Parshat Tsav opens with the words (6:1-2):’And Hashem spoke to Moshe, saying; צו: command Aaron and his sons, saying:’This is the Law of the burnt-offering’.
Rashi brings the commentary of the Torat Kohanim:’The expression צו: command, always denotes urging, for the present and also for furure generations. Rabbi Shimon taight: scripture needs to urge where monetary loss is involved’ in performing the Mitzvah.
Rav David haLevi Segal, in his commentary on Rashi, Divrei David, expounds:’It seems that Rashi came to explain why צו was said here, when it is, in fact, common to all the offerings, that they apply ‘now and for future generations’.
‘He therefore answers, that in all the offerings other than the burnt-offering, there is a benefit to the Kohanim in that they receive part of the meat of the animal offered. Therefore, they will surely act with alacrity, lest the other Kohanim precede them, and they ‘lose’ their share.
‘This is not the situation in the case of the burnt-offering, as all of the animal offered is consumed on the altar, and this results in חסרון כיס: ‘a loss of pocket’, as by engaging in it, he loses the opportunity to engage in a financially profitable activity in that time.
‘Therefore there is a reason to be concerned at the possible tardiness of the Kohanim, and to especially ‘urge’ them.
‘This is why this injunction is said regarding the burnt-offering.
‘This appears to be more correct than the other explanations which have been given by the parshanim.’
Rabbi Menachem ben Zerach, in his commenrary on Rashi, Tzeda laDerech, expounds that:’Each time the Kohanim were required to offer a burnt-offering, they needed to be adjured to act promptly, because of the consideration that it involved a חסרון כיס: ‘a monetary loss’.
“This is due to the lesson our Sages learned from the incident recorded in the Yerushalmi (Terumot 8,4):’ The sage, Rabbi Yochanan, greatly upset at the loss of money, was unable to answer a question on the Torah. They said to him: Because of your monetary loss, you lost your wisdom? ‘Yes’ he replied, ‘my wisdom is dependent on my heart, and my heart on my money.’
‘From this Rabbi Shimon derived his admonition: as each time the Kohen is called upon to offer the burn-offering, the concern that it involves ‘monetary loss’ - as he has no benefit from it, unlike the other korbanot - may lead to him not performing the offering completely as required.
‘This is the reason for the special admonition of Rabbi Shimon’.
The Kli Yakar offers another explanation:’The command is for the Kohanim ‘to say’ to all generations, to teach them that ‘this is the Torah of the burn-offering’ - and similarly the Torah of the other korbanot - and, presumably they could not charge for teaching, bearing in mind the injunction of the Sages (Nedarim 37.): Hashem said ’Just as I taught you without charge, so too shall you do’.
‘Further, the Kohanim were presumably not wealthy, as they had no share in the Land, and depended for their sustenance on the rewards for their service in the Mishkan, there was a real concern that their worry for their ‘depleted pocket’ may cause them to ‘lose their minds’.
‘Therefore the Torah saw the need to urge them to perform their duty as the teachers of Torah with alacrity, notwithstanding that it caused them חסרון כיס: a depleted pocket’’.
The Chatam Sofer expands this concern, saying:’Since the Kohanim were the teachers of Torah, it was their duty to teach the people that one who engages in the study of the Torah of an offering, is deemed as if he has actually offered up that korban on the altar.
‘This is the purport of the injunction of Rabbi Shimon. For the people, this was a great benefit - as they could, by learning this Torah, not have the expense of offering the animal - but, at the very same time, it meant a loss of income to the Kohanim, because, as a result of they teaching this to the people, they would no longer have to bring offerings to the altar, and there would be no share of the offerings - of the meat in the other offerings, and of the skin of the burnt-offering - and, to them, there would be a חסרון כיס: a loss of income.
‘Therefore, Rabbi Shimon, said that, because the loss to the Kohanim from teaching this to the people, the Kohanim needed especially to be urged to teach.’
Rav Elimelech miLida adds:’There are many other Mitzvot that require a חסרון כיס: an outlay of money, such as Succah, the four minim, and tzitzit, yet we don’t find that the Torah used the word צו - from which our Sages derived our teaching - in regard to them.
‘However, it is known that the Kohanim were charged with teaching Torah to the people; yet, by doing so, they removed from the people idolatrous thoughts, and brought them to true awe and emunah in Hashem- this, as the Rambam teaches, being the purpose of the offerings of the korbanot in the Sanctuary, to wean the people away from idil worship, and the like.
