Ch. – Topic
1-7: Korbanot (offerings)
8: Investiture of Kohanim
9-10: Inauguration of the Mishkan
11-15: Various Sources of Impurity
(which render one unfit to participate in Mishkan-related activities)
16: Purification of the Mishkan (Yom haKippurim)
17: Laws Related to Offerings
18-20: Sanctity of the People
21-22: Sanctity of the Kohanim
23: Festivals (and their “Mishkan” aspect)
24: Additional Offerings
25: Sanctity of the Land
26: Covenantal Blessing and Warning
27: Sanctified Objects
Parashot Vayyikra and Tzav overlap two of these topics (Korbanot and Investiture of the Kohanim); we will focus on the first of these – and on the first seven chapters of Vayyikra.
KORBANOT: DEFINITIONS AND CATEGORIES
The word Korban is traditionally translated as “sacrifice”. Regardless of what the original meaning of “sacrifice” was (it probably comes from a combination of Latin words – meaning “to make holy”), its common usage bears little – if any – resemblance to the ideology -or etymology – of a Korban. In conventional English, a sacrifice is something given up in exchange for nothing – but on behalf of a noble cause (e.g. defense of country, raising children etc.) The word Korban, on the other hand, comes from the Hebrew root “K*R*B – meaning “to come close”. A Korban is a vehicle for Man to come close to God. For purposes of this shiur, we will either refer to these offerings as Korbanot (plural of Korban) or as “offerings”.
There are, generally speaking, two types of Korbanot: Zevachim (lit. “slaughtered”) and Menachot (grain offerings). Although we will focus on the Korban Minchah, a brief overview of Zevachim is in order – and it will help us understand the phenomenology of the Korban Minchah with greater insight.
ZEVACHIM: AN OVERVIEW
There are four basic types of Zevachim. (My thanks to the Judaic Seminar list, from whose archives I copies this synopsis)
1. OLAH: “ascend”, seems to refer to this sacrifice’s distinctive feature, that the offering is completely burnt on the altar (except for the hide, which is given to the participating priest), thus it totally “ascends” to God. Only male animals or doves or pigeons (male or female) are acceptable.
2. SH’LAMIM: from “shalem” or “shalom”, presents many possible interpretations. It may express a sense of “well-being”; “wholeheartedness” with God; a gift of “greeting” to God; or perhaps “completeness” (altar, donor and priest all sharing in it). Male or female animals are acceptable but not birds. Certain fat and internal organs are placed on the altar by the kohanim. The remainder, almost the whole animal, is permitted to be eaten. In Vayyikra Chapter 7, the Torah ordains that any pure person is permitted to partake of the Sh’lamim, thus allowing the donor to share it with family and invitees. Eating the Sh’lamim is permitted during the day and night of the offering and the day following and was not restricted to the sanctuary precincts. The “todah” (thanksgiving offering) – a Sh’lamim subdivision – is an exception in that it is only allowed to be eaten the day of its offering and the night following. Kohanim receive the breast and the right thigh.
An individual’s olah and Sh’lamim are voluntary offerings. Although their names may connote certain purposes, and expiation was mentioned in connection with the olah, the reasons why one may bring an olah are not provided. [Note that Hazal do provide several explanations for the ‘Olah – notably, that it is a form of expiation for neglected Mitzvot Aseh.]
3. HATTAT: “sin-offering”, refers only to unintentional sins, generally those that had they been done intentionally are culpable of “karet”. Carelessness and inadvertence indicate laxness as concerns one’s responsibilities; such transgressions defile the sanctuary. The hattat, bringing purification and expiation to the sanctuary, is a mandatory part of the unintentional sinner’s repentance process. With the exception of the Asham brought for withholding testimony, intentional sins can not be expiated by means of a sacrifice.
Four classes of hattat, varying according to the offender’s status and without reference to the particular transgression, are itemized – those of:
a) the Kohen Gadol;
b) the whole community of Israel (explained by the sages as based on a high court directive);
c) the Nasi (including the king);
d) any individual.
