Friday, May 01, 2009

Acharei-Mot Kedoshim אחרי-מות קדושים

(Unfortunately I am rather ill with a bad cold, so I'm leaving you just a short D'var Torah this week. I hope you still enjoy it.)
"ולקח מלא-המחתה גחלי-אש מעל המזבח, מלפני יהוה, ומלא חפניו, קטרת סמים דקה; והביא, מבית לפרכת - He shall take a shovelful of fiery coals from atop the Altar that is before Hashem, and his cupped handful of finely ground incense-spices, and bring it within the curtain."

If we take a careful look at this pasuk, we realise that the word "מלא - full," is used twice. The repetition of this word is deliberate and teaches us many things, but I particularly like the answer put forward by R' Zalman Sorotzkin.

Rav Sorotzkin points out that the word full is used in two contexts in this sentence. The first time it appears, it relates to the measure of the shovel and the second time it used, it is pertaining to the amount of incense the Kohen HaGadol should take.

Interestingly, there is no measure specified for the shovel - it's proportions are not outlined in the Torah. So how could it be that the required amount is simply that the shovel, undefined as it is, be filled? This means that we can't even work out an approximate size for the shovel given the amount of incense it had to hold!

Similarly, the human hand also is undefined - no human hand has exactly the proportions or is exactly the same size. Some people's hands are tiny and others have monstrous hands; what kind of measures are to be taken when we don't even have a rough scale to work with?

If the purpose of this Pasuk is not to instruct us as to what amount is to be used in this Mitzvah, then a serious question is posed - why is the word מלא used at all?

The answer tendered is that the hand and the undefined shovel are used here to teach us that the task is not to simply fill a standardised amount or to fulfill a set requirement. Each person should realise that he has his own unique circumstances, but that it remains essential to do one's best to perform the mitzvot commanded of him, and to perform them well.

It is important that we recognise that it is not enough to do a mitzvah to the minimum required level, and that we should attempt to do each mitzvah to our respective "filled handfuls."

Wishing you a peaceful and cold-free, שבת שלום!

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