This week we read the Torah portion of Vayikroh. It is also the beginning of the third book of the Torah. It deals extensively with the various types of sacrifices and their pertinent laws. The first sacrifice which the Torah discusses here is a burnt offering. Regarding this sacrifice, the Torah tells us that (Vayikroh 1:9) “… a burnt offering, a fire offering, with a pleasing fragrance to the Lord.” The same phrase is used numerous times in the Torah regarding offerings. Obviously this is meant allegorically; Hashem is not pleased by a particular fragrance. Rashi explains that the meaning of the phrase is that “this sacrifice gives Me pleasure for I commanded and My will was fulfilled!”
This is obviously an allegory as well; man does not have the power to either please or displease G-d. However this is easier to understand than the literal meaning of the verse. Hashem chose to create a world, inhabit it with people and give them an instruction manual (the Torah) which teaches them how to behave. When man follows His instructions, G-d chooses to be pleased. However, this being the case, why is this expression used specifically regarding sacrifices. One would think that Hashem derives pleasure from any Mitzvah which man fulfills.
The fulfillment of every Mitzvah provides man with a benefit. This is certainly true of those Mitzvos which we understand. However, even fulfilling those Mitzvos which are beyond our comprehension gives us a feeling of fulfillment. Following the “instruction manual” and accepting Hashem as our King is a satisfying experience.
The only exception to this is offering a sacrifice. One has no benefit whatsoever from this. Buying meal, wine, oil, and an animal can make perfect sense. Buying them in order to burn them upon an altar does not. The very fact that one does so can only be for one reason; namely “because G-d said so.”
Each of us is different. Each of us has Mitzvos which excite him more, and those which excite him less. It is certainly easier to fulfill the former. Nevertheless, let us consider the lesson we learn from this. We must strive to fulfill each commandment equally “because G-d said so.”
Wishing one and all a wonderful Shabbos and a happy and kosher Pesach!
Rabbi Shmuel Mendelsohn