Friday, April 15, 2011

Parshat Acharei -Mot - פרשת אחרי מות

"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."
(וירקא ט"ז:י"ב)

If we take a careful look at this pasuk quoted above, we see 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! What does "full" mean when we don't know how much can be filled up?!

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 has their own unique circumstances, but that it remains essential to do one's best to perform the mitzvot commanded of them, and to perform these mitzvot well. Just because some are able and willing to perform a mitzvah to a very high level, we cannot expect anyone to perform any particular mitzvah in a way that satisfies others. Each person has their own challenges and the most important thing is to be true to oneself.

As such, Rav Sorotzkin's teaching here is brilliant. It is important that we recognise that we each have our own challenges and our own experiences that make each of us unique. At the same time, we cannot make excuses - it is not enough to do a mitzvah to the minimum required level. Neither can we make excuses. Instead, we are to try and find the right balance and attempt to do each mitzvah to our respective "filled handfuls."

Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom :)

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