From the sanctuary perspective the first two classes reflect a graver transgression, impacting the spiritual welfare of the nation, and require an elaborate ritual involving a young bull, a blood- sprinkling ritual on the parokhet veil in the Ohel Moed and upon the incense altar as well as upon the bronze altar, and burning the complete bull on the ash heap outside the camp. The latter two classes of hattat lack these stringencies. After all, the Nasi is not an official religious leader. He brings a male goat while the private individual brings a female goat or ewe. Male Kohanim eat from these latter offerings within sanctuary precincts.
Three particular transgressions of omission that require a hattat offering for expiation are also listed:
a) one who withheld testimony despite having heard an adjuration to testify;
b) various cases of being impure in a span of forgetfulness (and entering the sanctuary or eating sacred items); and
c) inadvertently violating an oath.
Depending on financial ability, one either brings a female sheep or goat, two birds or a measure of flour. In the latter case, oil and frankincense are not added, reflecting the somber nature of the offering.
4. ASHAM: “guilt-offering” of a ram, referring to three specific classes of violations:
a) asham me`ila – an unintentional misappropriation for personal use of sanctuary property. The violator makes full restitution and pays a penalty of one fifth in addition to the sacrifice
b) asham taluy – the contingency asham – when one has a doubt if he committed an unintentional transgression that had be been certain he did transgress unintentionally would require a hattat and
c) asham g’zelot – a trespass against God in that one lied under oath, defrauding his fellow man concerning a deposit, loan, stolen article, found article, etc.
When the defrauder chooses to repent, he restores the lost capital to the owner, adds a fifth as penalty and brings an asham sacrifice. Although the sin was intentional, when the violator came forth himself to repent by making restitution and paying a penalty, he is allowed the expiation sacrifice. Bamidbar 5:5-10 contains a supplement to this asham legislation.
Before addressing the fifth type of Korban – the Minchah – we will look at two approaches among the Rishonim as to the meaning behind Korbanot (specifically Zevachim).
In his discussion of the rationale behind Korbanot, Rambam similarly follows a path of reasoning guided by historic considerations:
“It is impossible to go from one extreme to the other suddenly. Therefore man – according to his nature – is not capable of abandoning suddenly that to which he was deeply accustomed … As it was then the deeply-ingrained and universal practice that people were brought up with to conduct religious worship with animal sacrifices in temples … God in His wisdom did not see fit to command us to completely reject all these practices – something that man could not conceive of accepting, according to human nature which inclines to habit … He therefore left these practices but transformed them from their idolatrous associations … that their purpose should be directed toward Him. Thus, He commanded us to build a sanctuary for Him with an altar to His name and offer sacrifices to Him… In this way idolatry was blotted out and the great foundation of our faith – the existence and oneness of God – was established. This was accomplished without confusing people’s minds by prohibiting the worship they were accustomed to and which alone they were familiar with … God doesn’t choose to change man’s nature with a miracle … As sacrificial worship is not a primary intention … only one Temple has been appointed … in no other place is it allowed to sacrifice … to limit such worship within bounds that God did not deem it necessary to abolish it … because of this the prophets often declared that the object of sacrifices is not very essential and that God can dispense with them…”(Guide III:32). [It should be noted that this approach stands in stark contrast to that taken by Rambam in the Mishneh Torah. Scholars have attempted to harmonize these approaches with varying degrees of success.]
