22:19 “to be favorable for you”
Many times we think about our loss of the Beis Hamikdash and our inability to reach out to Hashem in a tangible way, such as through bringing various types of offerings. We know that there are different rules associated with the different offerings, and that each offering is for a particular purpose. All in all, we understand that one brings an offering in order to come closer to Hashem. It is well known that the “toda” offering is brought with just a short time to eat it, and it comes with many loaves of bread, which forces the one who is bringing the offering to invite many guests and friends to join him in eating the offering (before it becomes Nosar). Through this, he gives praise to Hashem in public for the benevolence which was showered upon him.
The “Olah” offering seems to be the exact opposite of the “toda” offering. For no one – neither the Kohen nor the one bringing the offering – partakes of the offering, and the person who brings it is, so to speak, in it alone – with no tangible action. It all goes to Hashem. What is the message of such an offering that seems to have no tangible expression for the person to take with him? Interestingly, a gentile may bring an olah, which is not the case with other offerings. In the past we have spoken about when a person brings an offering, he is supposed to contemplate that the offering is in lieu of sacrificing himself – that he himself was supposed to have been brought as an offering for the sins that he did, or in an attempt to become closer to Hashem. The Torah tells us “l’retzonchem”. Rashi translates this as something which will facilitate a renewed desire of Hashem to connect with us. The Netziv tells us that “l’retzonchem” means “to pray”. This seems puzzling to me, for what is the significance of prayer in the offering itself?
This week I spoke with someone in America, and as I was talking to him there was a porch minyon going on in my neighborhood, and I answered to “barchu” together with the man on the phone (This is not the forum for a halachic discussion on this matter). He commented “This is the first time in 6 weeks that I have answered “barchu”! The yearning in his voice gave me a flashback to the times when we used to pray three times a day without considering it as being something “major” or “substantial” in our lives. Some of us who have found a safe haven to pray have started to pray again with a quorum of men, and now appreciate this opportunity that many of klal Yisrael do not have. I think this is a point on which we need to reflect.
I have another friend whose father is a very busy businessman, always scurrying about in his very successful business ventures. When my friend was younger, his father took him on vacation to the Moors of England. This is a place that is desolate, and his father would sit there for an extended period of time, just listening to the silence and otherwise not doing anything. My friend was puzzled by the sudden change in his father’s behavior: From being a “gerbil on a treadmill” to being a “couch potato”! His father explained “I am not doing ‘nothing’. I am doing ‘nothing’!”
I would like to discuss the halacha which says that when a person walks into a shul, he is supposed to stop and contemplate before entering. It seems to me that to concentrate, one needs to be unoccupied. Hence at the ”olah” offering, when there is no action to look forward to, the inaction should spur contemplation and prayer should come forth.
Whether we are praying on our porch, in the street, in an open area, or in the privacy of our own home, it is probably a time to stop and value our ability to pray at all. Just take a second or two to get into the proper frame of mind, and with Hashem’s help our prayers will ascend to Hashem, “l’ratzon”.