Menachos 20: Joy of Atonement

The truth is the Shikkerdovid has had a really hard time with Menachos. It is beautiful analytical learning, but very dry (pardon the pun-ie dry flour) and the concepts of very technical. But today’s daf hard a glimmer of of Elul and Tishrei.

The Talmud of Minachos  on page 20 is on a very technical discussion about adding salt to sacrifices. It brings a comparison to wine libations. The Talmud asks is the salt connected to the sacrificial parts that are thrown on the altar or connected to the blood of the sprinkling on the altar which effects the atonement.  The Talmud in one opinion connects the libations to the sprinkling of the blood because atonement brings joy (presumably just like wine) . Rashi spells it out, the wine connects to the blood sprinkling because men are joyous when they get atonement.

How beautiful an idea for us this time of year.  Happines knowing one has improved to the point that we are joyous as if we drank wine.

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Ki Tavo: Speech, Love and Separation

In Parshat Ki Tavo there is a strange pasuk-Chapter 27, sentence 17. It is strange because the word in the pasuk  Amarta  (similiar to the word Lamor) is not really translatable here. The pasuk reads as follows:  Hashem “amorta”  today to be your gd and you will walk in his ways, keeps his laws , commandments, statutes and hear his voice.”

What is strange?: “amarta” which usually means speak or say does not fit here.  Rashi says the following: I have no proof or evidence but here I think the word is used as  “separating or distinguishing”   So the pasuk reads ” Hashem separates today to be your gd and you will walk in his ways.”

How strange! Rashi is not sure how to translate and pulls out a meaning we never see.  The truth is Amor does have another meaning  other than speak. In parshat Emor, Rabbi Schwartz of OZ always saying this refers to ‘love”, as in the romance language word “amore”.  We know the word amore means love from the Frank Sinatra song, when moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie.. thats amore.

So Amor has three meanings: 1. speak 2. separate 3. love.  What do all things have in common.  The shikkerdovid would like to use this as  Elul or character remediation lesson. The truth is the shikkerdovid has often said some pretty stupid, sometime hurtful things. Mostly from lack of thought.   This year the Shikkerdovid is intent on correcting.  The Shikkerdovid wants to take his speech, separate out the stupidity and keep the love.

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Zevachim 90-91: Holiness v. Frequency

In the Mishna on 90B, the Talmud Zevachim states that certain sacrifices take precedence in bringing to the altar, ie chatas take precedence over asham (with exceptions of Metzora);eating the permissive parts of certain sacrifices take precedence over others etc.

The Talmud then presents a classic Talmudic and existential dispute. Should priority be given to things which are done “frequently” (Todir) or should priority be given to things which have greater ‘kedusha”-holiness.    Tha Talmud goes through various examples of trying to determine whether holiness or frequency takes precedence. It gives examples from Kiddush: does the blessing on the wine (frequency) come before the blessing of the sanctifying the Shabbos or opposite.  Does the rosh hashanna offering take priority  over the rosh chodesh?  The Talmud is struggling to find a pattern of holiness v. frequency.

The SD would like to put in a thought:  Ideally, our worship of Gd should be one big emotional, spiritual and ecstatic expression.  The reality is : spirituality, like life needs order to be properly expressed.   To properly serve gd in a spiritually  ecstatic state, requires rigorous knowledge of the Torah and text. It is hard to properly be ecstatic without knowledge and a sense of order.    The conflict of holiness v. frequency kind of mirrors this reality.  One can only enjoy the spiritual essence and tranquility of shabbos when one has worked hard all week in his job and “avodas hashem.”  One can only find true expression of spirituality within a framework of regularity, frequency and consistency.

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Zevachim 54,55 56 Pishpishim Part 2: More Thinking.

Zevachim 54-56 brings back our old friend “the Pishpishim”. This time  Rashi tells us that they are “little doors “on the corner of the Antechamber. Why are they there? The Torah tells us that certain sacrifices must be slaughtered across from the opening or door (“pesach ohel moed.’).  However, the Courtyard of the Temple kind of wraps around so the opening into the Antechamber and Heichal from the Courtyard is not seen in all the corners. To allow for the slaughtering in the areas not in front of the main opening, these “little doors” are made in the corners.  These doors quality to allow more courtyard area to be used for slaughtering.

