Simcha Feuerman
Psychology, Torah and the Daf Yomi

Hitting Rock Bottom Nazir 37 Psychology of the Daf Yomi

Our Gemara on Amud Beis quotes a verse in Vayikra (6:20) that uses a strange language, “Anything that touches the flesh of the sacrifice shall become consecrated.” It’s a difficult verse to understand. Is holiness somehow contagious? Our Gemara interprets it as referring to the principle that absorption of an essence affects the object to an extent that it takes on the prohibition of that which it absorbed.

Noam Elimelech (Vayikra, Tzav, ‘Comment’ 4) interprets this verse, within a series of surrounding verses, as alluding to correct attitudes toward sin. I will go through the verses one at a time, interleaving Noam Elimelech’s peshatim into the narrative.

Vayikra (6:18-20):

דַּבֵּ֤ר אֶֽל־אַהֲרֹן֙ וְאֶל־בָּנָ֣יו לֵאמֹ֔ר זֹ֥את תּוֹרַ֖ת הַֽחַטָּ֑את בִּמְק֡וֹם אֲשֶׁר֩ תִּשָּׁחֵ֨ט הָעֹלָ֜ה תִּשָּׁחֵ֤ט הַֽחַטָּאת֙ לִפְנֵ֣י ה׳ קֹ֥דֶשׁ קׇֽדָשִׁ֖ים הִֽוא׃

Speak to Aaron and his sons thus: This is the ritual of the sin offering: the sin offering shall be slaughtered before Hashem at the spot where the burnt offering is slaughtered: it is most holy.

Noam Elimelech: There are subtle sins, where no terrible action was committed, but nevertheless there can be improper thoughts and motivations. Do not rationalize that this is ok and not a transgression. The Chattas Offering and the Olah Offering are slaughtered in the same location. Even though the Olah (Vayikra Rabbah 7:3) is brought to atone for “mere” thoughts, don’t kid yourself. It’s the same sin – and slaughtered the same as a chattas.

הַכֹּהֵ֛ן הַֽמְחַטֵּ֥א אֹתָ֖הּ יֹאכְלֶ֑נָּה בְּמָק֤וֹם קָדֹשׁ֙ תֵּֽאָכֵ֔ל בַּחֲצַ֖ר אֹ֥הֶל מוֹעֵֽד׃

The priest who offers it as a sin offering shall eat of it; it shall be eaten in the sacred precinct, in the enclosure of the Tent of Meeting.

Noam Elimelech: The Cohen who lives a life dedicated to God, must be wary of subtle sins of indulgence. This world is merely a courtyard for the World to Come (Avos 4:16). As the Cohen enjoys this world (symbolized In eating), he realizes he is simply in the antechamber and hasn’t really lived in the fullest way, and will not, until the World to Come.

כֹּ֛ל אֲשֶׁר־יִגַּ֥ע בִּבְשָׂרָ֖הּ יִקְדָּ֑שׁ וַאֲשֶׁ֨ר יִזֶּ֤ה מִדָּמָהּ֙ עַל־הַבֶּ֔גֶד אֲשֶׁר֙ יִזֶּ֣ה עָלֶ֔יהָ תְּכַבֵּ֖ס בְּמָק֥וֹם קָדֹֽשׁ׃

Anything that touches its flesh shall become holy; and if any of its blood is spattered upon a garment, you shall wash the bespattered part in the sacred precinct.

Noam Elimelech: Encounter with sin might be mild, represented by a splatter on one’s clothes. It can be quickly expunged and spot treated. However…

וּכְלִי־חֶ֛רֶשׂ אֲשֶׁ֥ר תְּבֻשַּׁל־בּ֖וֹ יִשָּׁבֵ֑ר וְאִם־בִּכְלִ֤י נְחֹ֙שֶׁת֙ בֻּשָּׁ֔לָה וּמֹרַ֥ק וְשֻׁטַּ֖ף בַּמָּֽיִם׃

An earthen vessel in which it was boiled shall be broken; if it was boiled in a copper vessel, [the vessel] shall be scoured and rinsed with water.

Noam Elimelech:…Sometimes a person becomes deeply ensnared in sin. Then there must be a complete shattering of his rationalizations and hitting bottom, or he risks further suffering and scouring by the fires and tribulations due to his stubborn refusal.

The potential to rationalize and hide from the truth is powerful and pervasive. These ideas that we have seen on the last two dappim poetically and figuratively remind us of this ever present challenge to be morally honest.

About the Author
Rabbi, Psychotherapist with 30 years experience specializing in high conflict couples and families.
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