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Midrash Tanchuma


(5742) "Children begin (their education) with Torat Kohanim (Vayikra) etc. - let pure ones deal with purity (Vayikra Rabba 7:3 and the difference to the Tanchuma ibid)  


1. It states in the Midrash:

“R’ Asi says: Why do the children begin with Torat Kohanim (Chumash Vayikra) and not with Bereshit? Rather, it is because the children are pure (tahor) and the korbanot (sacrifices) are pure. Let the pure ones come and deal with the pure ones”

What is meant by “the korbanot are pure”? Some of the commentators state that this means that the korbanot must be offered when one is ritually pure, not in a state of impurity (tuma’ah). Yet others state that it means that through the korbanot one becomes pure from sin.

Both explanations, however, are not straightforward:

 The language of the Midrash: “the Korbanot are pure” implies that it is referring to the korbanot themselves, that they are pure (and not to those that offer them).

Yet, on the other hand, it is also not straightforward to learn simply that “pure” literally refers to korbanot themselves. For we do not find that Torah applies the qualification of pure (to korbanot). We find that korbanot must be complete/temimim and choice/muvcharim etc, but not the qualification of “pure” (purity).

2. One could seemingly learn that the qualification of “pure”, in the Midrash here, correlates to the saying of the Sages, regarding the korbanot that were offered before Matan Torah that:

 “All are fit to offer pure domesticated animals/beheima, wildlife/chaya and fowl but not impure (species)”.

Thus, the qualification of the korbanot before Matan Torah is – “pure”.

And the connection of the korbanot before Matan Torah to our case is, that here it is discussing children, youngsters, who are not obligated to offer korbanot. Therefore it is similar to the korbanot before Matan Torah (when there was not yet any Mitzvah and obligation to offer korbanot).

But this is difficult:

The Midrash explains the reason why “children begin with Torat Kohanim”, which contains the laws of the korbanot that are in force after Matan Torah. Therefore how can one compare the children to the korbanot before Matan Torah?

3. The Tanchuma cites the aforementioned saying and in conjunction states:

“Therefore I attribute it to them as if they are standing and offering the korbanot before Me, and I make known to you that even though the Beit HaMikdash is destroyed and korbanot are not offered (noheig), were it not for the children reading the order of the korbanot, the world would not stand(endure).”

This is puzzling:

The Midrash Tanchuma itself continues:

“Therefore G-d says to Yisroel, My son . . . if you occupy yourselves . . with the section/parshat of the korbanot , I attribute it to you as if you offer korbanot etc.” –

This implies that anyone who occupies themselves with the section of korbanot (not just children) is:  “I attribute it to you as” if he has (actually) offered a korbanot.

Therefore, how does this reconcile with the (aforementioned) saying of the Midrash that “were it not (specifically) for the children reading the order of the korbanot, the world would not endure”?

One must therefore say that, in the innovation of: “as if they are standing and offering the korbanot” there is a quality and advantage in the children’s study of Torat Kohanim compared to that of every other person - that specifically through their study, they accomplish, in a complete manner the assurance that the world will endure.

4. One can understand this by prefacing an explanation in the aforementioned saying of the Sages that before Matan Torah, one could offer korbanot form all the pure/tahor species. This is learnt form Noach where it states (the term): “from all the tahor species”.

The Talmud asks: “Where do we find (the concept) of tamei (impure) and tahor (pure) at that time?” And the Talmud answers that the concept of “tahor” at that time, refers to “those species that are destined to be tahor” (according to the version in the Talmud, and as Rashi cites in his commentary on Torah).

This means that the korbanot of Noach (before Matan Torah) possessed a dichotomy:

The korbanot that Noach brought did not constitute an aspect of fulfilling a Mitzvah – especially since we do not find that Noach fulfilled the entire Torah before it was given.

Rather, it was like we find in all times (even before Matan Torah) where people, and even Adam himself, brought korbanot to G-d because of their own feelings due to certain circumstances.

However, since Noach brought korbanot from “those species that are destined to be tahor”, it proves that, although regarding Noach, there was no distinction between tahor and tamei animals,

 (as the Talmud asks: Where do we find (the concept) of tamei and tahor at that time?”)

this only concerned eating etc. (the animals). Yet, Noach was already aware of the difference between “tahorin” and “tamein” (pure and impure in the future).

It thus comes out that, regarding Noach, there already was a beginning to the Torah’s boundaries, even though he lived before Matan Torah. And even more so, also before the time of the Patriarchs where their conduct was similar to that of after Matan Torah (as it states: they fulfilled the entire Torah even before it was given).

