Parshas Vayikra: Entering a New Realm

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By Rabbi Avrohom Gordimer

Although Sefer Vayikra commences with a presentation of the korbonos, the first posuk of Sefer Vayikra, as explained by various midrashim and featured in large part by Rashi, signifies Hashem’s loving and intimate communication with Moshe Rabbeinu, as well as the special manner by which Hashem’s voice traveled through the Mishkan and was heard exclusively by Moshe and no one else. Rashi commits an extraordinary amount of commentary to this concept. Midrash Bamidbar Rabbah (1:7) explains that Moshe merited this special Divine communication within the Mishkan due to Moshe’s devout involvement with the creation of the Mishkan, which had just been completed.

The question that arises is what is the connection between Hashem’s loving and intimate communication with Moshe and the subsequent text of Vayikra, featuring the korbonos; why is the unique Divine communication to Moshe juxtaposed with the korbonos? In fact, when Hashem spoke to Moshe on prior momentous occasions, such as at the S’neh and at Mattan Torah, Rashi does not elaborate much about the exceptional character of the communication. Why is the special character of Hashem’s communication to Moshe of import specifically here?

The answer to this all is predicated upon another question: Why do korbonos occupy such a central role in the Torah? Many other mitzvos, without which it would be hard to imagine life as a Jew, appear less prominently in the Torah, while korbonos, which are not applicable while we are in Golus, are the primary focus of so much of the Torah. Why is this?

One who offers a korban is not merely performing a mitzvah. Rather, he is undergoing a powerful and all-encompassing experience. For one who offers a korban enters the Mikdash, the locus of Hashra’as Ha-Shechinah, and is enveloped in a sphere of palpable kedushah. A person who brings a korban encounters Hashem’s Presence and is drawn near to the Ha-Kodosh Boruch Hu. Confronting the Shechinah and being awed by the Mikdash are by definition part of every korban.

It is for this reason that korban service is so central to Yahadus, as korbonos are a principal vehicle to encounter Hashem and enter a new and holy realm; they are not similar to most other mitzvos.

And it is also for this reason that Moshe’s unique and intimate communication from Hashem is juxtaposed with Sefer Vayikra’s presentation of korbonos and in fact is the introduction to korban service, for one who offers a korban becomes like Moshe, being in the Presence of Hashem and undergoing an intimate encounter with the Shechinah. The private meetings which Moshe had with Hashem continue throughout history and can be experienced by every Jew when he offers a korban.

This concept is borne out by parallel terminology: “And He called unto Moshe, and Hashem spoke to him from the Ohel Moed, saying: Speak unto B’nei Yisroel and say to them, ‘A person who brings a korban to Hashem… to the entrance of the Ohel Moed shall he bring it… “(Vayikra 1:1-3) Just as Hashem spoke with Moshe in an endearing and intimate manner at the Ohel Moed, so too must one who offers a korban bring it to the Ohel Moed, as that is where this person likewise will encounter Hashem. Rashi (invoking Toras Kohanim) and other Meforshim emphasize that a person who offers a korban must bring it to the entrance of the Azarah – rather than asking a Kohen to instead pick up the korban at the person’s home – for korban service requires a personal encounter with Hashem at the locus of His Presence and necessitates personal involvement in the Mikdash. A korban is not a mere technical offering.

May we soon merit to again enter the Divine palace and experience there the endearing and immanent Presence of Hashem.

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