Deducing Reward from Punishment

The opening parsha of the book of Vayikra (Leviticus) discusses the various sacrifices that the Jewish people brought to the Sanctuary. Among them is the asham sacrifice:

In the Torah’s own words:

“If a person will sin and will commit one of all G‑d’s commandments that may not be done, but was unaware and became guilty, and bears his iniquity…”

In this verse the Torah prescribes bringing an asham, a guilt-offering, specifically when one is uncertain whether he had committed a serious offense.  For example, assume that there were two pieces of animal fat; one was the forbidden fat called cheilev, and the other was the permissible fat called shuman. After eating one of the two pieces of fat a person is told that one was the forbidden fat, but he could not tell which one he had eaten. To atone for this possible transgression one would bring an asham.

Rashi makes the following observation:

“Rabbi Yosi Haglili says, ’Behold, the Torah prescribes punishment for one who is unaware that he transgressed, how much more so that it will punish one who is aware.’”

This statement is followed by a parallel positive lesson, related by Rabbi Yosi, that cites the punishment of death introduced to the world because of the single transgression by Adam and Eve. “If one transgression can cause so much harm, how much more so that when one refrains from transgression it will bring reward for him and for future generations.”

Rabbi Yosi provides three examples of transgressions that if one refrains from them will bring reward for him and future generations: a) eating piggul (an offering during whose slaughter the slaughterer has in mind that it should be eaten beyond the time prescribed by the Torah); b) eating nosar (meat of a sacrifice that remained uneaten past the prescribed time for it to be eaten); and c) one who does not fast on Yom Kippur.

Why does Rashi single out these three transgressions?


Three Food Prohibitions

The classic commentator Kli Yakar explains that Adam and Eve’s sin involved eating a forbidden food. The converse of their transgression is to refrain from eating forbidden food, which may occur in three forms:

The first is pigul, which represents all foods that are absolutely forbidden.

The second category is nosar, which is related to the word for “excessive” and is symbolic of one who indulges in eating more permissible food than is needed for health and nutrition for the sheer hedonistic pleasure it provides.

The third food restriction is represented by Yom Kippur, which disallows partaking of food even when necessary for one’s sustenance.

While Adam and Eve disobeyed G‑d’s command to refrain from partaking of the Tree of Knowledge, we can rectify the damage caused by their infraction by refraining from eating in all three abovementioned categories: pigul, nosar and during Yom Kippur.

The positive impact derived from one who exercises control in these three areas will benefit generations to come.

Kli Yakar, however, does not delve into the significance of each of these forbidden foods, pigul, nosar and the food eaten on Yom Kippur.

The following insights may be offered.


Pigul : Galus Mindset

Pigul, as stated, is caused by one who brings an offering and has in mind that he will eat it beyond the time limit the Torah has designated for its consumption.

The medieval classic work, the Chinuch, explains that the entire purpose of a sacrifice is to atone for our sins, which are caused by a warped way of thinking. The Chinuch presumably bases this assertion on a statement of the Talmud (Sotah 3a): “One does not transgress unless a spirit of folly enters him.” This “spirit of folly” enters our consciousness and distorts our thoughts; it will ultimately desensitize us to the gravity of sin.

The Chinuch thus states that if the purpose of a sacrifice is to straighten out our thought processes or mindset, it is counter-productive and destructive to have a warped thought in mind while bringing the sacrifice. One cannot remedy a warped mind with warped thoughts.

The first thing that comes to mind when we think about distorted thought processes is a Galus/exile mentality. The Talmud compares this to a state of intoxication for in an inebriated state we lose our ability to think straight.


Perish the Thought

The Ba’al Shem Tov stated that when one engages in prayer, which substitutes for the sacrifices, one may not harbor a distracting thought. That distracting thought is akin to pigul.

Now, the most frequent and most central prayer is the request for Redemption. We repeat it in one form or another dozens of times over the course of our daily prayers. It is also the most central of prayers because it encompasses all the other requests we make of G‑d.  When the Redemption occurs, all of our other needs – wisdom, atonement, health, prosperity, justice, freedom, peace and restoration of all that is holy - are included.

