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Sunday, February 26, 2006

Snapple Shekalim

Yesterday's parsha was V'Yakal/Shabbos Shekalim. In this parsha, we learn (among other things) about the giving of the Shekalim to the Beis HaMikdash [Temple] on the Shabbos before the beginning of the month of Adar. The Shekalim was used primarily to purchase sacrifices. It is also called "atonement money" because as soon as it is given the atonement is complete for the giver. Today, we substitute the reading of the parsha of shekalim with the separating of the shekalim, and our atonement is achieved through the reading of parsha. (p. 124 vol 2 sefer P'ri Tzaddik teachings of Rebbe Tzadok HaKohen of Lublin.)

Personal reflection: Whenever I think about the system of sacrifices vs. prayer, I think of how sacrifices and perhaps the temple itself are similar to the laws of kashrut. We were originally commanded to be vegetarians. It is not until after the Flood that meat is permitted -- as a recognition of our human weakness for meat. So, instead of being meat eating sinners, Hashem allows us our indulgence, but (with the help of the rabbis), places a set of requirements that focus our attention on His blessings every time we eat. A potential sin is turned into a mitzvoh and a daily opportunity to be present to the sacredness of time and life.

Similarly, the act of sacrifice was traditionally associated with pagan religions. And it was something the Israelites were used to doing. The golden calf incident highlights the weakness of the people and their yearning to engage in idoltarous behavior. Although on a very real level the people made the calf as a means of communicating with God. Hashem, perhaps recognizing the weakness of man, acknowledges that we had a tendancy to backslide into idolatarous behavior. And so, He puts into place a system of sacrifices that satisfy our need for physical communication and at the same time reinforce the idea that "God is one." He allowed us our sacrifices but only in a specific place, according to a specific system or law. What, when and where are highly regulated to enforce monotheism, and not idolatry. Thus, the potential sin of idolatry is turned into the mitzvah of worhshipping Hashem.


Blogger Faith said...

Just wanted to let you know I like what you have to say. I will respond more fully soon.

nice blog.

5:36 AM, February 28, 2006

Blogger Brooklyn Habiru said...

As for quoting the P'ri Tzaddik... I never took you for a follower of Izbitzcher/Radzyner Chassidus. Anyhow... you neglect to mention the fact that not all the Korbanos consisted of animals, there was the Korban HaOmer, Shtei HaLechem, Lechem HaPonim etc. Indeed “sacrifice” is a pagan concept but the Korbanos are not. It is a fallacy to translate Korban as sacrifice or offering. Sacrifice implies giving up something in value, when in essence we are gaining something far greater than the value of the Korban. Offering implies some sort of appeasement or bribery. Let us look at the root of the word Korban - it comes from Karev, which means to ‘come close’. The Korbanos are a spiritual actions that enable us to come closer to HaShem despite the perceived distance between us and Him. It is the significance of the spiritual elevation gained by the ritual and not purely the ritual itself that is important. Thus events like Akeidas Yitzchak [the binding of Isaac] show us that korbanos were neccesary in order to supplant the common pagan sacrificial system of the time which offered humans. The Rambam makes it clear in the Moreh Nevuchim (Part 3 Ch. 32) that the korbanos were intended as a stepping stone to prayer, fasting and meditation. In fact HaRav Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook HaRav Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook seems to imply in his essay “Fragments of Light: A View as to the Reasons for the Commandments” that in the Third Temple era, only the Korban Menachos will be performed. You state: “He allowed us our sacrifices but only in a specific place, according to a specific system or law. What, when and where are highly regulated to enforce monotheism, and not idolatry.” In actuality after crossing the Yarden until the erection of the Mishkan at Shiloh, it was permitted to erect personal bomos at disparate locations for the korbanos of a voluntary nature [Nedarim and Nedavos].You also state: “ I think of how sacrifices and perhaps the temple itself are similar to the laws of kashrut.” - I am very curious to know how the physical Beis HaMikdash itself is similar to the conceptual laws of Kashrus.

4:34 PM, February 28, 2006

Blogger Valke said...

Addressing your last point. Just as Kashrut is an acknowledgment of our weakness for meat, the laws of sacrifice and the building of the Temple were an acknowledgement of our weakness for pagan rituals. With the halacha, our energies are directed toward Hashem in both instances, where they were initially direacted away from Him.

5:10 PM, February 28, 2006

Blogger Brooklyn Habiru said...

Between the generation of Noach and Matan Torah - there were no laws of Shechita or Kashrus for Am Yisrael - the laws of Shechita were passed down at Har Sinai in order to facilitate the Korbanos properly, since we are intended to be a “kingdom of priests and a holy nation”[Shemos 19:6]. As such we follow the prescriptions of the manner in which the Korbanos were slaughtered for ourselves if we choose to consume meat as well so that we may live up to this credo. As for the command to establish a dwelling place for the Shechina - seeing it is necessity to alleviate the craving for physical items seems to be the opinion of Rambam... however the Ramban differs. He sees the mishkan [and thus the Beis HaMikdash] as an enabler of continual revelation that began at Sinai, with HaShem’s kavod, continuing to dwell among the people (the mishkan was, in effect, a portable Sinai eventually resting at the location of the foundation stone, Akeida, Yaakov’s dream, aka Har Moriah ). Ramban saw the mishkan not as a form of atonement but as a means of avoiding (or at least minimizing) sin by keeping the people closer to HaShem.

10:01 PM, February 28, 2006


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