The Korban Shelamim: A Commentary on Our Time

In the third chapter of Sefer Vayikra, the Torah describes the "korban shelamim," translated as "peace offering" or "offering of well-being." Unlike other korbanot, the sacrifrice is "shared" by three participants, as it were – the altar, the kohen and the ba'alim(person bringing the offering). The kohen receives the "chazeh ve-shok" (breast and thigh), the altar receives the "chelev" (fats), and the owner partakes of the remaining meat. Wherein lies the symbolism of the offering of the "chelev" upon the altar? Why are the fats singled out for an offering?

The Ba'al Ha-turim (3:3) explains that a person's "chelev," his "excess fat," meaning, his physical indulgence, is often the cause of his transgression. The Ba'al Ha-turim quotes in this context a verse from Ha'azinu: "Jeshurun grew fat and kicked – you grew fat and gross and coarse; he forsook the G-d who made him…" (Devarim 32:15). Excessive indulgence in physical enjoyment may, at times, lead one to inappropriate, sinful conduct. The offering of the chelev thus symbolizes the sacrifice of one's overindulgence which precipitated the violation for which he seeks atonement.

This explanation assumes that the korban shelamim comes as an atonement for the individual bringing the offering. Many others, however, assume that this is not the case, that the korban shelamim serves as an expression of "sheleimut," completion, a sense of joy and fulfillment.

In fact, the korban shelamim is often associated with the word "zevach" (see 3:1), which generally means feast or celebration – rather than an act of penitence. Indeed, the Rambam explicitly writes (Hilkhot Ma'aseh Ha-korbanot, end of chapter 3) that whereas normally an individual bringing a sacrifice must recite viduy (confession) as he places his hand over the offering, this is not the case concerning the korban shelamim, where no confession is recited. This would seemingly imply that the korban shelamim is unique, in that it does not come to atone for any sin – in opposition with the underlying assumption of the Ba'al Ha-turim.

In truth, however, we do indeed find sources that concur with this position, that the korban shelamim serves as atonement. First, the Rash Mi-Shantz (one of the Ba'alei Ha-Tosefot), in his commentary to Torat Kohanim, explicitly argues with the Rambam and requires confession even during the offering of a shelamim. Additionally, the Netziv in his "Ha'amek Davar," writes that the korban shelamim comes as atonement for sins involving interpersonal relations, and he actually draws support for the atonement quality of the shelamim from the Rambam's ruling. The Netziv argues that if the korban shelamim did not come as atonement, why would the Rambam find it necessary to inform us that no confession is required at the time of its offering? If it does not at all relate to any transgression, for what would the individual confess? Clearly, he concludes, the Rambam felt that the korban shelamim in fact does serve as atonement, and he must therefore tell us that nevertheless, no viduy is recited when bringing a shelamim. Needless to say, this is not the conventional reading of the Rambam.

Returning to the chelev and its symbolic meaning, Rav Shimshon Refael Hirsch advances an entirely different approach. The animal's fat represents excess, that which is not immediately needed but stored away for later. (Rav Hirsch extends this theory to explain this word's association with the word "chalav," milk, which does not serve the physical needs of the animal/person itself/himself, but is rather stored for the young.) A successful person would bring a korban shelamim as a celebration of sorts, in which, Rav Hirsch explains, he offers his excess wealth, so-to-speak, to G-d. He declares that in truth he does not need the chelev, what matters for him is that he has his bare necessities, the possessions he needs to survive. This declaration is represented by the offering of the chelev, the excess of the animal, upon the altar.

This approach reflects an important perspective on the Torah's attitude towards wealth and fortune. The Torah does not look negatively upon wealth itself, but is concerned with the proper attitude towards worldly possessions. So long as we can make this distinction between what we need and what we enjoy having, between the essential and the expendable, material wealth need not be looked upon adversely. The message of the korban shelamim is the need to maintain a proper scale of priorities and to understand this difference between what we need and what we want.

Rabbi Noam Horowitz


On Monday March 5th Rambam Mesivta took on Oyster Bay for the Sweet Sixteen Round of Mock Trial. After hours upon hours of countless preparation, we achieved greatness. Just the fact that we were in the courtroom was a victory. But that wasn't enough. We needed to win the whole thing. And we did.

