Parshat Tzav: The Meaning of Pigul

A korban shelamim ( a type of sacrifice of an animal) becomes disqualified if someone eats it at the wrong time. The Gemarra says this is not true: the essence of this avera (sin), called pigul, is in thought not action. To separate, in the mind, the slaughter of the animal from its offering and consumption is pigul. The consumption can be by human beings or on the altar, where it is “consumed” by God.

R’ Hirsch explains this by relating “pigul” to”peleg”, to seperate or divide. To seperate shechita (slaughter) from achila (consumption). The Torah says this is punishable by karet, a serious punishment (understood by the Rabbis as death at the hands of heaven). Why is this so serious?

Pigul is the seperation of sacrifice and consumption. The inseparability of the two in Jewish law teaches two lessons: 1) Sacrifice is not a value in and of itself. Self-negation, martyrdom, yielding, giving up, getting out of the way, are not in themselves positive values. Sacrifice must be for the sake of nourishment: it must become positive energy. It must feed God or human beings. 2) Consumption is not a value in and of itself either. Life, when consumed, should be offered on the altar of our values: our acts of consumption must mean something.

– based on teachings of Rav Adlerstein on Rav Hirsch’s Chumash commentary.

The Idolatry of Dogmas

Man has often made a god out of a dogma, a graven image which he worshiped, to which he prayed. He would rather believe in dogmas than in God, serving them not for the sake of heaven but for the sake of a creed, the diminutive of faith. A creed is almost all a poor man has. Skin for skin, he will give his life for all that he has. Yes, he may be ready to take other people’s lives, if they refuse to share his tenets.

Heschel “Man is Not Alone” 169.

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“In the realm of the spirit only he who is able to be a pioneer is able to be an heir.”

Heschel Ibid 164

Heschel on Silencing God

God is not silent. He has been silenced.

…The faith believers cherish is second hand, it is a faith in the miracles of the past, an attachment to symbols and ceremonies. God is known from hearsay, a rumor fostered by dogmas, and even non-dogmatic thinkers offer hackneyed, solemn concepts without daring to cry out the startling vision of the sublime on the margin of which indecisions, doubts, are almost vile.

We have trifled with the name of God. We have taken ideals in vain…Now we reap the fruits of failure. Through centuries His voice cried out in the wilderness. How skillfully it was trapped and imprisoned in the temples! How throughly distorted! Now we behold it gradually withdraws, abandoning one people after another, departing from their souls, despising their wisdom…

…God did not depart from his own volition; He was expelled. God is in exile.

More grave then Adam’s eating the forbidden fruit was his hiding from from God after he had eaten it. “Where art thou?” Where is Man? is the first question that appears in the Bible. It is man’s alibi that is our problem. It is man who hides, who flees, who has an alibi. God is less rare than we think; when we long for Him, His distance crumbles away.

…There are many doors through which we have to pass in order to enter the palace, and none of them is locked.

…Life is a hiding place for God. We are never asunder from Him who is in need of us. Nations roam and rave- but all this is only ruffling the deep, unnoticed and uncherished stillness.

The grandchild of Rabbi Baruch was playing hide and seek with another boy. He hid himself and stayed in his hiding place for a long time, assuming that his friend would look for him. Finally, he went out and saw that his friend was gone, apparently having not looked for him at all, and that his own hiding had been in vain. He ran into the study of his grandfather, crying and complaining about his friend. Upon hearing the story the Rabbi burst into tears and said: “God, too, says: ‘I hide, but there is no one to look for me.'”

(Man is Not Alone 152-154)

In Praise of Jewish Skepticism

“To Israel, the heir of the religion of truth, the children of Jacob, the man of truth…it is easier to bear the burden of exile than to believe in anything before it is thoroughly and repeatedly examined and all of its dross has been purged away, even though it appears to be a sign or a miracle. The undeniable evidence for Israel’s love of truth and rejection of anything which is doubtful can be seen in the relation of the people of Israel to Moses. In spite of the fact that they were crushed by slavery, yet when Moses was told to bring them the tidings of their redemption, he said to the Lord: “Behold, they will not believe me, nor hearken to my voice, for they will say: The Lord hath not appeared to thee’ (Exodus 4:1)”

-Solomon Ibn Adret of Barcelona (1235-1310), Responsa no.548.