Friday, March 23, 2012

Shem and Abraham...and the Olah? (Holy Fowl Offering)

Torat Vayikra:

Parashas Vayikra: The Analogy of Shem and Abraham

In this week’s Torah portion, we are introduced to the Divine service of the Priests, the Kohanim and their offerings in the Holy Temple. One of the types of sacrifices in the Temple, “the Olah” (a Fowl Offering), carries with it a unique set of conditions for it to be properly placed on the altar, as it calls “removing the crop with its feathers.”
The Talmud [Zevachim 65a] brings to light the issue of the “crop”, and with its comprised letters it seems to show its true nature as being fit for removal from the offering. The crop is generally the place where the “chewing” of food by the bird takes place before it enters into digestion.
Kosher birds are said to carry a non exclusive distinction, of placing gravel in their crop to be the chewing mechanism that they lack, thus allowing the food to be ground down so that they can properly digest it. Therefore the crop is connected to digestion, and the Torah seeks to remove the crop as it is no longer fit for the altar, due to its association with something that is clearly not fit for the altar – the aftermath of digestion.
An interesting side point to this topic to note, is the reference of Kosher birds using the crop in such a fashion. By removing the crop on every bird offering, it is a way of putting a stamp on every bird: “You are Kosher!” With this, even if the bird was not a gravel user, it is a superimposed “hechsher” (approval) that elevates the nature of the Fowl Offering by accentuating its Holiness with superimposition. This is not to say that it needs this elevation in status, but imagine this: A rabbi would like to receive a book endorsement, so he goes to one of the bigger Rabbis in town, and receives his approbation, and finally goes about his way. Yet if we take this same rabbi seeking approbation, with no tremendous need for a lofty status, he then seeks approbation from a general rabbi. Imagine then if Elijah the Prophet wishes to endorse this rabbi! From the perspective point of Elijah, the rabbi must assume that Elijah sought to elevate the status of the book, but the book itself was not lacking in any way, and the general rabbi approbation would have sufficed! The disproportion and its meaning was in the hands of Elijah; Hashem as well has taken into his hands the nature of the Fowl Offering, the Olah, and its elevation of status, with the Divine stamp of approval, even when not technically necessary.
Such is the “Olah”, and its removal of the crop. Hashem has wished to sanctify this offering, for the hidden nature of Holiness within Fowl Offerings. It is said that Fowl Offerings are more “simple”, and therefore Hashem himself has decreed to elevate the status as a “Guaranteed Holy Offering”, above and beyond the Law so to speak. And thus we find in the verse of the Torah itself, “remove the crop along with its feathers.” As there was no apparent reason for this inclusion, the Rabbis have learned that the grammar and the spelling of the Hebrew for “crop” are alluding to the digestion and the gravel, and it must be that Hashem has his own agenda in mind when it comes to Fowl Offerings. In a certain respect, Hashem himself has chosen to elevate this offering in His own unique way.
In light of the Fowl Offering, or as we can now refer to it as, an “Olah”, we have illuminated a fundamental concept that is deeply rooted in the essence of the Priestly Service, going back to the original Priests, Abraham and Shem!
Shem was the High Priest, who went by his service name of Malki Tzedek, as he was met at the Temple Mount by Abraham during his victory over the four Kings. Their exchange of Blessings was latent with the essence of the entire Torah and the Laws of the Priesthood. [Midrash Rabbah] One quintessential element of Shem’s Torah, is that the World can be harnessed conceptually and made use of by the intentions of Man. A term that we may employ to describe this dynamic would be either “Ancient Torah” or “Spiritual Technology.”
The Pre-Flood World used nature and the creation in this way. For example, in the Talmud, they discuss a flying tower, with a sort of magnetic device. We see from this that the World could be harnessed in a similar way to our technology of today, even while incorporating ancient practices.
One other example would be the Book of Remedies authored by King Solomon, which was buried due to its threat against Faith. (For if people were to be easily healed, they may lose Faith in Hashem). King Solomon knew the healing properties in nature, showing that the World can heal, and not only by way of your local drug store.