However, there can be a pitfall when it comes to our prayers for Redemption.  Maimonides alludes to this danger in his commentary to the Mishnah. Some may sabotage their own belief in and request for Redemption by being content with the delay in its arrival. While they will not deny the coming of Moshiach they prefer to push it into the distant future. They will, in effect, say: “We can eat (read: enjoy and internalize) the fruit of our labor throughout our stay in exile but at a later date. Moshiach can take his time so I can accomplish the things that I want to accomplish before he comes to take us to the Land of Israel.”

This thought process is also pigul and must be confronted.  To refrain from pigul means that we must not tolerate any thought that allows for delay in the day of the Redemption.


Erasing Our Tears

It is interesting to note that the numerical value of pigul is the same as dimah-tears. This may be an allusion to Isaiah’s prophecy (25:8): “He will eliminate death forever, and my L-rd, G‑d will erase tears (dimah) from all faces…” When we eschew this pigul thought-process and pray sincerely for an imminent Redemption, we will reap the reward for ourselves and future generations.  We will have removed the scourge of death, brought on by Adam’s sin, and usher in the time when we will no longer need to shed tears.

The Arizal explains that Adam’s sin was that he rushed to eat of the Tree of Knowledge prematurely. If only he had waited for the onset of Shabbos it would have been permissible, even desirable, for him to partake of the Tree of Knowledge.

All went awry shortly after Adam and Eve were created by G‑d and had just embarked on their mission to perfect the world. It was terribly wrong for Adam and Eve to rush to eat of the Tree of Knowledge so soon.

However, now that we are at the point where G‑d’s plan for the world is about to materialize, signaled by the imminent arrival of Moshiach, the opposite impulse is blessed. We must rush to bring the future ideals into the present by living lives consistent with the ideals of Moshiach and Redemption.

Our reversal and rectification of Adam’s sin, by living the future in the present, will correct his mistake and reverse the introduction of death and tears to the world.


Combatting Nosar

There is a second prohibition associated with sacrifices, and by extension Galus, and that is nosar, which literally means “left over.”

Pigul is symbolic of a distorted thought process which tolerates the delay of Redemption. Nosar, by contrast, is emblematic of one whose actions do not match his noble thoughts.  So, while one may not desire a delay in Moshiach’s coming, he or she will postpone the actions needed to hasten and prepare for the Redemption and avoid an enhanced dedication to the Torah and Mitzvos.  

When we engage in behavior that is consistent with the way we will live in the Messianic Era, it hastens the Redemption and prepares us for it. By avoiding nosari.e., the delaying to live a Messianic and redemptive life, we guarantee a rich reward for ourselves and for future generations. And while eschewing pigul removes tears, refraining from nosar allows the highest ideals to become concrete realities.


Yom Kippur: Escape from the Fumes of Galus

There is one final guarantee for the future and that is fasting on Yom Kippur.

Yom Kippur is the day when we rise above the physical limits of our humanity and become like angels.

Whereas the first two levels of thought/conduct (not eating pigul or nosarrelate to our anticipation for Redemption and preparation for it now, Yom Kippur represents our ability to cleanse ourselves from any and all vestiges of Galus.

To explain further: Galus influences are insidious and extremely difficult to shed.  After all, we live in a materialistic world and we cannot completely escape its influence and effects. Having said that though, we cannot wait to rid ourselves of all vestiges of exile before inviting the light of the future Redemption into our lives. Indeed, the way to wean ourselves off the Galus influence is to focus on and internalize the future.

Once we have successfully focused our energy on Redemption and earnestly prepared for it, especially by learning Torah teachings about Moshiach and Redemption, we actually have the power to alter our mindset.

The final step will be for us to find adequate time in our lives to foreswear the seductions of Galus and escape into a world of souls and angels. That liberating escape is what Yom Kippur symbolizes. We take these steps during prayer, while reciting the Shema before going to bed, on our birthdays and at any other prescribed time we set aside to escape the materialistic world. This act of casting off the shackles of Galus makes our preparation for Redemption complete.  The effects will last for an eternity.