‘As a result, the people would be less likely to transgress, and therefore the livelihood of the Kohanim - their part in the animals offered being greatly reduced - would adversely affect the Kohanim, and result in a חסרון כיס: a loss of their parnasa, and they likely would be disinclined to teach the people Torah.
‘This is why the Torah here brought its injunction, and why Rabbi Shimon saw the need to add his admonition, that they needed to be urged ESPECIALLY where there was a financial loss.’
The Chidushei Ha’Rim brings a beautiful new interpretation of Rabbi Shimon’s admonition:’The place where there is חסרון כיס: literally, the lack of a pocket: of a covering, is for our thoughts.
‘All of the organs by which we communicate with the world around us- and those to whom we relate - have ‘a cover’ against their misuse, and transgressing: the eyes have the cover of the eyelids, enabling us to cease looking at improper images; the tongue has the lips, to close lest we say inappropriate words; the ears can be blocked from hearing improper talk, by folding the outside inwards, to block out the improper talk, and so too, the other organs.
‘Only our thoughts have no such cover, or protection, and this is what is alluded to by the burnt-offering, as it comes to atone for improper thoughts.’
Rav Pinchas Friedman sweetens this insight, noting:’The author of the teaching that the burnt-offering atoned for improper thoughts, was Rabbi Shimon; the very same sage who now adjured us of the need to be especially diligent in regard to Mitzvot which ‘have no cover’ - which the Chidushei Ha’rim taught alluded to improper thoughts - and thus the two teachings of Rabbi Shimon perfectly complement one another.’
Rav Friedman goes on to enrich our souls, with his insight into the teaching that, by using the phrase ‘This is the Torah of ..’ each of the offerings, we learn that learning the Torah portion on a particular offering, is deemed as if that person actually brought that offering to the altar.
‘The Torah here reveals to us a wonderful segulah: a remedy, , a ‘pocket’, as it were, to shield againsr improper thoughts, for which, as we have learned, one would have had to bring a burnt-offering, as an atonement.
‘Learning Torah is, in itself, the best cover against improper thoughts! Indeed, it has an important advantage over even bringing a burnt-offering - whereas the offering atones for improper thoughts that a person has had - after he has already transgressed - learning Torah precludes improper thoughts coming to a person’s mind, and prevents transgression.
‘There is, therefore, no better כיס to cover the ‘uncovered’ thoughts of a person, and to assist a person, than engaging in the study of Torah, to only think appropriate, proper thoughts.’
A parting caveat: After we have brought the interpretations of some of the great parshanim, to get a better understanding of the concept of חסרון כיס: ‘a depleted pocket’, the Kli Yakar, in his sefer, Olelot Ephraim, brings a very different - a contrary - insight, into this subject.
Our Sages, in the Gemara (Avoda Zara 3) relate that Hashem will, at the end of days, say to the Nations of the world:’I have a מצוה קלה: an ‘easy’ Mitzvah, Succah, come and accept My yoke; and why is it an easy Mitzvah? Because אין בה חסרון כיס: it does not require expending money.’
Comments the Kli Yakar:’ There is a wondrous allusion here to those who put their trust in Hashem, that they will never feel that they have a חסרון כיס: a depletion of their pocket, because, in their trust in Hashem, they are happy with their lot, be it plentiful or meagre.
‘On the other hand, one who ‘departs from the Succah’ - who does not put his trust in Hashem and His providence - will never be satisfied, as he will always feel that his pocket is lacking, and strive endlessly to acquire more.’
With your leave, may we not derive from this insight a further lesson to guide our lives: A person whose concern, when asked to expend money for a Mitzvah, is that this would ‘deplete his pocket’, is, in reality, testifying that he lacks faith.
The Kuzari teaches that each opportunity to perform a Mitzvah, is an invitation from Hashem, for the person to come closer to Him.
It is a tenet of our faith, that all comes from Hashem, and is His (Avot 3:7), how, then, does one even reduce the zechut of a Mitzvah coming one’s way, to money terms.
If, ר׳ל, this consideration arises in a person’s mind, then it is not that ‘his pocket is depleted’, but, rather, ‘that his faith is depleted’ - and he should pray fervently to His Creator to heal him from his ‘spiritual defect’.
לרפואת נועם עליזה בת זהבה רבקה ונחום אלימלך רפאל בן זהבה רבקה, בתוך שאר חולי עמנו.