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ב"ה

Heart of Stone

Friday, 11 March, 2022 - 7:30 am

The world watches in horror as Ukraine is attacked.  The civilian casualties keep growing and we wonder how can we put an end to this unfathomable situation?

Of course, we can all help in some way – by contributing, by praying and by assisting.

The unbearable loss of life and suffering makes one wonder how heartless one must be to continue unjustified and unexplained brutalities.

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This week’s Torah reading includes Parshat Zachor, the mitzvah to remember what Amalek did to the Jewish people. Amalek attacked the Jewish people after the Exodus from Egypt.

The key characteristic of Amalek, that led to her heinous crimes, was stone cold indifference. Despite the great miracles the Jews had experienced, Amalek shrugged her shoulders and attacked.  Despite the fact that women and children were the prime target, Amalek attacked. Despite the fact that Amalek was destined to fail, Amalek attacked.

A heart of stone.

The Torah tells us never to forget the atrocities and chutzpah of Amalek. But, not forgetting isn’t enough. The reason, we are reminded, that we must not forget is so that we act upon it. We are called upon to destroy and eradicate Amalek. There is no room in society for that type of evil.

We must eradicate the heart of stone.

Remembering, however, isn’t enough. We must do.

By increasing in acts of goodness and kindness; by contributing and praying; by offering a helping hand – we are ensuring that remembrance translates to action.

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There’s another aspect, however, to the heart of stone.

The Book of Vayikra/Leviticus, which we begin reading this week, is replete with laws pertaining to the Temple service.  In fact, many refer to it as Torat Kohanim, the law of the priests, as it describes in detail the sacrifices and rites performed in the Mishkan (Tabernacle) and Beit Hamikdash (the Holy Temple that stood in Jerusalem).

One of the interesting observations about the korbanot (sacrifices) is that sacrifices were offered from various items.  Offerings included animals, flour, oil, wine, and even salt. In fact, the Torah commands in this week’s parsha that salt must accompany every offering.

Kabbalah teaches that these offerings represent the Four Kingdoms in this world, namely the inanimate, plant, animal and human kingdoms. The person bringing the offering represents the human sphere of life, as the verse indicates, “When a man brings a sacrifice from you.”  The Chassidic Rebbes teach that this means the person himself must “bring him/herself closer to G-d as part of the sacrifice.

But one of the other domains stands out.  The Torah requires that salt be offered with every korban. Why was salt necessary for each and every sacrifice?

By offering a sacrifice the person was in effect consecrating to G-d the various elements of G-d’s creation. But the sacrifice was only accepted by G-d if the individual did so with a sincere heart.  For a sin offering, proper repentance and regret was necessary. For a peace offering, a truly generous spirit and commitment to G-d’s Torah was essential.

And so every offering required the presence of salt. Salt represents the inanimate, the most ‘lowly’ manifestation of life.  Its presence underscored the need for true humility to connect to G-d.  If we are to really approach the Infinite, we must remember that human, animal and stone are all equally finite.

We do our absolute best. And, we humbly accept that G-d will do the rest.

Despite the profound hardships and ominous outlook, we march forward with a helping hand.

There are times when a heart of stone is the most moving.

May Hashem bless the entire world with peace and joy in this month of Adar. May we merit the era of Moshiach – when war and famine will not know the light of day.

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