Of Fragrances and Intentions

IMG_3009 (1)With the opening of Sefer Vayikra and Parshas Vayikra, we enter into the ancient world of korbanos, sacrificial offerings, in full force. 

Chazal point out that the same phrase רֵיחַ נִיחֹחַ – a pleasing fragrance, is used with regard to korbanos of different value – cattle, birds and even flour.  The korban, when offered according to the dictates of halacha, and with the right intentions, is a pleasing fragrance, so to speak, before Hashem, for He spoke and His word was carried out.

Why does an inexpensive offering, such as a bird, or even something as simple as flour, elicit the same response of “a pleasing fragrance before Hashem” as does a sheep?  Should not the one who brings the pure animal be deserving of a more enthusiastic response than the one who brings an offering of fine flour?

Rashi (to Lev.1:17) quotes the Sages (Menachos 110a) and says: אחד המרבה ואחד הממעיט, ובלבד שיכון את לבו לשמים. 

R’ Aharon Lichtenstein zt’l explains this teaching: “אחד המרבה ואחד הממעיט, ובלבד שיכון את לבו לשמים – It matters not whether a person offers much or little, so long as he directs his heart to Heaven.  This Mishnah is quoted in a Gemara which every person should learn and apply; it should be hung on the wall of every Beit Midrash:

A favorite saying of the Rabbis of Yavneh was: I am G-d’s creature and my fellow man (i.e.: non-scholar) is G-d’s creature.  My work is in the town and his is in the field.  I rise early for my work (in learning) and he rises early for his work.  Just as he does not presume to do my work, I do not presume to do his.  Will you say, I do much and he does little?  We have learnt: ‘’אחד המרבה ואחד הממעיט, ובלבד שיכון את לבו לשמים – It matters not whether a person does much or little, so long as he directs his heart to Heaven’ (Brachos 17a)…

“Does this mean,” asks R’ Lichtenstein, “that therefore it is irrelevant whether a person is marbeh (in Torah) or mam’it, as long as he directs his heart to Heaven?  Surely not!  Surely not if we are talking about avodat Hashem generally, and certainly not if we are talking about talmud Torah.  Rather, this phrase means that even if a person finds himself in circumstances where he needs to be mam’it… he should attempt to serve G-d in whatever he is doing, and others should value his efforts.  But to the extent that a person can be a marbeh, of course he is supposed to be a marbeh!” (By His Light, Ktav Publishing, p.44-45)

It matters not whether a person offers much or little, so long as he directs his heart to Heaven

At the Pioneer Hotel each summer, a shiur was delivered between Mincha and Maariv.  One evening when R’ Moshe Feinstein zt’l was a guest there, a learned businessman was asked to deliver the shiur.  As he walked up to the podium to speak, R’ Moshe was the only one present who rose to his feet, to honor this businessman who would now be teaching them Torah.

Each person has a different tafkid, a different role to embrace and job to carry out.  He rises early to his work and I rise early to my work.  However, no matter where we find ourselves, and no matter what we are involved with; no matter whether we can be marbeh in Torah and chessed, or for whatever reason mam’it, we must remember that the sole guiding principle of our lives should always be: ובלבד שיכון את לבו לשמים – with all of our actions, our hearts and intentions must be directed to Heaven. 

And when we act, speak, behave and do, with our hearts, minds, actions and thoughts directed towards Hashem, then all of our avodahwhether in the town or in the field – will surely be a pleasing fragrance before Him.

בברכת בשורות טובות ושבת שלום,


1 Comment
  • Shani Gerlitz
    Posted at 21:05h, 17 March

    I’m thinking this is a direct link to our learning about “hiskalelus!!!” Have a great Shabbos!