Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Rav Moshe Weinberger's Drasha - Tasting the Korbanos - Shabbos Rosh Chodesh Nissan/Vayikra

Below, please find this adaptation of Rav Weinberger's drasha from parshas Vayikra/Shabbos Rosh Chodesh Nissan 5778.  Enjoy!

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Rav Moshe Weinberger
Parshas Vaykira – Shabbos Rosh Chodesh Nissan 5778
Tasting the Korbanos

As we enter the parshios of sefer Vaykira, we enter the world of the Beis HaMikdash, Yerushalayim, and the korbanos. We see that throughout history, the nations of the world have always begrudged us our holy city of Yerushalyim, and particularly the Beis HaMikdash. 2,500 years ago, Achashveirosh told Esther, even when he was most filled with love for her, “What do you request? Up to half the kingdom, and it shall be done” (Esther 5:3). The Gemara (Megillah 15b) explains that when Achashveirosh said, “half [חצי] the kingdom,” he was really saying “‘and not the entirety of the kingdom,’ i.e., ‘not the thing which is an obstacle [חוצץ] to the kingdom.’ And what is that? The building of the Beis HaMikdash.”  He said this even before he knew that she was Jewish!

Achashveirosh hated the idea of the Beis HaMikdash so much, and clearly knew that its rebuilding would have undermined his kingdom of impurity, that he brought it up as something he absolutely could not tolerate even when talking with his beloved queen whom he believed was not even Jewish. Even though they are not aware of this consciously, somehow the nations of the world intuitively understand that even after the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash, the Jewish people’s connection with Har HaBayis – the Temple Mount – somehow undermines their ability to fully enjoy the impurity of this world.

The Holiness of the Beis HaMikdash is Accessible Even Today

Why does our possession of Yerushalayim still gall the nations of the world even today? The reality is that once the location of the Beis HaMikdash was sanctified during the First Temple period, its holiness remains forever and ever (Chagigah 3b). The Sfas Emes (Tzav 5648) teaches, regarding the clearing of the ashes from each day’s korbanos from the altar that they become absorbed into the ground beneath the Mizbeach and descend to the center of the earth, where they continue to exist even today, demonstrating to us that the merit of the korbanos stands for all generations. Their imprint therefore continually benefits us even today.

This reality is apparent from halachah as well. Rav Menachem Ziemba zt’l, points out that in halachah, when the meat of a korban is cooked in a clay vessel, that vessel must be destroyed afterward. This is because the taste of the korban which is absorbed into the vessel is forbidden once the time for eating the korban expires. Rav Ziemba asks why this is so. There is a principle in halachah that 24 hours after food is cooked in a vessel, on a biblical level, the taste absorbed into the vessel is considered spoiled, and, as such, it is no longer capable of being prohibited.

He answers his own question based on a Mishnah in Avos (5:5), which states that one of the ten miracles which regularly occurred in the Beis HaMikdash was that “The holy meat never rotted.” According to this principle, the taste of a korban absorbed into a clay vessel never spoils, such that the general principle that forbidden foods absorbed into the walls of a vessel become permissible after 24 hours does not apply to the taste of sacrifices absorbed into the walls of clay vessels, because the taste never goes bad! The imprint of the holiness of the korbanos is forever.

Tasting the Holiness of the Beis HaMikdash Today

How can we access this holiness now that the Temple has been destroyed? Chazal teach us that “From the day the Beis HaMikdash was destroyed, all Hashem has in this world is the four amos of halachah” (Brachos 8b).  In addition, in the Slichos we say on Erev Rosh HaShanah (Slicha 42), we say, “The holy city and its environs are turned to shame and to spoils… and nothing is left but this Torah.” Halachah, Torah, shul, and the beis medrash are all we have left of the holiness of the Beis HaMikdash. That is our sanctuary where we can still smell the korbanos, where we can still sense the holiness of Hashem’s Presence, and breath in the rejuvenating air of Yerushalayim.

Hashem’s message is clearer to us in these places than anywhere else. In our parshah, the passuk says, “And Hashem spoke to him from the Tent of Meeting to say…” (Vayikra 1:1). Rashi explains, “‘From the tent of meeting,’ this teaches that the sound [of Hashem’s voice] stopped and would not go outside of the tent. Could it be that this is because [His] voice was low…? [That cannot be because] this is the voice which was described in Tehillim as, “The voice of Hashem is powerful… the voice of Hashem shatters cedar trees’ (4:5). If so, why does it say, “from the tent of meeting?’ This teaches us that the voice stopped.”

Even though Hashem’s voice is so powerful, the world outside Hashem’s house is so loud that we cannot hear G-d speaking to us outside “the tent of meeting,” outside of shul and the beis medrash. Only by learning, davening, by saying Tehillim, living in homes with boundaries keeping holiness in and impurity out, and by helping out our shuls, schools, and yeshivos can we keep our heads where Hashem’s voice is still audible. To the extent we only operate at work, in the streets, or in homes where we let impurity in, the sound of the multitudes of Rome (cf. Yoma 20a) will drown out even the powerful voice of Hashem in our ears.

There is a well-known story about Rav Mendeleh Vitebsker zy’a after he, like some of the other students of the Baal Shem Tov zy’a, moved to Eretz Yisroel. He and many of the chassidim lived in Tiveria where, according to some traditions, either Moshiach or the Sanhedrin will appear first. The people were primed with excitement for the redemption. One day, a person who was disturbed, or perhaps merely bored, began blowing the shofar for a long time. The chassidim could not hear where the sound was coming from and were not cynical like we are today, so they thought that perhaps it was the sound of the shofar heralding the arrival of Moshaich. They ran excitedly to the Rav Mendeleh’s study to tell him the good news. Rav Mendeleh heard what they said, placed his head outside the window of his room, and smelled the air outside. After taking a whiff, he told them that no, unfortunately Moshiach was not here yet.

One of the questions the chassidim ask about this story is why Rav Mendeleh Vitebsker needed to place his head outside to smell the outdoor air? If he was so holy that he could sense whether Moshiach had come based on the smell of the air, why could he not have simply smelled the air in his own study? They answer that it must be that Rav Mendeleh’s study must have smelt like it will in the times of Moshiach. He therefore had to place his head outside the house to test whether the air outside also carried the scent of redemption.


When we are in shul, yeshiva, the beis medrash, with a tzaddik, or in homes where we guard the holiness of what we see and hear, we can still hear the echo of Hashem’s voice, we can still smell the fragrance of the altar in the Beis HaMikdash, and we can still taste the korbanos brought by the kohanim. May we all merit to make ourselves at home in Hashem’s house so we can stay connected to Him and feel the holiness of Yerushalayim even today, and thus merit the rebuilding of the physical Beis HaMikdash during our days!

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