Thanks to the incredible performances by both the lawyers and the witnesses, we won the case and the points. Our lawyers: Captain Dovid Simpser, Captain Benjamin Akhavan & Chanani Levy were all spot on in their questions and their objections. The opening statement read by Chanani Levy was so emotionally exhilarating that even the Judge was blown away by its sheer brilliance. The moment Chanani stood up there the other team didn't have a chance. They stared in awe as Chanani delivered the opening statement as if he was reciting one of his breathtaking poems. In the heart of the trial, Dovid "The Pride of Plainview" Simpser rose to make an objection and after the objection was sustained he did not sit back down. He made objection after objection until the opposing counsel couldn't ask any more questions. And, during a heated cross where Simpser proved the arresting Officer to be a corrupt, self-appointed dispenser of street justice with a burning hatred towards the defendant, the opposing counsel kept on objecting but he would immediately come up with the appropriate response and have every one of their objections overruled. At the very end of the trial, Benjamin Akhavan almost brought the Judge to tears with his heart wrenching tale of a man who was about to lose his freedom all because of a corrupt officer's vendetta against him. By the time he stepped down, the Judge could barely hold back his NOT-GUILTY verdict. Our witnesses: Philip "I don't cry over a spilled drink" Nagler, Binyamin Wallin & David Levi did outstandingly on both their directs and their crosses.

All in all, we were able to defeat the opposing team! This is the first time in over ten years that the Rambam Mock Trial team reached the Elite Eight stage of the competition out of the original forty-five. While the season ended with in the Round of 8, it was truly a remarkable accomplishment.

A special thanks to Rabbi Friedman for coming just in time to hear the final verdict and our victory.

Another thanks to our captains Benjamin Akhavan and Dovid Simpser for all their hard work in leading us to this point in the competition and to Prof. Stevens-Bair for sharing her expertise with our team.

1 Million Dollar Stock Challenge: Rambam Makes Top Ten

The entire Introduction to Business class participated in an 7 week stock simulation game where the boys were given "a million dollars" to purchase stocks, bonds, mutual funds, commodities etc. The game is coordinated by Yeshiva University and over 125 school teams were in competition with Rambam Mesivta.

Although we did not come in the top three for monetary rewards, all 6 Rambam teams placed in the top 13. Congratulations go to the entire class and special thanks to the team leaders who inspired their members in this simulation game. Dovi Cohen's team, Gavriel Shechter's team, Michael Rosenfeld's team, and Benjamin Katz's team all placed in the placed in the top 8, and Eric Arfa's team placed 13 in the competition............…..

Great Job and maybe you guys can share some of your picks with the faculty.

P. S. of the faculty who played the game, Prof. Naclerio placed second out of 40.....He said it was all luck.... but the boys really worked hard in this game and showed lots of character, strategy and the competitive skill required to manage a business and pick successful stock winners.

Rambam Wins at Heschel Debate

In the March 15 debate competition at Manhattan's Abraham Joshua Heschel High School featuring 26 teams from 8 schools, the Rambam Affirmative team of Hillel Lerner and Yair Lichtman won its first round match against Ramaz.

Also competing was the Rambam Negative Team consisting of Moshe Blank and David Fodiman. The topic was: No corporation or union should be permitted to endorse a political candidate or party or support them financially. (Reference: Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission).

JV Ravens Hockey Team Recap

Coming off a historic season last year when the Rambam JV Ravens exceeded everyone's expectations by making the championship, the Ravens had a productive season this year as well. The Ravens excelled throughout the season under the leadership of captains Eli Lava, Akiva Hochbaum, Mendy Duftler and assistant captain Yaakov Bronstein. The Ravens flew proud making the playoffs with a 6 - 4 regular season record. Unfortunately, the Ravens fell a tad short falling to TABC in the first round of this year's playoffs. At the end of the day, they played like a team on and off the court. We are looking forward to what should be a very promising season next year.