While this approach has a certain attraction – especially in assuaging our modern sensibilities which are easily ruffled by the picture of animal offerings – it carries with it considerable difficulties. First of all, this places the entire scope of Korbanot in the realm of a temporary exigency born out of a regrettable situation. The implication of this is that Korbanot do not belong to the realm of the ideal – and, as such, have no place in our vision for the Messianic future. There are two additional challenges to this approach, voiced by Ramban. After quoting Rambam’s approach, Ramban challenges:
“But these words are mere expressions, healing casually a severe wound and a great difficulty, and making “the Table of the Eternal polluted”, [as if the offerings were intended only] to remove false beliefs from the hearts of the wicked and fools of the world, when Scripture says that they are “the food of the offering made by fire, for a pleasing odor.” Moreover, [if the offerings were meant to eliminate] the foolish [ideas] of the Egyptians, their disease would not thereby be cured. On the contrary, it would increase the cause of sorrow, for since the intention of the above-mentioned wicked ones was to worship the constellations of the sheep and the ox, which according to their opinion possess certain powers [over human affairs], and which is why they abstain from eating them in deference to their power and strength, then if these species are slaughtered to the Revered Name, it is a mark of respect and honor to [these constellations]. These worshippers themselves were in the habit of so doing, as He has said: “And they shall no more sacrifice their sacrifices unto the satyrs,” and those who made the [golden] calf sacrificed to it. Now the Rambam mentions that the idolaters used to sacrifice to the moon on the days of new-moon, and to the sun when it rose in a particular constellation known to them from their books. The disease of idolatry would surely have been far better cured if we were to eat [these animal-deities] to our full, which would be considered by them forbidden and repugnant, and something they would never do.
“Furthermore, when Noah came out of the ark with his three sons, there were as yet no Chaldeans or Egyptians in the world, yet he brought an offering, which was pleasing to God, as concerning it Scripture says: “And the Eternal smelled the pleasing odor”…Yet there was as yet not the slightest trace at all of idol-worship in the world…The Scriptural expression concerning the offerings is “My food which is presented unto Me for offerings made by fire, for a pleasing odor unto Me” (Bamidbar 28:2). Far be it that they should have no other purpose and intention except the elimination of idolatrous opinions from the minds of fools.
“It is far more fitting to accept the reason for the offerings which scholars (Ibn Ezra?) say, namely that since man’s deeds are accomplished through thought, speech and action, therefore God commanded that when man sins and brings an offering, he should lay his hands upon it in contrast to the deed [committed]. He should confess his sins verbally in contrast to his [evil] speech, and he should burn the inwards and the kidneys [of the offering] in fire because they are the instruments of thought and desire in the human being. He should burn the legs [of the offering] since they correspond to the hands and feet of a person, which is analogous to the blood in his body. All these acts are performed in order that when they are done, a person should realize that he has sinned against his God with his body and his soul, and that “his” blood should really be spilled and “his” body burned, were it not for the loving-kindness of the Creator, Who took from him a substitute and a ransom, namely this offering, so that its blood should be in place of his blood, its life in place of his life, and that the chief limbs of the offering should be in place of the chief parts of his body. The portions [given from the sin-offering to the priests], are in order to support the teachers of the Torah, so that they pray on his behalf. The reason for the Daily public Offering is that it is impossible for the public [as a whole] to continually avoid sin. Now these are words which are worthy to be accepted, appealing to the heart as do words of Agadah. (Commentary on the Torah: Vayyikra 1:9)
In summary, whereas Rambam views Korbanot as a historical exigency, Ramban sees them as [close to] ideal, reflecting man’s obligation or need to vicariously offer himself on the altar – the image of which will surely stir him to repentance. As we explained earlier (in the shiur on Parashat Vay’chi this year), the act of Semikhah (laying the hands on the animal immediately prior to slaughtering it) is the vehicle through which the person transfers his “energy” to the animal, thus effecting the substitute-offering.
Although there are some theological and philosophical (as well as historical) difficulties with this approach, there is one which comes directly from our text. How does Ramban explain a Korban Minchah – which cannot possibly constitute a human substitute and where the law of Semikhah does not apply?
Besides this problem, there are several textual “flags” in the Torah’s commands regarding the Korban Minchah which we will address.
The laws of the Minchah are delineated in Vayyikra, Chapter 2 – and later, from the Kohanic perspective, in 6:7-11. [It is recommended that you read these sections before continuing].
There are several textual anomalies in this section:
1) Unlike the first chapter, which describes the “Korban Olah” (and later sections describing the other Zevachim), the section on the “Korban Minchah” is introduced with the phrase *v’Nefesh ki Takriv*. A “Nefesh” (which means soul in Rabbinic Hebrew) means “a person” in Biblical Hebrew. The specific orientation of the word is “life-force”, as we see in Vayyikra 17:11, “The Nefesh of all flesh is in the blood”. Why is the Minchah uniquely described as being brought by a Nefesh?
