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Welcome to Our Shabbos Table

Click here for 2 year's ago divrei torah on parshas Pekudei
Click here for last year's divrei torah on parshas Pekudei

Welcome to our Shabbos Table!
We hope you enjoy this selection of short divrei Torah, presented to family and guests at our Shabbos table as a springboard for discussion. Each one is followed by a question. The responses shared at our table are enlightening, entertaining, and always thought-provoking.
Please share them at your own Shabbos table, and send us your most interesting responses. A selection of the best will be posted on the website, and eventually, included in a book. To respond, email us at responses@ourtable.org.

Parshas Vayikra/ The Scent of Spirituality

“…a burnt offering, [with] a pleasing fragrance to Hashem” (Vayikra 1:9).

Vayikra, the third of the Five Books of Moses, begins by enumerating various korbanos (sacrifices) to be brought to Hashem in the Mishkan. The first of these is the burnt offering.

What Really Counts

In the Torah, animal, bird, and meal offerings alike are described as providing a “pleasing fragrance to Hashem,” teaching us that it doesn’t matter how great or small one’s sacrifice, provided that his heart is turned to Heaven (Menachos 110a). In other words, it’s the thought that counts.

But don’t deeds count too? Two people may be equally sincere, but if A spends far more on his sacrifice than B, shouldn’t Hashem value A’s offering more?

Not necessarily. It all depends how much each person has to give.

Hashem doesn’t need our sacrifices. What He wants is our self-sacrifice. If A and B are each giving as much as they can, their self-sacrifice is equal, so their offerings are equally pleasing to Hashem. (Ta’am VeDa’as)

The Sweetest Smell

The “pleasing fragrance” of our sacrifices is only as pleasing as our thoughts and deeds. We shouldn’t think our korbanos alone atone for our sins. Rather, our offerings are only a “pleasant fragrance” if we improve from now on. Otherwise, Hashem says, “What use are your many sacrifices to Me?” (Yeshayahu 1:11).

Just as a pleasant fragrance emanates only from a fragrant source, our sacrifices must reflect our own goodness, our repentance and sincere efforts to draw near to Hashem.

Likewise, the Hebrew term olah (burnt offering) literally means “ascending,” not only because the offering itself ascends to Heaven, but because the person bringing it is ascending in his service of Hashem. (HaKesav VeHaKabbalah)

Question for Discussion:

In serving Hashem – and in general – sometimes our good intentions exceed our actions. When have you wanted to do so much more than you were able to?


“Abe” received an e-mail from “Rabbi Cohen” regarding all the great outreach being done at a local university.

“The new rabbi and his wife have been very hard at work,” Rabbi Cohen wrote. “They’re already attracting good crowds of quality students for Shabbos, learning, and social programs. In addition, they’ve signed up twenty students for our winter Poland trip. We’re very encouraged.

“Over the years you’ve been very helpful in supporting our efforts,” continued Rabbi Cohen. Once again we ask that you see what you can do.”

Unfortunately, Abe couldn’t donate as much money to this worthy cause as he would have liked. But he found another way to contribute. He replied [emphasis added]:

“Rabbi Cohen, thank you for writing.

Keep up the great work!!!!

I would love to help more, but we’re closing down our business. Baruch Hashem, we’re fine, but ma’aser funds are low.

I’m sending $118, but that’s no indication of how much we love all of the great work you do!

Thank you again.”

Abe’s moral support was greatly appreciated. As Rabbi Cohen wrote back:

“What you write is very empowering. Thanks so much. And good luck with your next business venture.”