By Rabbi Daniel Travis
The Almighty said, "Let us make adam (man) in our image and our likeness."
The word "adam" is used again in Vayikra: "When an adam (man) sacrifices one
of his animals to God...."1 Man is referred to here as "adam" to teach us
that just as the first "adam" offered sacrifices to God only from his own
property - for everything belonged to him - so all sacrifices should be
taken from property belonging to the person offering them, not from stolen
"I am God who loves justice and hates theft in an Olah offering."3 The
prophet notes that God's hatred is not limited to stolen sacrifices, but
that He hates theft in the Olah offering itself. Since a bird's diet
consists of stolen food, the Torah specifies that the organs that consumed
the stolen food be removed before sacrificing it.4 Since a bird's innards
are associated with theft, they cannot be allowed to exist even for a moment
in the Beith HaMikdash, a place of absolute truth. They are thrown onto the
floor where they are miraculously absorbed into the ground.5
There is another reason that the verse singled out the Olah sacrifice. The
meat of most offerings is divided three ways: between the owner, the
Kohanim, and the altar. The Olah is the only sacrifice that is totally
burned up on the altar. Since no one would benefit by eating the meat of a
stolen Olah, one might think that God would accept a stolen Olah. The verse
emphasizes that when it comes to theft there are no exceptions, and all
stolen offerings are repulsive in God's eyes.
Our Sages illustrate this idea with the following analogy. A king was
journeying through his kingdom when he reached the place where travelers pay
customs. The king took the required amount of money from his pocket, and
instructed his servants to give it to the tax collector. The servants were
slightly taken aback; since all the money collected belonged to the king,
what reason should the king have to pay customs. Replied the king, "If I pay
this tax all of the other travelers will understand that they certainly
One might think that since everything belongs to God, He would accept a
stolen Olah on the grounds that it is merely being returned to its true
owner. As the verse notes, God "loves justice," even when it is seemingly
unnecessary, for it is a pillar of the world and a mainstay of society.
Therefore God hates injustice, even when no one benefits from it.
1. Vayikra 1:2.
2. See Pirke D'Rav Eliezer Ch. 31 (cited in Ramban, Bereshith 22:2), which
explains that Adam offered sacrifices to God.
3. Yeshiah 61,8.
4. Riff, Sukkah 30a, based on Vayikra Rabbah 3:4.
5. Yoma 21a, as cited in Rashi Vayikra 1:16.
6. Sukkah 30a.
Priceless Integrity, Copyright © 2001 by Rabbi Daniel Travis and Torah.org.
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