Unless otherwise noted, "This week's Parsha" comprises articles taken from contributors to the Chabad.org website. We show the original author's name here, so that proper attribution is given. For the sake of brevity, footnotes cited in the original author's writings are omitted from this website. If you need to see the citations, please refer to the original articles on the Chabad.org website.
Have you ever closed a deal, celebrated your marriage (or its anniversary), or simply spent time with a good friend -- without eating something together? When you think of home, is it not in your taste buds that the most elemental memories reside? And what about the food itself -- can you get any closer to something than by ingesting it into yourself and turning it into your own flesh, bone and blood?
Extinguishing the "No"
Oftentimes, a small lesson can become a giant paradigm shift.
Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi shared one such lesson he'd learned from his master, the saintly Maggid of Mezeritch, based on the verse, "A constant fire shall be kept burning on the altar; it shall not be extinguished."
To bring an offering on the altar is insufficient, taught the Maggid. One needs to kindle a fire under the offering. And this fire will extinguish negativity. Lo tichbeh, which literally means "it shall not be extinguished," was interpreted by the Maggid to read: "shall extinguish (tichbeh) the 'no' (lo)," the negative.
The Sins of a Leader
Leaders make mistakes. That is inevitable. So, strikingly, our parsha implies. The real issue is how he or she responds to those mistakes.
The point is made by the Torah in a very subtle way. Our parsha deals with sin offerings to be brought when people have made mistakes. The technical term for this is shegagah, meaning inadvertent wrongdoing. You did something, not knowing it was forbidden, either because you forgot or did not know the law, or because you were unaware of certain facts. You may, for instance, have carried something in a public place on Shabbat, either because you did not know it was forbidden to carry, or because you forgot it was Shabbat.
The Torah prescribes different sin offerings, depending on who made the mistake. It enumerates four categories. First is the High Priest, second is "the whole community" (understood to mean the great Sanhedrin, the Supreme Court), a third is "the leader" (nasi), and the fourth is an ordinary individual.