The Missing -And Most Important- Pocket

The name of the Parsha, “tzav”, connotes a commandment with a certain urgency, in this case for the “Olah” offering. But why does the Olah, of all services, require this urgency? Rashi quotes Rebbi Shimon who explains that the Olah comes with a “chisaron kis”, literally: ‘the lack of a pocket’. Typically, this phrase refers to a loss of money. As applied to the Olah, it would be because neither the person or the Kohen eat any of the korban; it is completely and entirely burnt up to Hashem. Meaning, we get nothing in return for our offering.

 

The Chiddushei HaRim, however, offers another, homiletical, interpretation. The Olah is not a typical offering. It is brought by an individual on a voluntary basis for specific, non-tangible sins. Besides being the offering that can be brought for no reason at all, it is also a voluntary offering for one who simply missed the opportunity to do a mitzvah (for which there is no punishment, with rare exception). It can also be brought for simply having bad thoughts. In short, these activities are “transgressions” of the mind, not the body, as they are passive. The Chiddushei HaRim explains that every part of the body can be tamed in some way. Our limbs can be held down, our ears can be closed, as can our eyes, nose, and mouth. But there’s one thing that can never be shut down, prevented, or ‘put away’, and that’s our mind. In other words, one can never put the mind in a “pocket”. He explains that this is specifically what Rebbi Shimon means: When it comes to the “transgressions” for which one brings an Olah offering- those of the mind- we need extra urgency and care. It, unlike other sins, cannot be “pocketed”.

 

Too often we see religion -and life- as a compilation of deeds alone, of what we do -and don’t do- with our bodies. But the most vulnerable part of ourselves, the mind, is often regarded as a secondary consideration (“As long as I go to Shul I’m fine”; “Let me just put some charity in the box and I’ve done what I need to”). Rebbi Shimon reminds us that because of this pitfall we need to take the most care of the one thing that has no pocket- our thoughts. How we think about Gd, other people, and the world around us, is not a secondary concern, and one which requires more urgency, not less. Our thoughts lead to our actions, and so, when it comes to the Olah offering, where there was no tangible action, Hashem asks us to be even more careful. Without a pocket, our mind is the most vulnerable.