Again, the SD is struck by the ingenuity and creative thinking.  A problem or obstacle arises due to the requirement found in the Torah and the solution.   It kind of goes to much of the reason for Torah learning. While we learn to understand Gd, to understand ourselves, to understand the universe, to understand mortality, ethics and values… we also learn just to understand.  We learn to think. We learn in order  to perceive a problem, think it through and find a solution.

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Zevachim 54B, Samuel 19: THINK BIG

The last few weeks in Zevachim have been very technical but in 54B was a bit of a reprieve with the discussion of the building of the Altar  and the location of the Temple.   The Talmud on 54B quotes Samuel 19 and says “David and Samuel dwelled in Nabaith Rama.” The Talmud tells us that together they were planning where to put the Temple.

Whats going on here? The back story is that David has just been informed that King Saul wants to kill him. He flees. He is on the run. He is running for his life and stops to get refuge with Samuel.  What is he thinking about? “The adornment of the world.”- the Temple.

The Shikkerdovid would like to weigh in.  Here it is: David is on the run. He is wanted man. Rather than being obsessed with survival, rather than just trying to stay alive, rather than being depressed or upset, he is is thinking about “the adornment of the World”-the temple.  Even the language used in the Talmud “the adornment of the world” show his grand thinking.   David is not depressed or scared. His circumstances don’t bother him. He is focused on the big picture. The placement of the Temple or it is put “the adornment.”

What is the lesson here?  We are always in bad spots, we are always weighted down by life issues, problems, and challenges.  David and the daf provide the answer: Think big. Think about the ‘adornment”.

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Sound British:Think Yiddish: Zevachim 33

In Zevachim 33, the Talmud is struggling with how the Metzora (leper) can bring his sacrifice or enter the Temple Courtyard. How does he lean on his Asham (sacrifice) if he cannot enter the courtyard due to his status as a leper.  It is a catch 22.

The Gemara proposes an simple answer.  Make two little holes on the wall of the courtyard nearest the altar so he can put his hands through.   The Talmud calls them “pishpishin”  Rashi explains they are two little holes.    The word sounds eerily similiar to the yiddish  derogatory term “pisshur” or insignificant-little person.  Funny, we always thought the word “pisshur” (which has probably gone out of use since it is such an ugly word) meant silly, insignificant, loser, small person. Really, it is a creative way of solving a dilemna.  Ultimately, the Talmud rejects this alteration without a “permit from Hashem” but the ingenuity is a lesson.

The Talmud recognizes that laws or the Torah often present contradictions, obstacles or logistical issues.  Kind of like life and life challenges.   How do get through them? You use ingenuity. You use your wits. You think outside the box.   While the Talmud rejects these Pishpishin, it demonstrates the method of thinking through a problem.

So what is the relationship of Pisshur to Pishpishin?  The small or insignificant holes can sometimes solve big problems.  Sound British, think Yiddish.

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Lesson in Humility from Behar

In Parshat Behar, the Torah tells us about the law of Shmitta.  The seven year cycle where we do not plant, actively grow or harvest. We allow all to walk on the fields and eat the produce.   The Torah tell us “the resting of the land shall be yours to eat for you, for your slave, maids and hired worker and sojourners who live among you.” Chapter 25 , 6)

Rashi tells us that as the owner you can eat the same as everyone else and share with everyone else, but you cannot act as the owner.   The Rashi text is beautiful:  “lo tinhog c baal habayis” don’t act or conduct yourself as the owner of the field.   Rashi continues saying “all  will be equal.”   This does not mean to say you give up your field. This does not mean to say, it is no longer yours.  This means that during shmitta your status is as everyone else.

The Shikkerdovid would like to learn a lesson in humility.  For six years you can be proud of your assets. For six years you can exclude other from your fields.  But in Shmitta you are reduced to a regular guy.  It is the great equalizer in terms of human relationships. For one year, my assets are just as much available to the worker, the sojurner or the maid as they are to me. Really, I am no different.

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