Therefore, because of this reason, he offered korbanot specifically from tahor species - from “those species that are destined to be tahor”.

And since Noach’s connection to the Torah’s boundaries (gidrei haTorah) is only found regarding the aspect of korbanot, one could say that this is because, specifically the aspect of korbanot is, in a specific manner, relevant, even before one receives Torah – Matan Torah.

5. One of the explanations that one could offer is:

Korbanot, even those after Matan Torah,

                even though they are part of 613 Mitzvot of the Torah,


nevertheless, in their effect (and therefore – in their essence)

higher than Torah and Mitzvot.

Therefore, they atone for (and complete) a deficiency that caused by a lack in Torah and Mitzvot.

From a different perspective:

When a Yid offers a korbanot to G-d, he evokes his “being close to G-d/zein karov l’Hashem” – his attachment to G-d, which he essentially has as a Yid, and is not dependent on keeping Torah and Mitzvah.

(and just as his attachment is not accomplished by keeping Torah and Mitzvah, so too it is not diminished by the lack of keeping Torah and Mitzvah) –

The essential attachment between a Yid and G-d is higher than Torah and Mitzvot.

This is similar to the saying: You are children to G-d, your L-rd – even though they sin, they are My children.

And this is the reason why korbanot atone for a sin and iniquity.

When a Yid, G-d forbid, transgresses G-d’s will and taints, G-d forbid, his attachment with G-d, which is accomplished by fulfilling Torah and Mitzvah, he can rectify it by offering korbanot – by awakening and revealing (through offering the korbanot) the essential attachment between a Yid and G-d where the concept of blemish is not applicable And this atones – it washes away the taint of the sin and iniquity.

6. According to the above, an additional understanding is gained in the whole concept of korbanot.

One could seemingly ask:

How is it possible that the pillar/kav of “Avodah” which G-d established for Yidden be accomplished through the Avodah of korbanot – through slaughtering an animal etc. and offering it on the Altar?

It seemingly, would have been more fitting to have a spiritual Avodah,

(Avodah Shb’lev/service of the heart, prayer and the like)

which evokes the connection between Yidden and G-dliness, in a more revealed manner.

Especially since korbanot are not an aspect which is exclusive to Yidden. Non-Jews also have the ability to offer korbanot, even in the Beit HaMikdash, as is known.

But according to the above, it is understood, and it is precisely because of this reason:

Precisely because the essential attachment of Yidden with G-d is higher than the attachment accomplished through their Avodah in fulfilling Torah and Mitzvah,

and this stems from G-d’s choice – for even though “Esau is a brother to Jacob”, nevertheless “ I love Jacob” – because of G-d’s choosing,

because of this very reason, it is manifested specifically in the Avodah of korbanot , in which the spirituality of a Yid is not externally recognizable. – (and especially – the difference compared to the Avodah of korbanot of non-Jews). Yet only through the Avodah of korbanot, of Yidden, does it awaken the essential attachment which is from G-d’s choice.

(This is similar to G-d’s (specific) choice of the body of a Yid, which is similar in its physicality to the body of non-Jews)

7. With this, one can understand why the Noach‘s korbanot before Matan Torah had a connection to the korbanot after Matan Torah (where there was the qualification that they be “tahorin” in the future).

The reason Noach offered korbanot was because of his thanks to G-d for saving him from the Flood (as it states) “And G-d remembered Noach etc. “

It is known that the reason the verse “And G-d remembered Noach etc. “is one of the verses of Zichronot/Remembrances which is recited in the Musaf prayer of Rosh Hashanah,

(in other words, that the verse “And G-d remembered Noach etc.“ has a connection and is part of “Raise your remembrances before Me for good”),

Is because the remembrance of Noach was “because of the essential quality of the Jewish souls”. That is why we say “And You also remembered Noach with love” which refers to the “innermost (pnimi) and essential love” (to the Jewish souls).

Thus, even though Noach lived before Matan Torah

(where G-d chose us from among all the nations/uvanu becharta mikol Am v’lashon)

and was not even in a status that resembled the Patriarchs ,

(of whom , Am Yisroel began - as their name -Avot - signifies)

nevertheless, he had a connection to Jewish souls. Therefore, Noach was remembered (with “love”) “because of the essential advantage of the Jewish souls”.

With this it is also understood, that the korbanot that Noach offered, in conjunction to the remembrance (and thanks for his deliverance from the Flood) had a connection to the korbanot of Yidden (after Matan Torah).

