Parshat Vayikra 5783: Breaking Down a Posuk — The Switch from Singular to Plural

Dear Friends;

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Moshe Burt
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Parshat Vayikra 5783: Breaking Down a Posuk — The Switch from Singular to Plural

by Moshe Burt

This Parshat Vayikra vort opens with an excerpt from Rabbi Shmuel Goldin’s Parsha summary, in his sefer “Unlocking the Torah Text”, Sefer Vayikra (page 1) ;

Hashem launches a new chapter of the Jews’ experience by calling to Moshe from the Sanctuary [Mishkan, Tent of Meeting] and commanding him concerning Judaism’s sacrificial rites [korbonot].

R’ Shimshon Rafael Hirsch, z’l in the new Hirsch Chumash (published by Feldheim in 2005 and translated to English by Rabbi Daniel Haberman) renders translation of our Parsha’s opening posuk:

“And He called to Moshe, and Hashem spoke to him from the Tent of Appointed Meeting [Mei-Ohel Mo’ed], saying:” (Hirsch Chumash renders to English, Sefer Vayikra, page 1, Perek 1, posuk 1)

Rashi, as noted in The Sapirstein Edition, The Torah with Rashi’s Commentary (Sefer Vayikra, page 2, Perek 1, posuk 1 including note 3) states:

“He called to Moshe.” “Calling” preceded every statement, and every saying, and every command. It is language of affection, i.e. language that indicates affection; language which the minstering angels [melachim] use, as it says, “One called to the other and said, ‘Holy…'” (Rashi citing Yishaya 6:3)

Rabbi Goldin provides a context of Hashem’s Directive to Moshe in Parshat Vayikra concerning voluntary korbonot with a transliteration of Sefer Vayikra, Perek 1, posuk 2, his rendering of the posuk to English, followed by a question and discussion (Sefer “Unlocking the Torah Text”, Sefer Vayikra, pages 16 – 17 and 21-22) :

Hashem opens Sefer Vayikra with a general directive to Moshe concerning voluntary korbonot: “Speak to the B’nei Yisrael and say to them: Adam ki yakriv mikem korbon la’Hashem, min habeheima min habakar u’min hatzon takrivu et korbanchem — ‘If a man should bring from among you an offering to Hashem, from the domestic animal, from the cattle or from the flock shall you bring your offering.'”

The text should have read: “If a man from among you should bring” rather than “If a man should bring from among you.” The current construction seems to indicate that the korbon itself is coming “from among” the nation, a clear impossibility in a tradition that adamantly rejects the very idea of human sacrifice.

The posuk begins in the singular (Adam ki yakriv, “If a man should bring”), but closes in the plural (takrivu [plural] et korbanchem — “shall you bring your offering”). Why the switch [from singular to plural]?

Through careful analysis of… this introductory posuk, the commentaries glean a myriad of foundational lessons, ranging from halachic parameters of the sacrificial rite to philosophical truths that reverberate well beyond the theme of korbonot.

Numerous authorities within Talmud and Midrash view the term “adam” in this posuk as halachically inclusive in nature, deliberately broadening the population base from which korbonot will be received. Not only are all loyal Jews (men, women [Rabbi Goldin citing Midrash HaCheifitz on Sefer Vayikra Perek 1, posuk 2], born Jews and converts [Talmud Yerushalmi Shekalim 1:4] ) delineated as eligible participants in the Mishkan’s sacrificial rite, but some authorities even derive the eligibility of non-Jews from this term as well. (Rabbi Goldin citing Chizkuni on Sefer Vayikra, Perek 1, posuk 2. Talmud Bavli — Nazir 62b derives inclusion of Gentiles from Sefer Vaykra, Perek 22, posuk 18)

Whatever the actual textual source, the halachic acceptance of specific korbonot from Gentiles is a well established phenomenon. The Talmud notes that non-Jews may bring burnt offerings to the Beit HaMidash where the Kohanim will attend to their korbonot as they would to those of Jews. (Rabbi Goldin citing Talmud Bavli Menachot 73b; Chullin 13b) In addition, in contrast to 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, Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Ma’aseh Korbonot 19:16)

The textual journey from the singular “Adam ki yakriv” to the plural “takrivu et korbanchem” informs the reader that, in contradistinction to many other korbonot which can only be offered by one individual alone, a voluntary animal Olah (burnt offering) may be brought by a group in partnership or even by an entire community.

The Torah thus creates a balance between individual religious search and shared spiritual experience.

Rabbi Goldin concludes (ibid, page 18) :

The inclusion of Gentiles as eligible participants in the Torah’s sacrificial rite carries no hidden agenda. Non-Jewish worship is accepted as independently valid in its own right…

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.

This author notes regarding the citing of Rabbi Goldin regarding Gentile participation in sacrificial rites that, at times in our history, Gentile monarchs or national heads often brought certain korbonot out of their recognition of Hashem’s dominion over the world.

Further, it should be noted that just after the American Revolution, an English essayist named William Gifford reported that some Americans planned to substitute Hebrew as the official language of the United States. And it seems as if the discussion of Hebrew being installed as the official language of the United States can be traced back to 1620. At that time, William Bradford was the leader of the pilgrims who set off to the New World. They set sail on the Mayflower seeking to find freedom from religious persecution. They saw their journey as a re-enactment of the Jewish exodus from ancient Egypt. Many of America’s founding principles and laws found their basis in Halacha.

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, that the thrice expelled families of Amona be restored to their rebuilt homes and the oft-destroyed Yeshiva buildings in Homesh be rebuilt, all at total government expense; due to alt-leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized Yassamnik gunpoint. Baruch Hashem that our dear brother Jonathan Pollard is now in his third year at home in Eretz Yisrael and has embarked on a new chapter in his life. May Esther Yocheved bat Yechiel Avraham have an aliyah in Shemayim and may her spirit and memory continue to lift Jonathan to at least 120 years. May the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem — as with the return in April, 2019, via Russia, of the remains of Zachariah Baumel, as should the remains of the two chayalim from the Gaza War of eight 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. And may we soon and finally see the total end to the Communist Chinese corona virus pandemic and all like viruses. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nei 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!!!

Chodesh Tov and 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.