June 23, 2024
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June 23, 2024
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Are You There If Your Camera Is Off?

Many of us have attended virtual meetings or online events over the past year where some participants have had their cameras off. I, for one, often leave such experiences with a feeling of distance and disconnect. While technology has amazingly enabled us to increase our learning and participation from the comfort of our home, there is a present danger in a causal approach to such screen time.

When any man [Adam] of you [mikem] brings an offering unto the Lord, you shall bring your offering…

The parsha’s opening line describes the precise and technical laws associated with korbanot and does not explicitly expand on the value-based concept behind these offerings.

The Ramban explains that the avodah, our worship of Hashem through korbanot, represents a physical act combined with spiritual and devotional intent. He viewed the korban as inherently significant and fundamental to religious practice. In contrast, the Rambam saw korbanot purely pragmatically, as a means of weaning klal Yisrael away from idolatry, and did not appreciate the korban as having any inherent, or priori value.

While these two Torah giants seem fundamentally at odds with one another, one can perhaps suggest that they offer complementary perspectives. The Ramban focuses on the act of an individual bringing a korban, the spiritual significance of this experience. The Rambam’s approach focuses on the abstract concept of korbanot as a whole.

Despite their different interpretations, the Ramban and the Rambam both agree upon the first practical halacha mentioned in this week’s parsha: a korban must be owned by the person who is offering it. The question we need to ask ourselves is where is this halacha derived from and why is it important? Rashi suggests that it comes from a phrase in our text, “When any man [Adam] of you,” which refers to man using the unusual Hebrew word “adam” instead of the usual word “ish.” This use of “adam” is a reference to the first Adam in the creation story. Rashi explains that just as Adam did not bring stolen animals as offerings—since all the world was his—future generations may not bring korbanot using animals that were acquired dishonestly.

Rav Shimon Schwab asks how can one learn this halacha from Adam if it was actually impossible for him to steal, since everything belonged to him? He answers that the text is not teaching this based on the phrase “When any man [Adam],” but rather, the emphasis is on the end of the verse, i.e., “of you [mikem].” The principal idea behind this halacha is that you can only offer a sacrifice from something that is “mikem,” that belongs to you. Thus the reference to Adam, who owned everything, and could offer up a sacrifice using any of the animals that existed.

The underlying concept behind this halacha is not theft, but rather the need for a korban to be a more complete expression of oneself, using something that is personal. Why? The act of offering something that belongs to me not only emphasizes my personal connection to the physical act of sacrifice but also helps me understand the converse lesson that I must strive to be ever mindful of the blessing and beauty that Hashem has bestowed upon me, and find the appropriate outlets to express appreciation and gratitude.

While we can no longer bring korbanot in today’s modern reality, this lesson of recognition, appreciation and realization of God’s gifts remains one of our primary aspirations for greater connectivity. When we choose to understand that there exists an emotional or spiritual aspect in our physical realm, we come to understand the true lessons behind the idea of korbanot. In our ongoing avodah, be it in our prayers or communal activities, this is a significant reminder that our physical (or virtual) presence is far more powerful than we realize.


Rabbi Yehoshua Fass is the co-founder and executive director of Nefesh B’Nefesh. He is a member of the Mizrachi Speakers Bureau ( www.mizrachi.org/speakers ).

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