Eli Lava (10th Grade)

Epic Settlers of Catan Match Raises Coin for Tzedekah

On Monday afternoon, three Rambam seniors experienced some fun in school: outside the classroom. For the second time this year, Brian Cohen, Aryeh Korman and Gary Feder (myself) would square off against the Assistant Principal himself, "The Lord of All Catan," Mr. Goldman in an epic Settlers of Catan showdown.

The first time these four met was at the Annual Rambam Shabbaton, in which Mr. Goldman, the self-proclaimed "Master of Settlers" was dethroned by none other than myself in a game that Mr. Goldman claimed was one of his top 10 games he's EVER played!! (and believe it or not, he does keep track of these things).

For the Chinese Auction this past Chanukah, in an effort to raise money for tzedekah, Mr. Goldman was kind enough to offer as his prize "You and two friends for settlers and pizza-my treat!" Brian Cohen was fortunate enough to have won this prize, and selected Aryeh and myself to duel once again against the "Former Lord Of All Catan."

Unfortunately for me, I could not repeat my success in this battle, as Mr. Goldman showed off his true prowess in a nice come from behind victory to take back his throne. Brian, Aryeh and myself had an awesome time and would like to thank Mr. Goldman for making this possible.

Gary Feder (12th Grade)

Rambam Polar Bears Plunge for Charity

On Super Bowl Sunday, a few courageous members of the Rambam Mesivta student body, as well as Rabbi Horowitz and Rabbi Rosenblum, continued the tradition of last year and were accompanied by thousands on a charitable mission into the freezing waters of the Atlantic Ocean. These individuals known as the "Nachshon Division Polar Bears" once again warmed the cold ocean with their intense desire to help a necessary fund in any way they could. "Polar Bearing" has proven once again to be a unique and powerful method in which these brave men have succeeded in raising sufficient funds for not only the physical needs of impoverished Jews but for their emotional needs as well. In order to prevent the less fortunate from feeling uncomfortable when buying food, this charity provides them with real looking Debit Cards which are only capable of buying food and other necessities. It is through the spirit of the young men in Rambam Mesivta that ultimately over $500 was raised for the charity. With the support of the administration, staff, and the entire student body the young men from Rambam, including Chezky Frieden, Daniel Sobin, Jeremy Shapiro, Sam Grill, Shai Yastrab, Eitan Shapiro, Seth Jacobovitch, Dani Edelman, Mickey Levinson, and Aryeh Korman, truly had an inspiring and powerful experience.

Sam Grill (12th Grade)

Purim Chaggiga Shows Rambam Talent

The Rambam Purim Chaggiga was attended by nearly 100 students and was a night to remember. It involved food by Carlos and Gabby's, dancing, music by the Rambam band, a talent show featuring Shai Yastrab counting to 10 in 10 different languages, Dani Edelman playing Native American Flute, Mickey Flam Piano Concerto, a Comedy Club Video, Dovid Sokolov Stand-up Comedy, break-dancing by Avi Martin and Avi Spier, Jared Ehrenreich breaking wood, Mickey Nadelbach Chumash-Sefer-Perek Challenge, and Shlomo Laufer Mishna Memorization. In the end, it was Rabbi Muskat's incredible song and Aaron Schwartz-Messing's Yo-Yo Magic that took home the First Place Talent Show Plaques. The best costume contest, some late night/very early morning crazy musical chairs displayed the Ruach that categorizes the Mesivta. An incredible time was had by all.

Dovid Rosenzweig (9th Grade)

Rambam Embarks on New Chesed Mission

The Rambam Chesed Club, Drive Committee and a few charity-minded others boarded the Rambam bus and headed to the Yeshiva of Flatbush to learn about the homeless crisis and about what they can do to help. The students, along with many students from many other schools, listened to presentations given by representatives from several different organizations. One of these organization was "Rock and Rap It Up," an organization that aims to eliminate wasting perfectly good food that could be used to feed the hungry. Another organization was "Picture the Homeless" who sent a former homeless individual, Marcus Moore to describe what his situation was like, how he rose from it and how he aims to help others in similar situations. The students left Flatbush with the inspiration and knowledge they need to begin programs back at Rambam and all the students will undoubtedly begin doing their part to help the less fortunate.

Dov Hertzberg (President of S.G.O.)

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Editor: Michael Rosenfeld
Assistant Editor: Eli Lava