Parashas Tzav

Unfortunately I was unable to post the d’var Torah for parashas Tzav before Shabbos, because of a technical problem with the website, so I am posting it now. I hope you find it interesting.
Parashas Tzav includes a discussion of the thanksgiving offering (Vayikra 7:12-15). The Midrash remarks (Vayikra Rabbah 9:1):
“With the presentation of a thanksgiving offering they shall honor Me” (Tehillim 50:23). It is not written “sin-offering” or “guilt-offering,” but rather “thanksgiving offering.” Why? Because sin-offerings and guilt-offerings are brought on account of a sin, but a thankgiving offering is not brought on account of a sin.
We have previously presented a selection from the Maggid’s commentary on this Midrash. We now present another selection.
The thanksgiving offering is brought to give thanks for a blessing received. The sin-offering and the guilt-offering, on the other hand, are brought for the purpose of being cleansed of the evil effects of sin. Thus, the thanksgiving offering is brought for receipt of good, while the sin-offering and guilt offering are brought for the removal of bad. Both are kindnesses from Hashem, and both lead the recipient of the kindness to rejoice. However, from Hashem’s perspective – from the Giver’s standpoint – these two kindnesses differ considerably. When Hashem grants someone an extra blessing, He regards what He has done as a great kindness. It is different, though, when He takes someone out of a bad situation: The person Hashem has aided may well feel that Hashem has done him a great kindness (cf. Mishlei 27:7, “to the hungry soul, all bitter is sweet”), but Hashem himself regards what He has done as only a modest benefit.
The Maggid suggests that this idea may be what underlies the difference between the following two similar verses (the words that differ are set in italics):
1. Tehillim 57:11: “For great up to the heavens is Your kindness, and up to the celestial heights is Your truth.”
2. Tehillim 108:5: “For great above the heavens is Your kindness and up to the celestial heights is Your truth.”
We can say that the statement “for great above the heavens is Your kindness” refers to kindnesses that are truly great, while the statement “for great up to the heavens” refers to kindnesses that are small from the standpoint of the Giver, and great only from the standpoint of the recipient, on account of his lowly station and dire need. Indeed, a poor person rejoices over such small kindnesses as someone giving him some bread to save him from starvation, while from an ordinary person’s standpoint it is strange to rejoice over receiving some bread. In this vein, regarding Hashem’s subjecting the Jewish People to difficult times it is written (Yirmiyah 7:34): “For I shall cause to cease from the cities of Yehudah and the streets of Yerushalayim the sound of joy and the sound of gladness.” There will still be occasional rejoicing over rescue from plight, but people will be embarrassed to make their rejoicing over such an event heard in the streets.
We can perhaps also see a hint to this idea in a passage in Tehillim 71. The psalmist declares (Tehillim 71:15): “My mouth shall recount Your righteousness, all day long Your salvation, for I do not know their number.” The psalmist is describing how his mouth is occupied entirely with praises of thanks over being saved from distress. The psalmist continues (ibid. 71:16): “May I come with the mighty deeds of the Lord, Hashem/Elokim, and then I will recall Your righteousness alone.” Here, the psalmist speaks of how he yearns for Hashem to give him the opportunity to offer Him praise for performing great acts – that is, for acts of true beneficence. He hopes for the day when he will no longer need to recount how Hashem rescues him from plight, and will be able to speak only of the joy he feels over the blessings Hashem grants him.
We can interpret Tehillim 126 in a similar way. Tehillim 126 reads as follows (rendered differently from usual, in line with the Maggid’s commentary):
A song of ascents: When Hashem will return the captivity of Zion, we will be like dreamers. Then our mouths will be filled with laughter and our tongues with glad song. Then they will say they among the nations: “Hashem has wrought great works with these; if Hashem would perform such great works with us, we would jubilant.” O Hashem, return our captivity like streams in the dry land; let those who sow with tears reap with joyous song. He who bears the measure of seed will walk along weeping, but he will return in exultation, bearing his sheaves.
The Maggid brings out the point with a parable. In a certain city there were two wealthy men, one who had a wise son who gained a rabbinical position, and another who had a son who was a glutton and a carouser. The second man’s son committed a number of serious crimes and was sentenced to death. But before the death sentence was carried out, something happened that led the judge to reverse his decision and let the young man go, and he returned to his home in peace. The young man’s relatives gathered together and celebrated his miraculous deliverance with great joy. Nonetheless, the relatives were not wishing for an opportunity to make a similar celebration for their own children.
Similarly, at the time of the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash, the Jews were under threat of death, hunger, or being taken captive (Yirmiyah 15:2). Some of them were saved, and they felt great joy over their deliverance, yet it was not the kind of joy they wished that others would experience. In Tehillim 126, the psalmist describes the great success that we will attain in the end of days. Our success will be so great that all the other nations will speak of the wondrous works that Hashem is performing with us and describe how they would rejoice if Hashem would perform similar works for them. The psalmist then continues by describing a plea: “O Hashem, return our captivity like streams in the dry land; let those who sow with tears reap with joyous song.” A person who sows in a dry area does so tearfully, out of fear that he will have no crop; when a stream of water happens to pass through the area, he rejoices. He initially walks along weeping while bearing his seed, but afterward he rejoices, bearing his sheaves. But it will be different with us in the end of days, as it is written (Yeshayah 35:10): “Those redeemed by Hashem will return and come to Zion with glad song, with eternal joy upon their heads. They will attain gladness and joy, and anguish and groaning will flee.” No longer will groaning precede our rejoicing; we will be granted true blessing and experience pure joy.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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