Such is the Torah of Shem, as it was his Torah that taught not only the nature of the World, but also the nature of Man, and how to work with people and their Free Will. This level of Torah implementation is called “Ibbur” – impregnation, and through Ibbur the Torah was placed in Shem by Noah his father, and into Abraham by Shem. [Pirkei D’ Rebbe Eliezer]
If Adam knew the names of the animals, as the Torah relates that it was Adam who named everything in the Garden of Eden, then it is Shem who knows how to work Creation; such was his success in the Ark! Shem had the insight to see how the natural World can shed light into Mankind as well - (noting that he would be a founding father of the new World, thus making its knowledge paramount) - as Creation offers Torah positions even upon Mankind.
One can easily look to the famed work “Perek Shira”, authored by King Solomon, for this insight. Perek Shira is read daily throughout the Torah World, and it is the “prayer” that many aspects of Creation come to express. For example, when we look to the Lion, he says, “God shall go out as a mighty man, He shall arouse zeal, He shall cry, even roar, He shall prevail over His enemies.” [Is. 42:13] What King Solomon is saying is that the Lion expresses Torah in his very being, and from this angle, all of Creation is singing God’s praise. Shem knew how to see and hear the praises of Creation, and how to tune it into the Service of God.
Now we arrive at the crop, which by nature must sing a tune to the Priestly Service as well. The crop is the place of gravel that the bird needs and uses to “chew his food.” Imagine using another component of creation to “chew.” It is a partnership. From a strictly objective point of view, the bird needs the gravel, and the gravel does not mind helping the bird. Not only does the gravel not mind, and it is rewarded for this by its Honor from God with its removal from the Olah Offering! We see this compassion of Creation from God Himself!
When Moses was saved by the Nile River, the Midrash tells us that this was the reason why it was Aaron, and not Moses, who would bring the first plague, as it would not be kind to the Nile River for Moses to strike the agent that saved his life! With this being told, there is a precedent of the compassion and life force within nature, as brought by Perek Shira, the Nile River - and even gravel - that the future Olah Offering will employ.
When Shem had finally found his Abraham, to give over the Torah to, along with the Priesthood, he needed to “impregnate” Abraham, or to do it with “Ibbur.” Thus Shem as the Priest, or Malki Tzedek, who had knowledge of God along with all of the duties of the Temple and the Offerings, could turn to an obscure trademark of the Olah, that perhaps may define a Torah relationship for all of time.
There would be two types of Torah study from either perspective: The Preparer and Receiver. The analogy of the Bird and its Gravel may be the perfect “moshel” (analogy) that could depict the Torah exchange between Abraham and Shem. If Shem wanted to get feedback of the entire Torah - and from what we know in the Midrash, Shem saw the entire Torah in Abraham - perhaps he could get Abraham to “work out the Torah.” If Shem could get Abraham to digest his (Shem’s) Torah, then Shem could in potential come face to face with what was inside of him.
Shem fittingly enough, gave Abraham his “Divine gravel”, in the exchange of Blessings (interestingly enough, “Blessings” is the first Tractate of Talmud!). For when Shem gave the rebuke to Abraham in the nature of Blessings, along with it came the Torah of Priestly Service and the entire Torah to Abraham! Shem gave Abraham something big to chew on! But by this exchange, Abraham and his seed would work out Shem’s Torah – for all of time. It would seem that Shem, by his making use of Torah Knowledge practically, and within the laws of the Priesthood, he was able to give over and allow Abraham to function into a Torah vehicle. (Abraham was the vessel for which his soul was designed, thus his free will in union with his soul allowed Shem to work with reality rather than servitude; Shem essentially gave Abraham a mission that Abraham was sent to do).

Rabbi David P. Katz

Blessing, is signified by the letter ב, which stands for ברכה. This level of Beracha is said to be of חסד - Kindness. The Gematria of חסד is 72, which the Vilna Gaon says is a hint to 5772
 (Malchus of Yesod - Towards the End of the 6th Millenium).

Just as Abraham and Shem exchanged Berachos through Torah, may our Torah bring Berachos in this year of '72, in the form of משיח צדקינו!


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