Previously (Ibid 3:1), the Torah referred to the Korban Shelamim, Peace-offering, as Zevach Shelamim, meal of peace. The Korban Shelamim is the only offering that carries with it the added appellation, zevach, meal/feast. In his commentary to Sefer Bereishis (46:1), Horav S. R. Hirsch, zl, writes that Yaakov Avinu was the first Patriarch to offer a Korban Shelamim. This was only after he heard that Yosef HaTzaddik was physically and spiritually safe. When the Patriarch arrived in Be’er Sheva, he was in his happiest frame of mind, having reached a zenith in his life, enabling him to leave his troubles and struggles behind him. It was now that he felt qualified to offer a Korban Shelamim, a korban which is a zevach, a meal, to be shared with family. The Korban Olah expresses complete submission to Hashem. Thus, it is completely burnt. The Shelamim is the only korban which the baalim, owner, eats. This offering consecrates the “family home,” transforming it into a veritable sanctuary and rendering the family table an altar. A zevach denotes the concept that Hashem is a personal G-d. He comes to us. It is understood from that happy consciousness that in a place where the family unit lives in harmony and joy, with fidelity to Hashem, sensing Hashem always in the midst, His Presence suffuses the family circle.
A major motif of the Mishkan and the Bais HaMikdash is that what transpires in the Mishkan does not stay in the Mishkan, but goes home with us. The hope is that the nucleus of the Mishkan will transfuse our home with its sanctity. One who has experienced Kedushas HaMikdash should come home spiritually humbled. His learning, davening, eating, and social relationships should be elevated. The goal of the Mikdash is to invigorate our mundane lives with sanctity, so that we bring Mikdash into our homes, shuls and offices.
Rav Hirsch notes that in the Mikdash, the night belongs to the preceding day. A twenty-four-hour cycle begins with the morning and ends with the following morning. In the rest of Jewish life, the day belongs to the preceding night – the night being the beginning of the twenty-four-hour day, which concludes the following night. Furthermore, all korbanos are to be eaten in the Azarah, Bais Hamikdash proper, in contrast to the Shelamim, which is eaten anywhere in Yerushalayim. Last, the z’man achilas Korban Shelamim, time allotted for eating the Korban Shelamim, is not two days and two nights like other korbanos, but rather, two days and one intervening night. Actually, at nightfall of the second day, the korban becomes nosar, sacrificial leftovers, but may not be burnt until the next morning, since the burning of Kodoshim must always be done ba’yom, during the day. Thus, the Mikdash day – which begins in the morning and concludes at night – is followed by a morning which was preceded by night. The Korban Shelamim, which may be eaten outside of the Mikdash environs, fuses the Mikdash day with the mundane day outside the Mikdash. The night serves a two-fold purpose: it is the end of the Mikdash day; and also the beginning of the ordinary mundane day, which has now been infused with the sanctity of the preceding day, via the night that connects them.
As Rav Hirsch expresses it so well, the Korban Shelamim is inherently, by its very nature, a “Jewish” sacrifice. It marks occasions of family life by expressing the awareness of Hashem’s blessing in our circle of life. Veritably, the concept of being absorbed in G-d and devoted to Him is also found in non-Jewish dogma; it does not, however, penetrate every aspect of mundane life as it does in Jewish theology. The essence of Judaism is best characterized by the notion that our ordinary day-by-day lifestyle can be elevated and consecrated to the point that his table becomes an altar, his home a sanctuary, his children dedicated servants to Hashem, and every aspect of his daily routine a spiritual endeavor. We believe in Kiddush ha’yeish, consecrating the mundane, by transforming it into a spiritual activity.
A Jew who puts on Tefillin in the morning has a different perspective on his day. One who davens in shul on Shabbos has a different Shabbos meal. An evening shiur or chavrusa alters one’s outlook on his day. Obviously, when one “visits” shul and uses it as an opportunity for socializing, he does not develop that much sanctity to take along with him, although he is certainly better off than the one who does not attend.
It is all in one’s attitude. A typically mundane act can be transformed into a holy service to Hashem, with just the proper attitude. A cup of coffee can be a caffeine “fix,” or it can be an opportunity to revive oneself, so that he can learn more or better.
One day, Horav Chaim Shmuelevitz, zl, gave a shiur klali, general lecture, to the entire Yeshivas Mir. By chance, one of his old friends from pre-World War II Mir and Shanghai was visiting the Holy Land. He, too, attended the shiur of his good friend, Rav Chaim Stutchiner (as Rav Chaim was called in the Mir). Following the shiur, the yeshivah davened minchah, after which everyone went home for dinner/lunch. Rav Chaim invited his guest to join him. As soon as they came home, Rav Chaim called out to his Rebbetzin (who was the daughter of Horav Eliezer Yehudah Finkel, zl, founder of Yeshivas Mir Eretz Yisrael and son of the Alter, zl, m’Slabodka), “Chanah Miriam, Boruch Hashem, we have a special guest to join us for dinner.” They sat down to eat, as the Rebbetzin brought a hot soup out to the table.
