Torah Fax


Friday, March 14, 2008 - 7 Adar II, 5768

Torah Reading:   VaYikra (Leviticus 1:1 - 5:26
Candle Lighting: 6:44 PM
Shabbat ends: 7:44 PM

Parshat Zachor

Poor Soul

 

Our Parshah, VaYikra, features many of the various kinds of offerings that can be brought to the Temple. One can offer cattle, sheep, goats, doves or a measure of flour as an offering in the Temple, depending on the economic state of the one making the offering.

 

Commentators have noted that when the Torah introduces the laws regarding the poor man's offering of flour, it does it in a unique way. Rather than saying "if one should bring a flour offering" as it does with regard to the other varieties of offerings, the Torah says, "If a soul shall bring a flour offering." Rashi, the foremost of all Torah commentators, explains that when a poor person brings an offering "the Holy One Blessed Is He regards it as if he has offered his own soul."

 

The Torah's message is profound. People generally judge other's efforts based on their monetary value. If one gives more money, surely it must be regarded as a greater Mitzvah. But the Torah tells us that the scale for weighing a Mitzvah is not based on quantity but on quality. For a poor man to scrape together the funds necessary to bring a meager meal offering, it could very well take more dedication and effort than for a rich man to bring a large bullock. Indeed, the poor man has put his very soul into it.

 

But there is a deeper lesson to be learned here as well. The Torah does not only want to teach the wealthy person to properly appreciate the poor man's efforts - the Torah wishes to teach all of us, even the rich man, a fundamental lesson in our personal service to G‑d.

 

The Talmud tells us that a true poverty Is not measured monetarily - but in knowledge. "A truly poor person is only one who is poor in knowledge." We all posse gifts from G‑d, some have great talents, others have a vast knowledge or understanding of Judaism. From this perspective we are all rich and we are all poor. In those spiritual areas where we have been blessed, we are rich, in the areas where we need to develop our abilities, knowledge and personality traits, we are still poor.

 

But there is another metaphor for wealthy and poor in Jewish thought - one in which the poor man is to be emulated - and that is with regard to ego and humility. The poor person is always humble, low in spirit, whereas the rich person has sometimes been portrayed in history as a haughty selfish person. When one appreciates that he is wealthy with respect to a certain spiritual quality and he wants to teach or share that knowledge or character trait, he must do so in a humble way. If we view the act of sharing our experience or knowledge with another as a burden, as a yoke on "our time and energy" - we are still centered around our own ego. We may be rich in that area of Torah knowledge, but we are also rich in our own ego - and that is certainly not ideal.

 

A "poor" man (read: humble and sharing), conversely, gladly shares his knowledge with others. In fact, he is aware of the teaching of our sages that a "giver" is actually a "receiver." By sharing with others, he feels he has gained deeper insight and understanding of the subject matter. Indeed, the Hebrew words Anav, humble one, and Ani, impoverished one, are virtually identical - with the exception of a Yud and a Vav (letters that are quite similar in shape). While it is praiseworthy to be spiritually rich, we still should try to emulate the poor man's traits. We should try to imitate his willingness to always be open, to realize that sharing with others is not a yoke but a blessing through which we can receive far more than we give.

 

In addition, the Talmud tells us that "Rebbe Mechabed Ashirim, Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi would honor rich people." He felt that if someone was blessed with material wealth, it was a sign that G‑d had blessed that person and that G‑d was close to that person. Indeed, Rabbi Yehudah himself was a fabulously wealthy person, but he was also "poor." He realized that his wealth was a gift from G‑d that made him feel all the more contrite and humble. Similar teachings are written with regard to Moses and King David who were both extremely wealthy and remarkably humble.

 

Moshiach has been described in the Bible as a "poor man riding on a donkey." Chassidic thought explains that the word Chamor, donkey, is connected with Chumriyut, materialism. In light of what has been written here, we can translate this verse to mean that while Moshiach will have great wealth - both materially and spiritually - he will nevertheless be humble. Moshiach will not let his material possessions govern him. He will be "riding his donkey/materialism," meaning he will be in control of his materialism and not let it govern him. Moshiach is the ultimate example of a person who is totally receptive to G‑d and to others. Rather than look down at those he helps, Moshiach will deal with all people in a kind, loving and humble manner.
 

Moshiach Matters

 

Just as Israel's redemption in those days was brought about not through our own merit, but through Divine mercy, likewise do we demonstrate through our manner of rejoicing on Purim that we do not rely on our own merits but only on G‑d's compassion. (Book of Our Heritage)


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