Parshat Vayikra 5779: Does Being “Chosen” Denote Full Inclusion and Exclusivity?

Shalom Friends;

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Moshe Burt
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Parshat Vayikra 5779: Does Being “Chosen” Denote Full Inclusion and Exclusivity?

by Moshe Burt

In previous years, our Parshat HaShevua for Parshat Vayikra deals with the significance of the small “alef” as Hashem’s expression of love for Moshe Rabbeinu and the dialogue between them which resulted in it.

Rabbi Shmuel Goldin, in his sefer “Unlocking the Torah Text”, Sefer Vayikra (pages 16-21) deals with another dimension of our Parsha in what seems to be a unique way:

Hashem opens… with a… directive to Moshe concerning voluntary korbonot [sacrifices]: “Speak to the B’nei Yisrael and say to them, ‘If a man should bring from among you an offering to the Lord, from the domestic animal, from the cattle or from the flock shall you bring your offering.'” (Rabbi Goldin citing Sefer Vayikra, Perek 1, posuk 2 as rendered to English by Rabbi Shmuel Goldin, in his sefer “Unlocking the Torah Text”, Sefer Vayikra)

Why does the Torah use the word “adam” [a Hebrew term for “man”] in this posuk? The term consistently used in Torah to indicate an individual is “ish.”

Numerous authorities within the Talmud and Midrash view the term “adam” in this sentence [“If a man should bring…an offering] as halachically inclusive in nature, deliberately broadening the population base from which korbonot will be received. Not only are all… Jews (men, women, born Jews and converts) delineated as eligible participants in the Sanctuary’s sacrificial rite, but some authorities even derive the eligibility of non-Jews from this term as well. (Rabbi Goldin citing Midrash Hachaifetz Vayikra Perek 1, posuk 2, Talmud Yerushalmi Shekalim 1:4, Chizkuni, Vayikra Perek 1, posuk 2. Talmud Bavli – Nazir 62b, however, derives the inclusion of Gentiles from a different textual source – Vayikra, Perek 22, posuk 18)

In addition, in contrast to the Jews whose offerings must be brought to the Beit Hamikdash, “Gentiles are permitted to offer burnt offerings to Hashem anywhere in the world and it is permissible to instruct them and teach them how to sacrifice to Hashem’s name, Blessed be He.” (Rabbi Goldin citing Rambam, Mishne Torah, Hilchot Ma’aseh Korbonot 9:16)

The Torah thus repeats, at the very outset of its detailed description of korbonot, a message sounded often and clearly within the text, Hashem’s selection of the Jews as a “chosen people” does not connote exclusivity. Even after the birth of Am Yisrael [as a] nation, Hashem continues to relate to all of mankind.

…Rashi explains the Torah’s use of the word “adam” by… connect[ing] this sentence to Adam, the first man, ancestor of all mankind…. Just as the first man, Adam, by definition did not offer stolen material to Hashem, [as he alone existed in the world] and all in the world was his; so too, [Hashem commands the B’nei Yisrael] “Your korbonot should not consist of stolen goods.” (Rabbi Goldin citing Rashi, Vayikra Perek 1, posuk 2, Midrash Rabbah Vayikra 2:7)

….From the ancient proponents of human sacrifice to the “fundamentalists” of our day, zealots have redrawn the laws of morality to justify actions purportedly perpetrated in pursuit of specific “religious” goals.

In sharp contrast, our law shapes the interface between ritual observance and ethical behavior through the application of the legal maxim “A Mitzvah which results from the commission of a sin is simply unacceptable.” (Rabbi Goldin citing Talmud Bavli Succah 29b-30a) No amount of spiritual devotion exempts a religious practitioner from the basic laws that apply to all of mankind.

As the sacrificial laws… unfold in sefer Vayikra, the Midrash sees Hashem reminding the B’nei Yisrael: Your religious worship must always be observed within a moral framework. Under no circumstances will actions in My name relieve you from universal ethical responsibilities toward your fellow man.

If the word “adam” halachically expands the population pool from whom korbonot are accepted, many authorities maintain that… “from among you” creates a… limitation…. How will our religious tradition balance the desire for inclusiveness with the need for realistic boundaries? Not all behaviors can be accepted within a religious community. And yet, can we completely close the door on any individual? …A question looms that will reverberate… across the ages: with regard to affiliation with the community of Jews, who is in and who is out?

The discussion begins in the Talmud: “from among you, but not from all of you”; from this phrase we learn that korbonot are not accepted from apostates.”

…Further, the Rabbis maintain that no such distinction is made in the case of Gentiles, all of whom, regardless of their beliefs, are eligible to offer sacrifices to Hashem. Counter-intuitively, the bar is set higher for Jews than it is for non-Jews.

Rav Goldin concludes:

…The Rabbis declare, only those apostates whose rebellion strikes to the basic core of Jews’ belief are excluded. The acceptance of these individuals would, apparently, connote validation of of their convictions and thus present too great a threat to the community. The door, however, remains open to others, whose rebellion is less pervasive, in the hope that they will return to normative…[observance]. (Rabbi Goldin citing Talmud Bavli Eruvin 69b)

At the dawn of our nation’s history, the struggle to define acceptable communal boundaries is joined — a struggle that rages to this very day.

This author wonders, how to delineate apostasy as we discuss our communal halachic boundaries against the background of raging fractionalization in Israel resulting from politicization of issues regarding religion vs state in the public sphere: such as potential for mass public desecration of Shabbos, civil marriage vs rabbinical oversight, abortion, etc. — seemingly the very cores of our belief. And we are appalled as we watch our core beliefs ravaged throughout the world by the nations — rising anti-semitism, banning of Kosher slaughter in Europe, promotion of full-term abortion legislation in the United States which passed into law in New York State with legislation pending in other states and more.

May we, the B’nei Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them and that the twice expelled families of Amona be restored to their rebuilt homes, at government expense; both due to alt-leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized Yassamnik gunpoint. May our dear brother Jonathan Pollard be liberated and truly free — only upon his return home to Israel, and that the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem, as should the remains of the two chayalim from the Gaza War of four plus years ago. May we have the courage and strength to stand up and physically prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and prevent Chas V’Challila the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nai Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem Al’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bimhayrah b’yamainu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!

Good Shabbos!
Moshe Burt, an Oleh, is a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.