And this is also the explanation, why the Midrash states concerning the korbanot of Torat Kohanim – “the Korbanot are pure/tahorin” (for tahorin is a qualification in the korbanot that were offered before Matan Torah, as aforementioned).

Since the inner concept of korbanot is, as aforementioned, to reveal the essential love of G-d which is higher than (the love that comes through) Torah, it is reflected (more) in Noach‘s korbanot that were before Matan Torah (before there was the command to offer korbanot).

However, after Matan Torah, the korbanot were an aspect of a Mitzvah. Therefore it is not outwardly recognizable in them that they are higher than the effect of Torah.

8. According to all of the above, one can also understand why the Midrash states: “the children begin with Torat Kohanim” because “Let the pure ones come and deal with the pure ones”:

Of the three aforementioned periods regarding Yidden, in general:

  1. The period after Matan Torah where Yidden accepted and fulfilled Torah and Mitzvah according to (G-d’s) decree.
  2. The period beginning with the Patriarchs, who fulfilled the entire Torah even before it was given.
  3. And even earlier, the period of Noach, where there was just a relation to Torah (where there was, at least, a qualification of  tuma’ah and tahara , as aforementioned)

-  one could say that their counterparts (the three periods) are embodied is in every Yid:

  1. After one becomes a Bar (Bat) Mitzvah and is obligated in Mitzvot.
  2. After one reaches the age of Chinuch (education) where his fulfilment of Torah and Mitzvah is a preparation to the time when they will be obligatory.
  3. Even before one reaches the age of Chinuch where the conduct of keeping Mitzvot is not applicable. However, since he is a Jewish child, he also has a relation to Torah. Moreover, he was given the Torah

(as an inheritance - “Morasha Kehilat Yaakov/an inheritance of the congregation of Yaakov – and even a newborn baby inherits everything) –

Therefore he has a connection to the boundaries of Torah.

And since a small child (before he reaches the age of Chinuch) does not yet have the Avodah of Torah and Mitzvot, his essential quality of being a Jewish child is openly recognizable. G-d’s inner and essential love for Yidden is more pronounced for a Jewish child before he reaches the age of Chinuch.

This is what the Midrash means by “Let the pure ones come and deal with the pure ones”. Since the purpose of korbanot is to evoke and reveal G-d’s essential love for Yidden,

which is higher than the love which is attained through Torah study  (which from this love atonement is achieved) –

they are “tahorin/pure” since they “dwell/derlangen” in a “place/ort” where the aspect of  tuma’ah does not reach- it has no affect.

Therefore “Let the pure ones come and deal with the pure ones”. For this very occupation with “the pure ones (the korbanot) should be from Jewish children who are (themselves) “tahorin/pure”,

As the Tanchuma explains: “They do not know what the taste of sin and iniquity is” (The entire concept of sin and iniquity does not apply to them).

Therefore G-d’s inner and essential love for Yidden is more revealed for them.

9. According to all of the above, it can be understood why the concept of “Let the pure ones come and deal with the pure ones” – the reading in Torat Kohanim by children - assures “the world to endure”.

When an adult studies the section/Parshat of korbanot, it is not a “deed/ma’aseh”, but rather just study with one’s mind and speech,

(As the Alter Rebbe states:

·         “Thought/machashava is prayer – the Avodah Shb’lev corresponding to the korbanot,

·         and speech is the Torah study of the korbanot etc.)

The main purpose of these two garments, thought and speech is to reveal the person’s intellect or his emotions and Middot. Their main purpose is not the “letters/otiot” (themselves) (which contains the intellect/sechel or the Middah) but rather, the sechel or Middah which resides in the letters.

And since, outwardly this is the intellect (and feeling) of the person, therefore the essential quality of Yidden (which is due to G-d’s choice of Yidden) is not felt that much.

Specifically through the children’s reading and study in this matter itself -that “the children begin with Torat Kohanim “,

 – where we are speaking of the start of children’s learning, when they are still before the age of Chinuch, and where they do not yet possess the aspect of understanding and intellect

(as we see in the Minhag Yisroel/Jewish custom, that only the start of a child’s learning is from Chumash/Sefer Vayikra, but afterwards we teach them a different track, as per the local custom)

and where they are just reading, namely that the main objective is not understanding the topic of the speech, but rather, the movement of their lips/Akimas sefasim -

this evokes and reveals G-d’s essential love (similar to the aforementioned Par. 6 that G-d’s choice is specifically the body).

Therefore, the innovation from this is the epitome of completeness and assures that the “world endures”.

 m’Sichas Shabbat Parshat Vayikra, 5740


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