Rav Chaim began to eat, and, as was his habit, he ate quickly. Indeed, he had finished his portion before his guest had even made a dent in his bowl of soup. Rav Chaim immediately called out, “Rebbetzin, could I please have another soup?” The Rebbetzin promptly brought out another bowl of soup. Meanwhile, the guest kept eating his first bowl. It did not take long before Rav Chaim’s second bowl of soup was history. He immediately called the Rebbetzin and asked for a third bowl of soup. The guest was amazed at how quickly Rav Chaim devoured his soup, but, more so, at his immediate request for a refill. When Rav Chaim asked for his fourth bowl of soup, his guest finally spoke up, “Rav Chaim, our friendship goes back to our youth, so I am not afraid to bring to your attention that, for a Torah scholar of your distinction, a gadol b’Yisrael, Rosh Yeshivah of the Mir, it is below your exalted dignity to ask for one bowl of soup after another. It just does not pas, does not suit you.”
Rav Chaim replied, “My dear friend, let me explain to you how I view the Rebbetzin’s soup. Her soup (to her) is no different than my shiur klali. (Rav Chaim spent much time preparing. Indeed, he submerged his entire being into a shiur. His shiur was a dynamic production of himself fused with the Torah.) After I say my shiur, and someone approaches me to compliment the shiur, I have incredible joy when someone asks me to repeat it again — and again. My joy increases, regardless of how many times I repeat it. (Rav Chaim neither looked for, nor needed, a compliment. He enjoyed it if someone responded positively to his chiddush, innovative exposition of the topic, such as, ‘Perhaps the Rosh Yeshivah can repeat the main point again.’)
“The Rebbetzin prepares the soup with much devotion She understands that the nourishment I receive allows me to learn more and better. She goes out early in the morning to the makolet to purchase the necessary ingredients. She then prepares the ingredients, which is a labor of love requiring time and effort. Next, she must hope the gas stove will work. (Apparently, it did not always work.) Now, after all of her effort, do you not think she deserves and even enjoys a compliment? The greatest compliment that one can render is to ask for more soup. This is the reason for my behavior.” Rav Chaim taught his friend how a gadol b’Yisrael should act – he must be a mentch.
Would anyone ever posit that schlepping bags of garbage is a spiritual endeavor? If one would know the “hero” of the story as I did, however, its veracity would be unimpeachable. A young couple (whose parents did not raise them properly) met with Rav Mordechai Gifter, zl, Rosh Yeshivas Telshe, to discuss their marital issues. Apparently, the young couple was in serious need of guidance. They had the usual litany of complaints: “He does not listen;” “She is too bossy.” The young man felt that his wife did not respect his stature as a ben Torah. (He was a talmid chacham, just lacking in common sense.) The wife felt that his refusal to lift a finger to help her bordered on unjustified arrogance. The Rosh Yeshivah spent one hour listening to their individual complaints, as they went back and forth, (immaturely) each blaming the other for their marital issues. Finally, came the clincher, the problem concerning which they came to the Rosh Yeshivah: the garbage. Apparently, the wife could not carry out the garbage for its weekly pickup, because it was too heavy. The husband patently refused to be seen in the street with a garbage bag: “Imagine, someone of my stature carrying out the garbage!” Rav Gifter asked what day and what time the garbage pickup was. He told them that he needed a few days to mull over their issues. Then, he would get back to them.
Wednesday morning was “garbage pickup day” at 7:50 A.M. Promptly at 7:40 A.M. there was a knock at the door of the couple’s apartment. Who would be knocking so early in the morning? The wife answered the door to see the Rosh Yeshivah standing there. “Where is your garbage?” he asked. She looked at him incredulously. “I have come to take out your garbage,” he said. The wife called her husband, who was equally shocked to see the Rosh Yeshivah. “Quickly, we have only three more minutes before the garbage truck picks up the garbage,” the Rosh Yeshivah told them. The young couple remained adamant. They were not letting the Rosh Yeshivah of Telshe, who was one of the premier gedolim in the world, take out their garbage. Rav Gifter walked past them, grabbed the bags, and carried them outside to the street. They got the message. The Rosh Yeshivah had taken a purely mundane, menial task and transformed it into a Torah lesson, and he succeeded in saving a marriage!