“When a man among you brings an offering to Hashem…” (Vayikra 1:2).
The commentaries offer various insights to explain how a korban atones for one’s sins. The Ramban writes that the Torah directives that govern the offering of a korban represent the fate of the individual who sinned had he not offered the korban.
When a person brings a korban, he must participate with his mind, speech, and deeds so that he’s inspired to return to Hashem with perfect repentance. Thus, he places his hand on the korban’s head – deed; he verbally confesses his sins – speech; and then he mentally internalizes the message of the animal’s slaughter – mind.
The korban’s kidneys burned by the fire represent one’s judgment and understanding; the innards represent one’s limbs; and the sprinkled blood represents the lifeline of one’s body. When he personalizes the connotations of what’s happening to the animal, his heart will be drawn to Hashem and he’ll do teshuvah.
The Rambam writes in Hilchos Teshuvah (1:1): “Those who bring sin offerings or guilt offerings must also confess their sins…their sacrifices alone will not atone for their sins until they repent and make a verbal confession.”
In fact, the Alshich writes that one can do teshuvah even without a korban. The main element of teshuvah is being cognizant of the greatness of Hashem and the smallness of man and resolving to do sincere and complete teshuvah. This fact is reflected in Tehillim 51:18-19: “For You do not desire a burnt-offering…the sacrifices Hashem desires are a broken spirit…”
Hashem seeks people who are willing to subjugate their hearts to Him. All one’s life, man must be vigilant to overcome the challenges of the evil inclination so that after 120 years he can return his neshamah in the same state of purity with which it arrived on earth.
However, man slips up and can sin in a moment of foolishness, as the Gemara says (Sotah 3a), “A person commits a transgression only if a spirit of folly enters him.” Everyone is vulnerable to such an occurrence. The Sefer Akeidah notes that when a person is overcome by such foolishness, he’s no better than an animal. For that reason, he brings an animal as a korban as part of his repentance.
Our sages teach us that the mitzvos of tzedakah and gemilas chassadim are important elements of the teshuvah process. Similar to a korban, tzedakah has the capability to atone for one’s aveiros and has the potential to bring the ge’ulah.
It was customary for the gabbaim in Mezhbizh to place pushkas throughout the shul on Erev Yom Kippur to collect tzedakah before and after Minchah. They would shake the coin-filled pushkas to inspire community members to give tzedakah.
One year, the leaders of Mezhbizh sought to discontinue this minhag. They said it disturbed the congregants, and most people were in a rush to head home to eat the seudah hamafsekes and prepare for Yom Kippur.
However, the Baal Shem Tov rejected the resolution and said there was no way he could agree to annul this holy custom. He explained that one year Heavenly prosecutors erected a wall in Heaven that disrupted the Jewish people’s flow of prayers and prevented them from reaching the Heavenly Throne. The prosecutors could not be removed until the gabbaim began to shake the tzedakah boxes.
There was such a clamor and din that the prosecution became disoriented and dispersed. Only then did the wall come down and were the people’s heartfelt tefillos able to ascend straight up to Heaven.
How great is the power of the mitzvah of tzedakah!
This year, before Yom Tov, our thoughts and prayers are with our brothers and sisters of Klal Yisrael who have had an especially difficult year. Due to the economic crisis that resulted from the worldwide pandemic, so many have lost their jobs and the ability to provide for their families. Hard-working dedicated individuals who have always been self-sufficient were ruined.
As in the days of old in Mezhbizh, when collecting for the poor confused the prosecution and assisted in lifting the tefillos of the community right to heaven, we must collect money for the people of our community who simply do not have the wherewithal to make Yom Tov otherwise.
Now more than ever I call upon all loyal readers of The Jewish Press to help these individuals and their families celebrate Yom Tov with a measure of joy and happiness. Each year I personally administer and distribute monies from a special Yom Tov fund I have established directly into the hands of those who are most in need.
In the zechus of your contribution, may you merit blessing and success, good health, nachas, happiness and prosperity. With your contribution, you can include the names of anyone in need of shalom bayis, shidduchim, refuah, parnassah, etc., and I will say special prayers on their behalf.
Please send your contribution to Khal Bnei Yitzchok Yom Tov Fund, c/o Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser, 1336 E. 21 Street, Brooklyn, NY 11210.