Friday, March 28, 2014

Selfless Devotion


By Rabbi Mordechai Rabinovitch  

As a general rule, when a person must bring both a chatas offering and an olah, the chatas is brought first (Zevachim 90a from Vayikra 5:8). 

Accordingly, when the Torah deals with cases in which both a chatas and olah are warranted, it mentions the chatas first and the olah second. However, the offerings of a post-partum mother are an exception in this regard, the Torah (Vayikra 12:6) mentioning the olah offering prior to the chatas offering!

 The Gemara (Zevachim 90a) states that the order in which the offerings are listed (in Vayikra 12:6) is only למקראה,   for reading [the verses] in the order in which they appear (olah before chatas). Beyond that, it has no practical significance, and even with the post-partum woman, the chatas is offered before the olah (Rashi). But why would the Torah present things out of order? 
One of the important messages of the Torah is the sanctification of mortal life. We are not bidden to spurn the physical and material world; on the contrary, we are challenged to utilize it in order to serve Hashem and thereby sanctify it.   Thus, in Judaism, even mundane earthly activities can be spiritually uplifting. However, remaining focused on Hashem while at the same time, being involved with the material world, is not an easy task .

The readiness of a Jewish woman to devote herself to family building despite the pains of pregnancy and childbirth (see Niddah 31b), her readiness to get up in the middle of the night to feed her baby and  to keep the household running  -  all these seem like "mundane" activities. Yet it is precisely these seemingly "mundane" activities that enable the Jewish people to thrive and flourish.  Although the woman's mental focus at this time is ostensibly directed more towards her baby and less to Hashem, this is exactly what the Torah wants!

To emphasize that the Jewish mother is sanctifying Hashem by building and raising her family, the Torah gives precedence to her olah offering. An olah offering is completely burned on the altar, and is an indication of complete and total devotion to Hashem. And the Jewish mother is the model of true and total devotion. By devoting herself to her family, she is devoting herself to G-d. For the woman's attention to her family and to her little one, to building the Jewish people, is an exquisite and unparalleled expression of complete and selfless dedication to Hashem.     

Shabbat Shalom

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