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S.A.L.T. - Wednesday

Rav David Silverberg

Dedicated to Rachel Roytberg z"l,
whose yahrzeit falls on the first of Nissan,
by Family Rueff.

          Yesterday, we noted the comment of the Midrash (Vayikra Rabba 2:7), cited by Rashi, regarding the word “adam” in the second verse of Parashat Vayikra.  The Torah introduces the laws concerning voluntary sacrifices with the phrase, “Adam ki yakriv mi-kem korban l-Hashem” – “A person among you who offers a sacrifice to the Lord…”  The Midrash writes that the word “adam” here alludes to the first human being – Adam – who offered a voluntary sacrifice to God.  The Torah here indicates that just as Adam could not offer a stolen animal as a sacrifice – because, after all, he owned the entire earth – we, too, must not seek to earn God’s favor by offering stolen property.

          Rav Yaakov Kantrowitz, in Hegyonot Ha-Gri, suggests that the Midrash here refers not merely to actually stealing an animal and offering it as a sacrifice, but also to “theft” in the broader sense of the term – bringing an offering at the expense of one’s fellow’s honor and dignity.  Rav Kantrowitz mentions the specific examples of large donations to religious institutions in an inappropriately public manner, eyeing fame and glory, and charitable donations given in a condescending fashion, causing the recipient shame and humiliation.  Even if one does not directly steal an animal from his fellow and offer it as sacrifice, it is possible to “steal” in the process of bringing an offering by compromising people’s honor and dignity, giving in an arrogant, competitive, or self-aggrandizing manner, with the intent of promoting oneself and belittling others.

          We might add that the Midrash’s comment perhaps includes also those who inflict harm on others ostensibly for the purpose of bringing an “offering” to God.  People sometimes assume that they show devotion to God, as though presenting Him with a gift, by insulting, maligning and hurting individuals of whose conduct they disapprove.  They cause their fellow shame and embarrassment and then bring this “achievement” before God as a “sacrifice,” priding themselves for having given an “offering” to God.  The Midrash here teaches that God does not want “offerings” that entail “theft,” that require hurting and compromising the dignity of other people.  When we sacrifice to God, we must make a true sacrifice, sacrificing our own time, comfort or resources, giving of ourselves as an expression of submission and devotion.  Inflicting harm on other people, even those whose conduct deserves to be opposed and criticized, does not qualify as an “offering” to God.  The sacrifices we choose to bring must be genuine expressions of humble submission, and not acts of self-promotion or hostility clothed in a veneer of religious devotion.    


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