Parshas Vayikra - Smoke and Mirrors

By Rabbi Zvi Teichman

Posted on 03/15/18

At the onset of the laws governing the bringing of sacrifices it alludes to the very first קרבן, offering, that was presented to G-d.

אדם כי יקריב מכם קרבן לד' (ויקרא א ב), When a man among you brings an offering to G-d.

The Torah addresses man as 'אדם' rather than the more common usage of איש. Rashi, quoting the Midrash, tells us that this is coming to teach us a vital rule regarding offerings that is derived from the very first sacrifice that was offered by אדם, Adam, the first morning after his creation.

Just as Adam, the first man, never offered sacrifices from stolen property, since everything was his, so too, you must not offer sacrifices from stolen property.

The Holy Shelah poses the obvious question. How can we derive the lesson not to bring a stolen sacrifice from someone who never had the potential to steal as everything belonged to him? Were there to have been an opportunity for Adam to steal and he nevertheless refrained, we could correctly observe that one shouldn’t bring stolen goods, but in the absence of any possibility to steal how can we surmise that it would otherwise be prohibited to be offered?

Additionally, it is asked that elsewhere the Talmud infers the proscription to bring stolen property from the word מכם, from you, that appears in this verse, that implies it must be ‘yours’ and not stolen? (סוכה לא.)

One reading the earlier verse, אדם כי יקריב מכם, in its literal form, could translate it more accurately as: ‘when a man offers himself’. Were the Torah merely seeking to exclude items that don’t belong to the bringer it could have more clearly expressed that idea alone by stating: אדם מכם כי יקריב, a man, from ‘yours’,i.e. your own possessions, shall offer.... The fact that the Torah chose to write it with this double inference is instructive.

Although certainly no one can offer ‘themselves’ in the plain sense, but perhaps the Torah is directing us to be authentic and genuine in our personal desire to come close to G-d. Often our motive for initiating a deed is because we seek to emulate others or simply do what is expected of us. The Torah calls for us to driven by our very personal need for closeness and desire for definition in serving G-d in the way most natural and suited to our unique personality and soul.

The Kli Yakar points out that this was precisely the deficiency in the offerings that were presented to G-d by the children of Adam - Kayin and Hevel. Kayin brought some meager flax seeds as a tribute to G-d’s role in his success. It lacked though any sense of inner passion for closeness, which would have been more effectively expressed were Kayin to have brought robust fruits or grains. Hevel too, demonstrated a weakness by his merely mimicking his brother’s initiative in offering his sacrifice and not being compelled to offer one on his own.

Perhaps that is the deeper meaning in the lesson we derive from Adam.

When we construct our goals and ambitions in life by formulating them by observing the manner in which others live their lives and by the choices others make, seeking merely to imitate what appears commendable or appropriate we are being disingenuous to ourselves. We are guilty in a sense of ‘stealing’ and ‘grabbing’ that which is not always authentically ours.

Adam had no one to mimic. He followed his G-d endowed instincts in pursuing and developing his persona and unique relationship with G-d. His authentic offering was an expression of his sincere gratitude to G-d and exclaimed his honest desire to become ever closer. He was pristine in his authenticity.

At times we are afraid to pursue nobler goals out of fear that we will be doubted or at worse mocked. Often we qualm our conscience by satisfying ourselves that we are no different than anyone else, in the process stifling the opportunity to grow. In either scenario we are denying ourselves the ability to become who we truly are. We are guilty of dealing with ‘goods’ that are not genuinely our own.

We must emulate Adam who forged his personality authentically.

Before the sin of Adam, there was little to obscure the landscape of pursuing one’s spiritual goals. Adam was to live forever, serve G-d in any locale, and be unencumbered by an instinctive material pull towards indulgence. But subsequent to the partaking from the Tree of Knowledge mankind became ensconced in a ‘cloud of smoke’.

עשן the word for smoke is an acronym for עולם, space; שנה, time; נפש; our sense of self.

We can longer create a sanctuary, wherever we roam, there are now specific places more suitable and designated to achieve the closeness to G-d we so yearn for. We no longer have unlimited time to attain our goals and must pursue our goals within a limited and unknown quantity of time. We must struggle with our inclinations in discerning between good and bad, never being fully certain in the purity of our motives and choices. We live in a world of ‘smoke and mirrors’ that constantly becloud our vision and deceives us in determining the absolute truth.

The only method by which we can ‘bring ourselves close’ to G-d is by striving for authenticity and not allowing ourselves to be influenced by popular opinion or comfortable complacence.

Part of our problem lays in the fact that we resist accepting our unique circumstances and constantly look enviously at others and their stations in life whom we think are happier than us. We desperately seek to mimic those who seem to be more successful and miss the opportunity to discover whom we truly are.

The masters of the secrets of Torah reveal that the word for stolen goods, גזל, is an acronym for the words גם זו לטובה, this too is for the good.

אהללה שם אלקים בשיר ואגדלנו בתודה. ותיטב לד' משור פר מקרין מפריס (תהלים סט לב)

I shall praise the name G-d with song and I shall magnify it with thanksgiving.

And it shall please G-d more than a full-grown bull possessed of horns and hoofs.

The bull referenced here is the offering Adam brought on the second day of his life. King David delights in his ability to offer something even greater than that first sacrifice.

Living life with joy despite the challenges; thanking G-d for the unique circumstances that are as exclusive to each individual as the world was to Adam when he stood alone at creation; peering through the smoke and mirrors in discovering and presenting our true selves before G-d, is indeed the most thrilling experience in the world. Identifying who we truly are and living authentically with that awareness is tantamount to experiencing the joy of life in the Garden of Eden once again.

The antidote to the sin of ‘stealing’ is indeed accomplished when we live our lives by the credo of ‘this too is for the good’, accepting the reality of our circumstances as our personal Gan Eden.   


צבי טייכמאן