Receive weekly insights from the Chief Rabbi
Office of the Chief Rabbi

Where do we find Adam in Vayikra?

Share this article:


Where do we find Adam in the book of Vayikra?

According to Rashi there is a reference to Adam right at the beginning of the book. At the commencement of Vayikra, the Torah introduces us to the concept of sacrifices and we’re told, “Adam ki yakriv meihem korban l’Hashem” – “When anyone amongst you offers a sacrifice to Hashem…” (Vayikra 1:2)

Now, Rashi points out that usually the term for ‘anyone amongst you’ is ‘ish’ but on this occasion it is ‘Adam’ and the reason is to remind us about a fact relating to Adam. The first person on earth could never bring an offering to Hashem from stolen goods. That’s obvious, because there was nobody else for him to steal from! Similarly, says Rashi, we should never bring an offering to Hashem from goods which were improperly or illegally obtained. From here we derive the Talmudic concept of a ‘mitzvah haba’ah b’aveirah’ – a sin which facilitates the performance of a mitzvah. An example provided by the Mishnah is ‘lulav hagazul’ – if, God forbid, one steals the Four Kinds in order to make a blessing over them during Succot, first of all you’re guilty of theft and second of all your mitzvah is no mitzvah!

The great 19th Century Rabbi, Rav Yisroel Salanter expanded on this concept often. For example, on one occasion he was invited to a wonderful family for a Friday evening meal. At the commencement of the meal his host told him how he had been looking forward for so long to having the chance to study divrei torah with the rabbi over the shabbat table. Rav Yisroel Salanter responded by saying, “Actually, if you don’t mind, please can we rush the meal?” 

The host was astonished. He said, “What’s the problem?” 

“Well,” said Rav Yisroel Salanter, “I noticed that you have a maid in the kitchen. We shouldn’t be performing the mitzvah of Torah study in a manner which will force her to go home late tonight.” 

On another occasion during the shul service Rav Yisroel Salanter noticed how somebody dashed into the shul in order to catch a kedusha as part of a minyan and in the process he trampled over somebody’s feet. At the end of the service Rav Yisroel Salanter approached him and he said, “I hope you don’t mind if I tell you that, first of all, that kedusha of yours was no kedusha, and secondly you owe an apology to that person. I suggest you pay for his shoes to be repolished!”

So from the surprising appearance of Adam in the book of Vayikra we learn the important lesson that when it comes to mitzvot – the end never justifies the means.

Shabbat shalom.