Rabbi David Etengoff
Dedicated to the sacred memories of my mother, Miriam Tovah bat Aharon Hakohen, father-in-law, Levi ben Yitzhak, sister-in-law, Ruchama Rivka Sondra bat Yechiel, sister, Shulamit bat Menachem, Yehonatan Binyamin ben Mordechai Meir Halevi, Shoshana Elka bat Avraham, Tikvah bat Rivka Perel, the Kedoshim of Har Nof and Pittsburgh, and the refuah shlaimah of Yakir Ephraim ben Rachel Devorah, Mordechai ben Miriam Tovah, and the safety of our brothers and sisters in Israel and around the world.
The second verse of our parasha presents the commandment to offer a korban olah (completely burnt offering) in the Mishkan (Portable Desert Sanctuary) and Beit HaMikdash (Holy Temple): “Command (tzav) Aaron and his sons, saying, ‘This is the law of the burnt offering: That is the burnt offering which burns on the altar all night until morning, and the fire of the altar shall burn with it.’” (Sefer Vayikra 6:1, this and all Rashi and Bible translations, The Judaica Press Complete Tanach) Rashi (1040-1105), basing himself upon the Sifra, the halachic Midrash to Sefer Vayikra, explains the word, “tzav,” in this manner: “The expression tzav always denotes urging [to promptly and meticulously fulfill a particular commandment] for the present (miyad), and also for future generations (v’ledorot).” The word, “miyad,” makes perfectly good sense in this context, since our verse is the source of the obligation to bring a korban olah ─ something that was possible for Aharon and his sons, and during the period of time we were blessed with the Mishkan and Beit HaMikdash. The term, “v’ledorot,” however, seems quite problematic, since we have not had a Mishkan or Beit HaMikdash for nearly 2,000 years, and we have, therefore, been prohibited from offering the korban olah.
My rebbe and mentor, Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik zatzal (1903-1993), known as “the Rav” by his students and followers, expanded upon our question in the following fashion:
What is the meaning of the word ledoros (for future generations) in this context? The mitzvos of mezuzah, tefillin and Shabbos are clearly ledoros. Thousands of years have gone by, and these mitzvos are observed as they had been when they were originally given. But in what way are the mitzvos of the Mishkan practiced today? There has been no korban tamid [daily offering] for almost two thousand years! In what sense does the mitzvah of offering korbanos continue? (Sefer Vayikra Chumash Mesoras HaRav, with commentary based upon the teachings of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, edited by Dr. Arnold Lustiger, page 33)
The Rav answered our question based upon a narrative passage in Talmud Bavli, Megillah 31b that presents a fascinating dialogue between Hashem and Avraham Avinu (our father Abraham):
Abraham asked how he was to know that G-d would not forsake Israel if they sinned. G-d answered, “In the merit of the [Temple] sacrifices.” Abraham insisted that this merit is fine when these sacrifices are in existence, but what was to happen after the destruction of the Temple? G-d replied that if the Children of Israel learned the laws surrounding the sacrifices, He would consider their study as a virtual sacrificial offering. When we cannot offer sacrifices, we recite the halachos [laws] pertaining to them as a substitute.
In sum, our study of the laws concerning the sacrifices that are found throughout Rabbinic literature enables us to bring “virtual sacrificial offerings,” and thereby fulfill these laws in a substitute manner. At this juncture, the Rav extends the notion of that which is virtual to include the Beit HaMikdash itself:
There is a Mikdash in our days as well ─ not physically, but through halachic study. This is the mesorah [the passing down from each generation to the next] of Torah Sheb’al Peh, the Oral Law. Today, we read Parashas Shekalim as if the Beis Hamikdash was still standing; it is ledoros. Parashas Parah reminds us to be ritually pure so that we may bring the korban pesach [Passover offering]. Although we no longer offer a korban pesach, we read Parashas Parah as if the Beis Hamikdash still exists. (Brackets my own)
2,000 years is a long time to wait and hope for the rebuilding of the Beit HaMikdash. Yet, it is a dream that remains indelibly engraved in our minds, and inspires us to say three times daily:
Return in mercy to Jerusalem Your city and dwell therein as You have promised; speedily establish therein the throne of David Your servant, and rebuild it, soon in our days, as an everlasting edifice. Blessed are You L-rd, who rebuilds Jerusalem. (Shemoneh Esrai, translation, https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/867674/jewish/Translation.htm)
With Hashem’s help and mercy, may we once again be zocheh (merit) to bring korbanot in the Beit HaMikdash, soon and in our days, v’ledorot ─ and for all generations to come! V’chane yihi ratzon.
Past drashot may be found at my blog-website: http://reparashathashavuah.org
They may also be found on http://www.yutorah.org/ using the search criteria of Etengoff and the parasha’s name.
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*** My audio shiurim for Women on the topics of Tefilah and Tanach may be found at: http://tinyurl.com/8hsdpyd
*** I have posted 164 of Rabbi Soloveitchik’s English language audio shiurim (MP3 format) spanning the years 1958-1984. Please click on the highlighted link.
Talmid of Rabbi Soloveitchik zatzal