2) The “Kometz” (fistful) of the Minchah which is burned on the altar is called an *Azkarah* – commemoration. What is this commemoration and what is being remembered?
3) In 2:11, the Torah prohibits a leavened Minchah – or the use of any leavening or sweetening agent on the altar. Why is Hametz to be distanced from the Mikdash?
4) Within the context of the Korban Minchah, the Torah commands us to salt every Minchah – with the *Melach B’rit Elohekha* (The salt of the covenant of your God – 2:13). What is the significance of salt – specifically within the context of the Korban Minchah?
There are two other questions, both related to the issue of Hametz:
5) Although the Torah forbade the use of leavening in preparing a Minchah, we are commanded to offer a communal Minchah on Shavuot composed of two loaves (known as Minchat Sh’tei haLechem – specifically made of Hametz (Vayyikra 23:17). Why the exception?
6) There is one other exception to the Hametzless-Minchah rule: the loaves which accompany the Korban Todah (a subset of Sh’lamim). In Vayyikra 7:12-13, the Torah commands us to bring (40) loaves as an accompaniment to the Korban Todah (thanksgiving offering) – and ten of them must be Hametz! Again – why the exception? (See M. Menachot 5:1, where these two are presented as the only two exceptions.)
The key difference between Hametz and Matzah lies in how sophisticated the wheat has become through production. Hametz is wheat in its most complex form. It is the goal of the wheat grower and the final stage to which the wheat- growing process can be taken. Matzah, on the other hand, is bread in its most basic form, at the beginning of the bread- baking process. These physical characteristics of Hametz and Matzah shed light on several mitzvot which govern their consumption, including the prohibition of Hametz on Pesach.
Because of its simple nature, Matzah is considered “lechem oni,” bread of poverty. A poor person, one who cannot afford to bring the wheat to its most advanced form of Hametz, bakes Matzah. The Israelites are commanded to eat matzot and maror, together with the korban Pesach, in order to remember the poverty and slavery they experienced in Egypt.
It would seem more appropriate that with the redemption from Egypt would come a commandment to eat Hametz. Just as the Matzah has symbolized the Israelites’ state of poverty and enslavement, Hametz would be an appropriate symbol of their newly-obtained freedom and prosperity, for Hametz is the food of the wealthy. However, the instructions for the days which commemorate the period immediately following the exodus commands exactly the opposite: not only a commandment to eat Matzah but also a ban on Hametz. “Throughout the seven days unleavened bread shall be eaten; no leavened bread shall be found with you, and no leaven shall be found in your territory (Shemot 13:7).” What, then, is behind this prohibition and the parallel obligation?
Matzah symbolizes that the exodus from Egypt is only the beginning of the redemption process. After the night of the korban Pesach, the Israelites are not fully redeemed. Matzah, bread at the beginning of the process of its production, serves as a reminder that the exodus is just the beginning of a journey, a long hard road through the desert, with the goal far in the distance.
The process which begins at the exodus culminates in two other major events: the giving of the Torah and the entrance into the Land of Canaan. The mitzva of bikkurim, the offering of the first-grown fully-ripe fruits, commemorates both of these events in Jewish history. The holiday marking the beginning of the harvest of the wheat crop, Shavuot, falls out on the same date as the giving of the Torah, the sixth of Sivan. A major component of the ceremony of the offering of the bikkurim, which commemorates the arrival in the Holy Land, is mikra bikkurim, the recitation of Devarim 26:5-10. These verses constitute a declaration of thanks for a successful crop grown in the Land of Israel. The mitzva of bikkurim, which commemorates the dual conclusion of the redemption process, includes a positive commandment regarding Hametz. The meal-offering brought with the bikkurim, known as minchat shtei ha-lechem, is an offering of two loaves of leavened bread. This sacrifice of Hametz on Shavuot represents the completion of the process begun on Pesach, which was symbolized by the matzot.
