Tzav - Serving ourselves or serving the world

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Shmuel was a Talmid Chacham who had accomplished much in his years of Torah study. Now he had discovered in an obscure book of Kabbalah that if a person were to go forty days and forty nights without uttering a single unnecessary word, he would merit Ruach Hakodesh. Excited he decided to attempt it. He spent as much time as he could studying Torah and avoided social contact. The required time-period passed without mishap and he exhaled deeply in relief. But then his breath became short again as he began to tremble in anticipation of his Ruach Hakodesh. After Maariv, he isolated himself in his room and waited. And waited. And waited.

He couldn’t understand. What had gone wrong? He knew with certainty that he hadn’t failed the requirement. Perhaps he had miscounted the days? But another day and night went by, and another and another and still nothing happened. How could this possibly be? He decided to ask a Chassidic Rebbe that he had heard so much about, Rabbi Yisrael, the Holy Rizhiner. When he arrived at the Rizhiner’s home he was astonished at what he saw. The Rebbe lived in extraordinary luxury! Home, furnishings, clothing and trimmings were all made of the most expensive materials and were of a quality fit for the highest level of wealth. Was this any way for a spiritual leader to live, and a Chassidic Rebbe no less? He wondered if he had made a mistake in coming here and as the days passed he became convinced of it. How could a person who lived in such opulent style possibly have anything to tell him about spirituality? He decided to leave for home without even speaking to the so-called “holy master”.

As he passed by the Rizhiner’s house he saw the Rebbe emerge. Four magnificent white horses had been harnessed to a carriage worthy of a king. As the Rebbe was about to get in the carriage, he paused, and then petted one of the horses on the head. This was too much for the frustrated Shmuel to bear. He raced over to the Rebbe and challenged him, “Explain to me, please, “exalted rabbi”, what spiritual work is a Chassidic master engaged in during the time he is petting a horse?”

The Rizhiner gazed at him a moment before answering innocently, “Ah, but you do not understand. This horse has just gone forty days and forty nights without uttering an unnecessary word!”


We know that these days, in the absence of a Beis HaMikdash we cannot bring Karbonos. Therefore if a person studies all the laws of bringing a sacrifice it is considered as if he did actually bring that Korban. So… if the study of a sacrfice’s laws spiritually does the same thing as literally bringing the Korban why would we bother to bring a Korban in the first place even when we will have the next Beis HaMikdash? There is a very big difference in the Korban one “brings” when they learn the halachos and the Korban a person would literally bring. That difference being the affect the Korban has on the rest of the world. A sacrifice one “brings” by studying the halachos of the Korban elevates only that one person, yet it does not make the world around him any more holy. Only a real sacrifice, which includes all four levels of creation (Earth, plants, animals, humans) elevates the whole world. When a person focuses on himself, it is so close to idol worship. Idol worship is so selfish, a person worships his god. But serving Hashem, serving Hashem in a real way is not one person serving his god, but it is one person serving our God. Thus when a person studies the halachos of bringing a Korban he may be doing something holy, but its only holy for him. A real sacrifice has the potential to uplift all the world. A real Tzaddik, a real friend, similarly has the ability to uplift the world around him constantly. Not to exclusively uplift himself.

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