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Tzav 5768

By: Rav Michael Susman

It is not very often that we have the chance to read the "regular" haftara for Parshat T'zav. Between the Arba Parshiot and Shabbat HaGadol, T'zav rarely falls on a Shabbat where the regular haftara has not been preempted. This year therefore provides us with a somewhat rare opportunity (this is only the sixth time in the past thirty years that we are reading this haftara) to examine the haftara in light of the Parsha. The haftara is taken from Sefer Yirmiyahu, perek 7:21-8:3, and then we read two additional passukim (Yirmiyaha 9:22-23) in order to end the haftara on a positive note. The only apparent connection to the Parsha can be found in the first few passukim, when the Yirmiyahu excoriates the nation for bringing korbanot while failing to do mitzvoth. The navi mockingly suggests that the people forgo bringing the korban olah (burnt offering) and substitute a korban shlamim instead. It is unthinkable that a sacrifice offered by a sinner who has no intention of abandoning his sins or of adopting the values of dedication to Hashem that the korbanot in general and the olah in particular represent should be of any value. By bringing a korban shlamim, which is eaten by the owner after it is brought on the alter the korban will not be a total loss. Now at least the owner will be able to enjoy the meat of his offering rather than derive no benefit whatsoever from the korban. The problem with Yirmiyahu's words is that they seem to directly contradict the Torah. Says the navi (in the name of Hashem): "For I have not spoken with your forefathers nor commanded them on the day that they left Egypt on the matters of olah or sacrifices. But rather this is what I commanded them, listen to my words, and I will be for you E-lokim, and you will be my nation, and you will walk in the path that I have commanded you so that it will be good for you" (7:22-23). Given that our Parsha begins with the mitzvah of the korban olah, and that much of Sefer Vayikra concerns itself with the mitzvoth of the korbanot and the Mikdash in general, the words of Yirmiyahu are curious, to say the least. When answering this question, many of the commentators focus on the timing of the giving of the various mitzvoth. Mezudat David points out that the mitzvoth of korbanot were not given on the day that Bnei Yisrael left Egypt, but only later, at Har Sinai. Surely, posits the Mezudat David, if bringing korbanot was to be a critical element in Yahadut, Bnei Yisrael would have been commanded regarding these offerings from the outset. The failure of the Torah to do so is indicative of their secondary status in relation to listening to Hashem's commands. Radak, in his first answer, takes a similar approach, arguing that the first mitzvoth that Bnei Yisrael received were given at Mara, after Moshe Rabbenu sweetened the bitter water in order to enable Bnei Yisrael to drink (Shemot 15:23-26). According to the midrash there, it was at that time that Bnei Yisrael received the mitzvoth of Shabbat and a variety of civil laws. (Rashi there also says that Para Aduma was one of these mitzvoth, but several of the midrashim do not quote that particular halacha as being included. See the footnote in the Torat Chaim addition of Mikraot Gedolot and the Chizkuni on the passuk.) In a second answer Radak suggest that the heart and soul of Torah is not bringing the korbanot, but rather to listen to Hashem. It was based on this commitment that we were given the Torah, and as a result there is no mention of the korbanot in the Asseret HaDibrot. Once again the concept of the korbanot as being of secondary importance is a major theme. It is clear then that that navi is warning against the not uncommon phenomena of substituting ritual for devotion and worship for true Avodat Hashem. In fact, as Rav Hirsch points out in his commentary, our haftara is merely a continuation of Yirmiyahu's admonition earlier in the perek. There (7:4-15), the prophet scores those people who believe that they can be pious and bring korbanot while at the same time oppressing the poor and the weak. The two simply do not go together. Avoda when unaccompanied by true devotion to the values that the mitzvoth represent are worse than useless, they are an abomination. I believe that this is the point that the Navi wishes to stress in his attack on Am Yisrael for sinking to the depths of child sacrifice (7:30-31). The original action of offering korbanot without the requisite commitment to Torah and Mitzvoth is upsetting, but is ultimately a sign of nothing more sinister than foolishness. Hence, Yirmiyahu mocks this behavior, and dismisses it by quoting Hashem as saying "lo tzivitam" (I have not commanded you to do this). The true danger, however, of divorcing the korbanot from mitzvoth lies in the desire to show one's devotion by resorting to ever more extreme forms of worship. The final stop on that line is in the Valley of Ben Hinom, worshipping Molech by sacrificing one's own children. It is this type of worship that the navi thunders against and of which it is not enough for Hashem to say "lo tzivati", I have not commanded. "Lo alta al libi" it never occurred to Me, says Hashem. This type of man-made horror might be the natural progression of unmoored avoda seeking in ever more desperate ways to demonstrate fealty and self sacrifice, but nothing could be further from what Hashem wishes or what the Mikdash stands for. The haftara ends with two passukim (9:22-23) taken from outside the rest of the haftara. In these passukim the navi cautions us against taking pride in our own wealth, strength or wisdom. Rather, we should take pride in our understanding of what Hashem asks of us, and in our emulation of his characteristics of Chesed kindness), Tzdaka (righteousness), and Mishpat (justice). Rav Avraham Rivlin, the long time Mashgiach of Yeshivat Kerem B'Yavne, quotes the GR"A on these passukim as saying that there is no actual contradiction between the areas quoted in the first passuk and the values espoused in the second. Instead we should recognize that wisdom, strength and wealth are essentially valueless. How we use these characteristics is what determines their true value. Hence, by ennobling these traits with the qualities that we associate with Hashem, we turn these traits into positive ones. Conversely, if we move away from the qualities of Chesed, tzdaka and Mishpat, our wealth, wisdom and strength become mere tools for personal aggrandizement, and are certainly not things in which we can take pride. If we look at the passukim from this perspective, we can see that Chazal did not choose to end our haftara with these passukim simply to avoid closing the haftara on the negative note sounded in Yirmiyahu's previous prophecy. Rather, these passukim provide a fitting coda for the message that was implicit throughout the entire haftara. Our actions are only of value when they reflect the values that Hashem would have us personify. Whether we are dealing with human traits or characteristics, or whether our focus is on ritual, our actions are only of value if they are informed by an underlying framework of Torah and Mitzvoth. If we divorce our actions and ourselves from these values, we leave ourselves bereft of honor, and of the qualities that mark us as Am Hashem.

 

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