SALT - Tuesday, 18 Nissan 5778 - April 3 2018

  • Rav David Silverberg
In memory of former IDF Chief Rabbi and leading rabbi of Religious Zionism, Avichai Rontzki z"l
            Parashat Shemini begins with the description of the events that took place on the first day Aharon and his sons began officiating as kohanim in the Mishkan, after the seven-day consecration process.  After Aharon and the nation brought to the entrance of the Mishkan the animals that would be offered as sacrifices on that day, Moshe introduced his next instructions by saying, “This is the thing that the Lord commanded you to do so that the glory of the Lord shall appear to you” (9:6).  Sure enough, after all the sacrifices were offered in accordance with God’s instructions, “the glory of the Lord appeared to the entire nation” (9:23).
            Torat Kohanim, commenting on Moshe’s introductory statement, “This is the thing that the Lord commanded you to do,” explains that Moshe here was telling the people, “That evil inclination – remove it from your hearts…”  Many commentators raised the question as to Moshe’s precise intent in this admonition, and asked why he speaks of “that” evil inclination, as though referring to one particular manifestation of our natural sinful tendencies.
            A fairly simple explanation is offered by Ketav Sofer, who suggests, in light of the context of Moshe’s remark, that Torat Kohanim speaks of the particular vice of pride and arrogance over one’s accomplishments.  Our struggle against our negative tendencies does not end even once we persevere and complete a noble undertaking from which our lazy or selfish instincts sought to dissuade us.  Even after performing the task, we are faced with the challenge of remaining genuinely humble and avoiding feelings of self-adulation.  Pride and arrogance over a meaningful accomplishment, Ketav Sofer writes, undermine the value of the accomplishment, as they indicate that the project was undertaken for purposes of self-aggrandizement, rather than out of a sincere desire to serve the Almighty.  And thus after Benei Yisrael’s successful completion of the major undertaking of the Mishkan, having generously donated materials and devotedly performed the work and the consecration process in precise compliance with God’s detailed commands, Moshe warned the people, “That evil inclination – remove it from your hearts.”  They needed to ensure to eliminate “that evil inclination” which always presents itself after one accomplishes something outstanding – the natural tendency to feel excessively proud and accomplished.  He was reminding the people that in order for God to reside among the people, they needed to remain meek and humble, and recognize their stature as servants and subjects of the Almighty.  As the Gemara in Masekhet Sota (5a) comments about an arrogant person, “The Almighty says: He and I cannot live together in the world.”  God resides among us only when we are committed to serving and glorifying Him; not when we work to serve our own interests and glorify ourselves.  Hence, God’s residence among Benei Yisrael in the Mishkan depended upon their elimination of “that evil inclination,” of the natural vice of pride, arrogance and self-aggrandizement, and their acknowledging that they were but lowly subjects of the King of the universe.