Unifying Our Will

In the beginning of Parshat Vayikra the Torah provides much of the criteria for sacrifices, one of which is “lirtzono.”

If his offering is a burnt offering from the herd, he shall make his offering a male without blemish. He shall bring it to the entrance of the Tent of Meeting, lirztono, before the LORD. (Yayikra 1:3)

There are many different translations of the word lirtzono, suggesting that there is an inherent ambiguity in what the word is expressing in the verse.  Ratzon can mean will, voluntary, acceptance and a host of other related words. But the ambiguity is furthered by the way it is conjugated. The Hebrew letter vav at the end of the word means that it “his ratzon.”

The Bechor Shor writes that there are two different options for whose ratzon the verse is noting.  The first suggestion is that it is the ratzon of God. If a person brings a sacrifice according to all the strictures of Jewish law, as outlined in the verse, then the sacrifice will be accepted with good will by God.  In contrast, should a person choose to bring a sacrifice of a lower quality animal than is suggested by the verse, then such a sacrifice would not be graciously accepted by God. The verse is instructing us that we are to serve the Almighty according to His will, not our own.

The Bechor Shor then suggests that the ratzon could be that of the person bringing the sacrifice.  Namely, the sacrifice must be brought from one’s free will and volition and not due to coercion. This is approach is in fact codified in Jewish law.  Both sacrifices and Jewish divorce must be effectuated freely and not under duress.

Perhaps what is most profound is that the Torah deliberately created an ambiguity as to whose ratzon is required, man’s or God’s.  And that ambiguity is no doubt deliberate.

The Mishnah in Pirkei Avot reads as follows:

Make His [God's] will like your will, so that He will make your will like His will. Nullify your will to His will, so that He will nullify the will of others to your will. (Avot 2:3)

If we strive in life to fulfill God’s will, then God will likewise fulfill our will, our wants and aspirations, because they ultimately become one in the same.  The merging of our ratzon and God’s ratzon, the inability to discern who “lirtzono” in the verse refers to, is not a textual problem but rather a wonderful blessing!