Shabbat Rosh Chodesh/Bar Mitzvah Luncheon
Friday, March 23
- 06:50 am – Shacharit
- 06:40 pm – Mincha
- 06:42 pm – Candle lighting
Saturday, March 24
- 07:45 am – Shacharit at Salem Towers
- 08:45 am – Shacharit
- 09:45 am – Latest time for Kriat Shema
- 10:30 am – Jr. Congregation
- 11:15 am – Bar Mitzvah Luncheon – all are welcome
- 05:15 pm – Men’s class
- 06:15 pm – Mincha and Se’udah Shlishit
- 07:35 pm – Ma’ariv
- 07:52 pm – Shabbat Ends
March 25 – 30
- 08:00 am – Sunday
- 06:40 am – Monday and Thursday
- 06:50 am – Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday
- 06:50 pm – Sunday – Friday
- 07:20 pm – Sunday – Thursday
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Weekly Words of Torah
Serving Hashem with Proper Intent & Proper Action
Insights into Parshat Vayikra of Mr. Reuven Isaacs of Yeshivat Sha’alvim, by Rav Re’uven Ungar of Sha’alvim.
In the beginning of this week’s parsha, Rashi commenting on the language of “Tzav et Aharon” (“Command Aaron”), quotes from Torat Cohanim- Tzav is a term implying alacrity for now and throughout the generations; R’Shimon said: “The Torah needed to especially encourage alacrity in a situation where there is a loss of money.”
R’ Shimon Schwab in Me’eyn Bet HaSho’eva asks: what exactly changed between the earlier and later generations that the Torah felt a special need to urge on the later generations not to become lax in their bringing of korbanot even though it may cost them money?
As the era of the first Bet HaMikdash began to wane, we find that the hearts of Klal Yisrael strayed from their Father in heaven. Even though the Avodah in the Bet HaMikdash continued, and although Bnei Yisrael would offer the best and choicest of animals, it was all an act. They abandoned the very essence of Avodat Korbanot: to do teshuva and the will to be purified and draw closer to Hashem through the korban. This defeated the entire purpose of their korbanot! Shaul Hamelech made this mistake when he reserved the best animals captured from Amalek for sacrifice to Hashem, only to be rebuked by Shmuel who told him that Hashem desired obedience to his word, not Korbanot. Indeed, we find recorded throughout the Nevi’im Acharonim warnings and admonishments over this evil. “Don’t continue to bring worthless meal-offerings, it is incense of abomination to Me” (Isaiah 1:13).
However, it did not stay this way. After 70 years of exile, when they returned and built the second Bet HaMikdash, they took to heart the rebuke of the Prophets. So much so, in fact, that they began to make the opposite mistake. Why, they reasoned, should they sacrifice a perfectly good animal when the essence had nothing at all to do with the quality of the animal they were bringing? If it made no difference, and the omniscient Master of the World only desired their sincere repentance and longing to draw close to Him, did the quality of the animal being offered really matter? They began to offer inferior animals to Hashem. This too, however, was a mistake. The Navi Malachi (1:8) cried out “When you present a blind animal for sacrifice, is nothing wrong? And when you present a lame or sick animal, is nothing wrong? Present it, if you please, to your governor; would he be pleased with you or show you favor?!” No matter if a person has the loftiest of intentions while bringing a korban, it is prohibited to omit a even single minute detail required by halacha. R’ Chaim Volohziner in his magnum opus Nefesh HaChaim (intended as a polemic against those who would forgo precision and exactitude in halacha in favor of emotions and intentions) describes extensively the system of spiritual physics. He emphasizes again and again that our physical actions have tremendous effects on the higher spiritual worlds. The Ramchal in Derech Hashem also writes in great detail about the workings of the spiritual realms and their attachment to our physical world. No one can fathom the deepest intent and will of Hashem or the working of His worlds, no one has the right to nullify His Commandments, no matter how seemingly trivial it may be.
This mistake of Bnei Yisrael in the time of the Second Bet HaMikdash, explains R’ Shimon Schwab, was exactly what the encouragement of our pasuk was aimed at. Indeed, the essential duty of korbanot is one of the heart. But Hashem commanded that we bring only the best and choicest of our animals on to Him on His altar. It is as wrong to bring a blind or lame animal as a korban with proper intentions as it is to bring a perfect animal without the requisite mindset. One who says the Shema with full intent to accept the yoke of Heaven after its set time, or doesn’t pronounce the words properly, has not fulfilled his obligation!
Complete Avodat Hashem combines these two aspects, the duties of the heart and the duties of the body. One cannot live a life totally devoted to Hashem without striving to perfect both. Hashem created his world with infinite wisdom, such that actions of flesh and blood have powerful and lasting effects on all the worlds, even without any complex intentions. One who takes the Four Species on Sukkot with no higher intentions has still performed a mitzvah and has influenced the very foundations of the universe. To serve Hashem with one’s heart and emotions in the way one sees fit without strict adherence to halacha and all its intricacies and details is unacceptable. R’ Yehuda Halevi in the Kuzari tells of the angel who visited the king of the Khuzars in a dream and told him that while his intentions [to serve God] were noble, his actions were incorrect. Proper actions are imperative. But they are not enough; Hashem wants our hearts! The author of the Chovot HaLevavot bemoaned the fact that the duties of the heart had been forgotten, and deemed it necessary to write his classic work to rectify the problem. Centuries later, the Ramchal in his introduction to the Mesilat Yesharim could not understand how the great and awesome duty we have to our Creator to love and fear Him and to cling to Him had been neglected by those capable of achieving it, left to those intellectually unable to pursue other wisdoms. One must make every bit as much effort- and probably even more- to work on one’s character and emotional relationship with Hashem as they would to fulfill any physical mitzvah. It is as Shlomo HaMelech, the wisest of all men, tells us: “The sum of the matter, when all has been considered: Fear Hashem and keep His commandments, for that is all Man’s duty.”