The “maggid” section of the Haggada is centered on the recitation of the midrashic interpretation of mikra bikkurim. However, the reading is limited to the first verses, which focus on the history of Am Yisra’el:
“My father was a wandering Aramean, and he went down to Egypt and sojourned there, few in number. He became there a great mighty, and populous nation. The Egyptians dealt ill with us and afflicted us, and laid upon us hard labor. And we cried out to Hashem , the God of our fathers, and God heard our voice and saw our affliction and our toil and our oppression. And God took us out of Egypt with a strong hand and with an outstretched arm, and with great terror and with wonders.” (Devarim 26:5-8).
The last verses, which contain the expressions of thanks: “And He brought us to this place, and He gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey. And now, behold, I have brought the first fruit of the land which You, God, have given me” (ibid., 9-10) are not recited on the night of the Seder. The selection of this section of the Torah for maggid is a reminder of the nature of the Seder night and of Pesach in general. Pesach commemorates the beginning of the process of redemption whose conclusion is symbolized by the bikkurim. On Pesach we remember that the exodus was only a beginning, and to do this we eat Matzah. Similarly, we recite only those verses within mikra bikkurim which pertain to the process of redemption. We leave out the verses pertaining to the final arrival in Eretz Yisra’el as a reminder that on Pesach, at least, the process has just begun.
Along with Rav Bin-Nun’s take on Hametz, positing it as representative of the completion of a process, there is another, more basic reality about Hametz and about what it may represent.
Although on a molecular level there is certainly change which takes place in flour and water – that change is not visible (in a short time period) to the naked eye. Hametz, on the other hand, is the very soul of radical change. Flour and water, baked without leaven, can remain in that flat state (Matzah) for a long time and nothing much would change in the makeup of that bread. Once leaven is introduced, rapid change takes place – change which also introduces rapid entropy and mutation. Take a piece of Hametz and look at it several weeks later – the same leaven which caused it to rise and become glorious and airy – has introduced the mold which makes it inedible. Hametz represents immediate and radical change.
This explains why the Torah places such stringent prohibitions on the use of Hametz on Pesach. Although we might consider that Pesach is a time of change (from slavery to nobility, from darkness to a great light etc.), a quick look at the text of the Torah will give us a very different picture.
Throughout the Exodus narrative, we are reminded that the merit by which we were redeemed was an ancient covenant – going back to B’resheet 15 and the B’rit Bein haB’tarim (Covenant between the pieces). The very essence of Pesach is timelessness – that the B’rit was only dormant, not dead and that its time had come to be fulfilled. There is no room for Hametz on Pesach, because the celebration and commemoration of Pesach is the historical bond which we share with our ancestors going all the way back to the Exodus – and several hundred years before that. Indeed, Pesach can act as the model for the future Redemption because the absence of Hametz allows the experience to remain unchanged and alive.
We can explain the Sh’tei haLechem on Shavu’ot in this light. Although we are accumstomed to thinking of Shavu’ot as the commemoration of the Giving of the Torah, this association is not made anywhere in the T’nakh (the earliest source is the Book of Jubilees, an apocryphal work from the first two centuries BCE). Within the context of the Torah, Shavu’ot is purely an agricultural festival, commemorating the beginning of the wheat harvest.
Unlike Pesach, which represents the timeless nature of Jewish (meta-)history, the harvest season is a time which, by definition, we wish to see pass. It would be counterproductive (and, by definition, impossible) to have every day be the beginning of the harvest – it is specifically the change from growth, to harvest, to plowing etc. which causes the greatest blessings to be realized in the field. Hence, the offering brought on Shavu’ot is specifically Hametz – we are celebrating this particular time and its passage.
The thesis here is that unlike Zevachim which (following Ramban) represent Man’s desire to have a one-time “altar experience”, a Minchah represents Man’s yearning to stand in God’s presence at all times. This is the sentiment expressed by David:
One thing I asked of Hashem , that will I seek after: to live in the house of Hashem all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of Hashem , and to inquire in His Temple” (T’hillim 27:4).
