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  • Writer's pictureRabbi Yonah Burr

Vayikra: Voluntary Giving and Cognitive Conditioning

The intricate laws of the sacrifices can seem confusing and overwhelming.

Part of the challenge is that the very concept of an offering is foreign to us and beyond our frame of reference. This is one "casualty" of our many years in Galus. Tosfos in Bava Basra states that witnessing the kohanim performing the avodah was a tremendously uplifting experience! As we daven for the Mashiach and the rebuilding of the Beis Hamikdash, we should include our longing to once again understand and be comfortable with this concept. May we merit to see it once again speedily in our days!

Sefer Vayikra actually begins with examples of voluntary karbonos. Rav Yaakov Yisroel Kanievsky zt”l, the Steipler Gaon, wonders: If we really should be bringing a burnt offering or a peace offering, then why isn’t it an obligation? And if there is no need for an obligation, then why do it voluntarily? We find similar things in other areas of halacha as well. For example, the Torah does not quantify the amount of Chessed we must do. It is one of the things that doesn’t have a ‘shiur’ or fixed amount. It is open-ended. Why doesn’t the Torah prescribe actually how much we must do?

The Steipler answers that these are actually opportunities to show our love for Hashem. Every single Jew, great and small, is required to show love for Hashem. This love can be demonstrated in numerous ways. A person might dedicate himself totally to learning, above and beyond the normal expectation. Another person may commit themselves to being extra careful with a mitzvah or with davening as his or her way of showing their love.

What do we do if we don’t feel that way? The Steipler cites the famous statement of the Mesillas Yeshorim: Just as our outward acts are an expression of what we feel on the inside, our feelings on the inside can be molded and nurtured by our outward acts. If we take the opportunity to show love and repeat this often enough, we will begin to feel this love as well. The opportunities for doing something extra not out of obligation are ways that we can both show and develop this love, all at the same time.

The Sefer Hachinuch actually uses this concept to explain why so many of our mitzvos focus on reminding us that Hashem took us out of Mitzraim. We have the Pesach Seder, we mention the Exodus twice a day, Mezuza, Kiddush, and more! He explains that through doing things over and over again, our outward actions will slowly penetrate into our being, change our mindset, and mold our way of thinking.

May we all merit developing this true love towards Hashem, and may we be able to once again appreciate and experience the service of the Beis Hamikdash speedily in our days!

Have a wonderful Shabbos!

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