Vayikra (Leviticus 1-5 )
"...And Hashem spoke to Moshe...speak to Bnei Yisrael, and you shall say to them, an ‘adom’ (person) from amongst you when he shall bring a korban (sacrifice) to Hashem... (1:1-2)"
The word ‘adom’ is less common than the word ‘ish’ (man). Rashi explains that this is to indicate that when one brings a korban, he must be similar to Adam Ha’Rishon that just as any sacrifice which Adam would bring could not contain any trace of theft (since everything belonged to him), so too when someone brings a korban there must be no trace of any theft.
This is clearly teaching us that there is no such rule as "the ends justify the means". If one uses money which is not kosher, than the korban itself is rendered defective. This is very similar to the general concept of mitzvah ha'ba'ah ba'averiah, whereby a good deed is done by doing a bad deed. Such a mitzvah becomes invalidated; one is left with the transgression and without credit for having done the mitzvah.
The following story1 greatly underscores this point.
A young bride once came to Rav Yaakov Kaminetzky with a quandary. When she was a young girl, she was struck by a car. Although she had crossed the road when she wasn't supposed to, her parents and their lawyer instructed her to lie about it in court. As a result, she wound up being awarded a large reparation. The funds were placed into an escrow account for her, and now the money was about to be released to her. However, she did not want to begin her married life with unclean money.
Rav Yaakov agreed that it would be inappropriate for her to keep the money. Furthermore, when she suggested that the money be given to tzedakah (the particulars of the case made returning the money impossible), Rav Yaakov objected. He said that instead, she should give the money to a general charity. The reason? In order that she not come to feel in her heart that the fraud was somehow justified by having the funds be allocated to a proper tzedakah.
From this anecdote, we see how strongly Rav Yaakov held that one must distance oneself, even in one's thoughts and feelings, from mitzvos that come about through transgressions. The ends do not necessarily justify the means; and sometimes the ends can even become invalidated by the means.
This lesson is particularly relevant to those in the world of business and philanthropy. In matters of business, one must always exercise the utmost of care to avoid any shady deals. It’s also very important to keep in mind that the more successful the businessman, the more at risk he is of being seduced by his yeitzer hara to justify shady deals with the conscience-pacifying thought that, "Hey, it's going to help allocate more funds to tzedakah!" Therefore, one must exert ongoing, determined effort to avoid such pitfalls.
Another interesting point to note in this matter is that the Torah teaches this lesson here by referencing Adam Ha’Rishon and not through some other, more direct wording. Why is this?
Perhaps the Torah is indicating to us that each individual should work on viewing himself the way Adam Ha’Rishon felt about himself. Adam felt absolutely no sense of competition, for there was no one to compete with! Adam had everything, literally.
Yaakov Avinu, though, did not literally own the whole world and he nevertheless said, “I have everything2.” Yaakov Avinu had developed and refined his traits to the point that he felt no sense of competition with anyone else, not even his fellow inheritor. He felt that he had everything that he could possibly need or want. His emotional equanimity regarding his financial situation was the same as Adam Ha’Rishon – “I have everything; there is no competition!”
When seeing others bringing a nicer korban or holding a more beautiful esrog, it is natural to experience a feeling of jealousy. If one does not work through this negative feeling and overcome it, it could potentially lead a person to engaging in unscrupulous behavior in order to be able to keep up with the Cohen’s.
So the Torah is telling us, whatever korban you are able to bring is great! Don’t feel any sense of competition with anyone else. Each person is an entire world3 in which one can and should feel, “I have everything, because that is what Hashem – in His infinite wisdom – decided to give me4.” This should be a constant refrain that we play regularly in our minds. By doing this, we can achieve an equanimity akin to that of Adam Ha’Rishon, which will in turn help us to maintain the sterling moral standard that the Torah requires of us.
1. Recorded in Rabbi Yehonosan Rosenblum’s biography, “Reb Yaakov”.
2. Parshas Vayishlach, 33:11
3. עיין סנהדרין פרק ד' משנה ה' דאיתא שם, "לפיכך נברא אדם יחידי ללמדך שכל המאבד נפש אחת מישראל מעלה עליו הכתוב כאלו אבד עולם מלא וכל המקיים נפש אחת מישראל מעלה עליו הכתוב כאלו קיים עולם מלא...לפיכך כל אחד ואחד חיב לומר בשבילי נברא העולם."
4. עיין מסילת ישרים פרק י"א שכתב "אין אדם נוגע במוכן לחבירו אפילו כמלא נימא והכל כאשר לכל מה' הוא כפי עצתו הנפלאה וחכמתו הבלתי נודעת"