the vow. No one is obligated to become a Nazir. Tzedakah (giving charity) is another example. We are told to give, but how and to whom is left up to our discretion. Either we should be required to do these things or they should not be Mitzvos at all. What does it mean when it leaves the decision to do them to our discretion?

    One more question, before we suggest a possible solution. We find several Mitvos which command us to feel an emotion. (Interestingly these are not optional mitzvos.) We must Love G-d, we must Love our fellow, we may not hate our brother in our heart. How can we be commanded to Love, or to refrain from hating? Either we feel them or we don't.

    Rav Yaakov Kanievsky (The Steipler Rav) Z"L suggests that we can address both questions, by postulating one principle. Actions are not only inspired by emotions, they are capable of evoking and nurturing emotions. That is to say, there are specific actions which, when taken, will result in a predictable emotional response.(This concept is well developed in Messilas Yesharim by Rav Moshe Chaim Luzzato.) So that, when we are commanded to love or fear, it can be said that we are commanded to take those steps which are designed to generate feelings of love or fear.

    There are certain mitzvos, which were given to us for just this very purpose; to help us develop specific emotions. The Korban Nedavah is on eir very nature requires that they be open to individual needs and goals.

    Today, when there is no temple in which to offer Korbanos, we no longer have the Korbanos, we rely on the Mitzvos of Tzedakah, Gemilas Chessed, the study of Torah, and Tefillah to nurture feelings of love and awe for Hakadosh Baruch Hu and our fellow man.

Published Wednesday, March 19, 1997




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