Shemini: Davening > Offerings

A very important lesson was learned this Purim--always have an extra bottle of wine on hand.  When you’ve completed two bottles and your Russian friend comes over and you think, “This vodka LOOKS like wine, it should be okay”… well… it’s not.  Also, drinking with Russians is simply not a good idea.  Definitely Ukrainians, I hear they’re are the worst.  Well, lessons learned, and will certainly be remembered.


“Moshe and Aaron came to the Tent of Meeting, and they went out and they blessed the people – and the glory of Hashem appeared to the entire people” (Vayikra 23:9). 


“Once Aaron saw that all offerings had been brought, and all the acts (of the Mishkan) had been performed, but the Shechinah had not descended to Israel, he was distressed, and said, ‘I know that Hashem has become angry with me and because of me, the Shechinah did not descend to Israel…’ Thereupon, Moshe entered with him and they prayed for mercy and the Shechinah descended to Israel” (Rashi). 


Throughout the Torah, we do not find any offerings brought for those who sinned on purpose.  Only, when a person sinned by accident did he have the ability to bring an offering to atone for himself.  In fact, Rabbeinu Yona (Avos 1:2) explains that today our davening is in place of offerings, and davening itself has the ability to help atone for not only accidental sin, but also sin done on purpose.  When Dovid HaMelech wrote (Tehillim 51) “Hashem, open my lips” (what we say as we begin Shemoneh Esrei) he was writing in regard to the sin with Batsheva (which was done on purpose, not by accident).  He explains that when a person wished to do teshuva, he should not only daven for it, but he should ask Hashem to help him daven for it (“Hashem, open my lips”). Thus is the power of davening over offerings.


In regard to the above pasuk, Aaron had the special opportunity to help atone for the sin of the Golden Calf, which, although he participated with good intentions, was done on purpose.  Yet we see that even here, with this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, Aaron’s offering was only accepted when accompanied by a request for mercy.


It’s unfortunate that we have at least three opportunities a day to speak to Hashem, with a power that even offerings in the Beis HaMikdash did not have, yet focus on other things during that whole time.  This Rashi is an important reminder to us on what type of opportunity we have every time we say, “Hashem, open my lips…”


Have a great Shabbos!