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The Rabbi's Desk

01/25/2019 11:45:32 AM


My Derasha Topic in the Straus Main Sanctuary
this Shabbat Parshat Yitro:

The Har Sinai Fyre Festival*:
How to Have an Authentic Experience

(*Click here if you don't know what the Fyre Festival was)

Last Week's Derasha
Parsha Questions from Last Year's Parent-Child Learning
Dr. Shoshana Poupko's Post on the Mikva Facebook Page
Dvar Torah on Korbanot from Mincha/Maariv

My Derasha from this Past Shabbat, Parshat Beshalach:
Moshe, MLK, and Moments of Inspiration

Though Parent-Child Learning is off this week during Yeshiva break, click here for some questions from a previous year's session on Yitro. 

My better half, Dr. Shoshana Poupko, posted the following brief Dvar Torah on the Rebbetzin Peggy Gopin Weiss Mikvah of Englewood Facebook page.

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One of the most astounding aspects of Mikvah observance is that we have absolutely no idea why we go. We know when to go and we know what to do once we get there. We also know that our people have sacrificed throughout history in order to observe this mitzvah, and in a famous responsum, Rav Moshe Feinstein noted that it is more critical to build a Mikvah than it is to build a shul or a school.

If you search on-line or visit a local Judaica store, there is no shortage of articles and books looking to inspire Mikvah observance. Yet, the reality of why we keep these laws is best expressed by the Rambam: 

רמב"ם הלכות מקוואות פרק יא הלכה יב
דבר ברור וגלוי שֶהַטֻמְאוֹת וְהַטְהָרוֹת גְזֵרַת הַכָתוב הֶן, וְאֵינָן מִדְבָרִים שֶדַעְתוֹ שֶלָאָדָם מַכְרַעַת אוֹתָן, וַהֲרֵי הֶן מִכְלַל הַחֻקִים... וְכֵן הַטְבִילָה מִן הַטֻמְאוֹת, מִכְלַל הַחֻקִים הִיא...

It is clear and obvious that the laws of purity and impurity are Divine decrees. They are not concepts that human logic can comprehend, as they belong to the category of commandments known as חוקים - God's decrees for which He has given no reason. Likewise, the immersion to purify oneself from the impurity is in itself one of the חוקים.

As the Rambam explains, we keep these laws simply because God told us to - we do not have any rational or reason for the mitzvah of Mikvah. And yet, knowing how much our people have exerted themselves to deepen their appreciation for this mitzvah, highlights for me one of the most inspirational aspects of our people. Reason or no reason, we have a burning desire to find depth and meaning. We are not satisfied with doing the commandment simply because we are told to – albeit that in and of itself is inspiring to me! We as a people want more – we want to feel deeply connected to what we are doing. Seeing this, it is remarkable that the laws of Mikvah which have no rational basis still draw out our search for meaning and inspiration.

Dvar Torah from Between Mincha/Maariv
Between Mincha/Maariv during the week, Rabbi Goldberg and I have been giving Divrei Torah on a different Mitzvah each week based on the Rambam's Sefer ha-Mitzvot. This past week we began a series on the Korbanot. The following is one of the Divrei Torah I shared. 

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Whenever someone was obligated to bring both a Korban Chatat (sin offering) and a Korban Olah (wholly burnt offering), the Rabbis in the Talmud rule that the Chatat must always be brought before the Olah (unless explicitly stated otherwise). It's somewhat strange then that the Torah chooses to list the Olah first at the beginning of the book of Vayikra, before the Chatat. There is a statement in the Talmud made by Rava that explains that even though the Chatat takes precedence over the Korban Olah, the Torah presents the Korban Olah first before the Korban Chatat “because this is how it should be read” (Zevachim 90a). What exactly does this mean?

The Torah Temimah explains using a well-known idea about the recitation of Korbanot. Following the destruction of the Beit ha-Mikdash, the Rabbis teach in a Midrash that our recitation of the verses concerning the Korbanot and our study of their laws will be considered by Hashem as if we have offered them in the Beit ha-Mikdash ourselves. The Torah Temimah admits, of course, that this idea does not suggest that our recitation is considered as if we actually brought these offerings. In some cases, in order to achieve full atonement from the Chatat offering it must be eaten by the Kohanim and of course such eating cannot take place today. So, obviously the idea is not to be taken literally.

Nevertheless, the Torah Temimah keenly observes that if the Korban doesn’t require any additional actions such as eating - then the recitation of that Korban is in fact more similar to its actual offering in the Beit ha-Mikdash than others. Using this insight he argues that the recitation of the verses concerning the Korban Olah is superior to that of the Korban Chatat. The Korban Olah is completely burnt up on the altar while the Korban Chatat requires that some of it be eaten by the Kohanim. Therefore, the recitation of the Korban Olah is more similar to its actual offering in the Beit ha-Mikdash since it doesn’t require any eating.

Now we can understand the statement “because this is how it should be read”. “Should be read” means that when the Korban Olah is recited by us in an era when there is no Beit ha-Mikdash, the Olah takes precedence, or is superior, since it’s recitation more closely matches its actual offering than the Chatat. Just like the Olah wasn't eaten and offered wholly up to Hashem, so too its recitation is completely expressed to Hashem and there is no missing act of eating.


Mon, December 6 2021 2 Tevet 5782