It is not just the “Adam” (person) who brings a Minchah – it is the “Nefesh”, the essence of the person, that brings this offering in his attempt to come – and stay – close to God; to appease Him and enjoy His Presence. However, since the individual cannot practically stay in the Mikdash, in front of the altar and he must (sadly) depart – he leaves a piece of this offering behind, to commemorate not only his visit, but his yearning to stay. That is why the Kometz (fistful) is called an Azkarah – it commemorates his visit (almost, if you will, like signing a guest book).
Although it has been a number of years since I nestled in the safety of the Beit Midrash in Har Etzion, that experience is something which has a timeless component. I return there in my mind often and maintain those years as a series of unyellowed, fresh snapshots. I share this perception – which we all have in our souls with regards to some place or person in our past – to illustrate the ideology of the Minchah and the hopes of the person offering it. The endeavor of the Minchah is an experience which the Makriv (person bringing the offering) would like to have bronzed in time. His brief stand in the holiest of places, in front of the altar, in God’s Presence, is a moment out of time which (hopefully) lasts forever. As such, there is absolutely no room for Hametz in the composition of a Minchah – it represents the fleeting, the temporary, the passing event.
Salt, on the other hand, plays the exact opposite role. Where Hametz mutates, salt preserves. Salt is called the Melach B’rit (salt of the covenant) because just as salt preserves meat for a long time, the B’rit is preserved (and preserves us) forever. The Minchah, which represents Man’s desire to ever and always be standing “there”, is salted in order to represent that timelessness.
We now come to the one other exception to our Hametz-rule: Lachmei Todah – the loaves which accompany the Korban Todah.
The Korban Todah is not brought by someone who just feels gratitude; it is brought by someone who was in some sort of danger and was saved. The Gemara (Berakhot 54b) states: There are four [circumstances in which a person] must give thanks. [They are:] those who travel by sea, those who travel through a desert, someone who was imprisoned [or taken captive] and freed – and a sick person who was healed. (The B’rakhah known as “Birkat haGomel” is recited today in lieu of that Korban).
Unlike a conventional Korban Sh’lamim, which might be brought as a demonstration of goodwill (see above), the Korban Todah is brought in direct response to a potentially tragic situation which was averted by the grace of God. There is every reason to introduce Hametz here – because this is a situation which the person bringing it would not want to see repeated – it is not a “snapshot in time” which is cherished, rather a horrible possibility which we would never want to experience again.[Note that only 10 of the loaves are Hametz, whereas the other 30 are not. Perhaps the idea is that the person bringing it was in one of the four dangers mentioned (sea, desert, prison, illness) – so that 1/4 of the loaves are Hametz.]
Compare the Lachmei Todah with its “sister-Minchah” – the *Lachmei Eil Nazir*. When a Nazir completes a successful term of N’zirut (see Bamidbar 6), he brings an offering which includes a ram – and the ram is accompanied by 40 loaves. Here, however, all 40 are Matzah – no Hametz at all. According to our thesis, this is easy to understand. Much as the Nazir is returning to the “real world”, he likely sees the term (30 days or more) of N’zirut as an idyllic period of spiritual cleansing and sanctity – which he would like to preserve. Again, there is no room for Hametz here.
VIII V’ARVAH L’Hashem …
In Malakhi (3:4), we read a vision of the Messianic future which begins with this oft-quoted verse:
And the Minchah of Yehudah and Yerushalayim will be sweet to God, just as in days of old and like years past.
We can now approach this verse with a new understanding – the Minchah is the Korban which lasts forever and which, when God redeems us, will represent more than any other offering, the eternal link which we have with God and with the worship at His altar. Is it any wonder that Rav Kook zt”l was of the opinion that when the third Beit haMikdash is built, that all Korbanot will take on the spiritual flavor of the Minchah? The B’rit which God maintains, keeping us alive and restoring us to our Land, is symbolized by the eternal Korban Minchah.