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11 Nissan 5761 - April 4, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Opinion & Comment
Two Ways of Serving Hashem

by L. Jungerman

This week's parsha includes the laws of several kinds of sacrifices which fall into two categories: the shlomim offerings that are eaten by the kohanim and the donor who brings it, and the burnt offerings which are completely burnt on the Altar.

Beis Shammai and Beis Hillel differ with regard to the preference of those sacrifices that are brought for a festival. These include korbon chagiga and korbon re'iya. The former is a korbon shlomim eaten by the kohanim and the donor, whereas the korbon re'iya is a burnt offering which is completely consumed upon the Altar.

Beis Shammai say: The korbon re'iya is valued at two silver coins and the chagiga at one. Beis Hillel say: the chagiga is one silver coin and the re'iya is two.

The gemora explains the reasons behind the different schools of thought. Beis Shammai value the re'iya at two because it is totally consumed at the altar, which is not the case with the chagiga. Beis Hillel maintain the very opposite: If you argue that the sacrifice which is totally consumed by the altar is superior, this is not so. Superior is the chagiga, from which there are two `eatings' -- that of the kohanim and that of the person who brings it.

Rabbeinu Meir Simcha zt'l expands on the idea in his work, Meshech Chochmoh, Parshas Yisro:

There are two approaches in divine service. One way is to totally abandon the aspects of this world and to cleave to spiritual things only. The second way is to live a this- worldly life, imbued completely with Torah while constantly contending with the enticements of this world.

There seems to be an advantage to living in the material, physical world and adapting it to the Torah, as opposed to shunning all mundane attractions. Through the first way, one can attain a greater degree of perfection even though he is disturbed and distracted by the need to earn a livelihood and he is not free to devote himself solely to Torah study.

There is another qualitative difference besides. Whoever cleaves to the choice of pursuing wisdom will strive to purify his soul to the degree that it becomes separated and abstracted from the physical, but only his soul will benefit, whereas one who serves Hashem by uplifting the mundane to a higher level, will benefit his body as well and elevate it to a degree of eternal life. His body will also be able to glow and illuminate with spirituality and enjoy everlasting goodness.

Before the giving of the Torah, Moshe Rabbenu was commanded, "Remove your shoes from your feet," for he required a distancing of the material essence and its corporal powers from holiness. Physical matter had no place on holy soil. But after the receiving of the Torah, Moshe Rabbenu was able to ascend Mt. Sinai together with his corporal body, his physicality. This is what caused the angels to ask: What is a [creature] born-of-woman doing here? What place does a material body have in our midst? Moshe replied to them: Do you engage in business dealings amongst one another? Is there envy between you? He was referring to the commandments of practical application that only involve human beings since they purify the physical elements within them and refine them so that they can glow with divine light. This is how Moshe gained the special aura that radiated from his face in divine beams, like the rays of the sun, for his very body had become a vessel of spirituality.

This is the reason why the tanoim are divided in their opinion whether the festivals are purely "unto Hashem," only for elevation through Torah and prayer, or if they are also meant for `creature comfort' enjoyment? Is there place for eating and drinking in a division of "half for Hashem, half for you"?

With regard to Shavuos, all the sages are of undivided opinion that it is a festival to be enjoyed on the physical level, "half for you." For this is the purpose of the Torah - - to uplift the matter and its powers, to sublimate it through Torah, which will pave a person's footsteps in the right direction in this world of physical action.

Now we are equipped to understand the significance of the shlomim sacrifices which are eaten by the kohanim and the donors. They are called thus because they bring peace to the world. How? Through the physical act of eating. Abstinence from this world does not purify the body and its physicality; it only elevates the soul and separates it further from the body. Only actual indulgence, that is, involvement, in the physical aspects of this world can elevate the matter and its powers to a spiritual level. This is why the shlomim which are eaten have the power to sanctify and elevate the physical aspects of life, whereas the olah is altogether holy and completely consumed on the altar unto Hashem.

Herein lies the controversy between Beis Hillel and Beis Shammai as to which sacrifice is preferable. The question highlights the different approaches of each school to the desired mode of avodas Hashem. Hillel was of the inclination of Aharon Hakohen: he loved peace and pursued peace, loved his fellow men and brought them close to Torah. Shammai and his colleagues were so removed and elevated from the masses that common folk could not relate to him enough to emulate him.

Beis Shammai resembled the korbon olah. Hillel, on the other hand, sought to uplift everything that was mundane and utilize everything for avodas Hashem. In Maseches Beitza, the gemara says: Hillel Hazokein had a different approach: all of his acts were for the sake of Heaven. Everything was a peace offering, so to speak, everything could be uplifted for divine service.

But Shammai was exalted, removed from worldly things, above them. He was on a solitary plane, a rarefied atmosphere which few could attain. His conduct was difficult to emulate. According to their different attitudes, we can now understand why Beis Hillel valued the korbon re'iya at only one silver coin and the chagiga, of which the donors partook, as well as the kohanim, at a double value. They attributed a preference to a sacrifice which uplifted the donor through the act of eating, while Beis Shammai relegated double importance to a sacrifice that was wholly consumed upon the altar, which was purely unto Hashem.

As for us -- "These and those are teachings of the living G-d."

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