Koschitzky Virtual Beit Midrash
Introduction to Parashat
Yeshivat Har Etzion
WHAT IS BEING OFFERED?
By Rabbi Yaakov Beasley
At first glance, the first word of our parasha and sefer,
"Vayikra"- "and He called," seems almost anticlimactic. With the completion of the
Mishkan's construction in last week's parasha, we would have
expected the inaugural celebration.
Instead, we are to wait several weeks (in the Torah readings) for the
occasion. Almost impatiently,
Hashem summons Moshe into the Ohel Moed. There are more laws to learn.
Precisely what laws Hashem taught to Moshe while he was in the Ohel
Moed, as opposed to his sojourn on top of Har Sinai, was already a source of
contention among the Tannaim:
Yishmael holds that the general rules of the halakhot were said at Sinai,
while the details of the halakhot were said at the Ohel Moed; R'
Akiva holds that both the general rules and the details were taught at Sinai,
repeated at the Ohel Moed, and taught a third time at Arvot Moav. (Chagiga 6a)
Mishkan provided an opportunity for expanding upon what had already been
taught, or simple review, we gain new insight into its purpose. A superficial reading of Sefer
Vayikra would conclude that its purpose would be to outline the
technicalities of the sacrificial cult.
By beginning with "Vayikra"- "and He called," the Torah
emphatically argues otherwise. The
Mishkan is nothing less than an extension of the relationship that began
at Sinai. Communication with the
Divine was not a one-time occurrence.
As long as the Ohel Moed stood in the center of the camp, a
connection between Heaven and Earth existed. For this reason, Rashi interprets our
book's opening words as follows:
Vayikra is the
language of precious chibba – care and tenderness (commentary to 1:1)
This may explain another anomaly
often overlooked. Looking back at
Sefer Bereishit and Sefer Shemot, we find numerous references to
sacrifices. However, never once are
they referred by the Hebrew name "Korban." Until now, the Torah described every
mention of a sacrifice as a "Zevach" or "olot" or
"shelamim" (see Noach and Har Sinai). Only in our book do we see the word
"Korban." According to the
commentators, the difference is clear:
most regrettable that we have no word that really reproduces the idea that lies
in the expression "Korban."
The unfortunate use of the term "sacrifice" implies giving up something
of value to oneself for the benefit of another, or having to do without
something of value, ideas not only entirely absent from the nature of
"Korban" but diametrically opposed to it. In addition, the idea of an 'offering'
presupposes a wish on the part of the one to whom it is brought … But the idea
of "Korban" is far away from all this. It is used exclusively with reference
with humanity's relationship with Hashem, and can only be understood from the
meaning that lies in its root, "K.R.V." – to approach, to come near, to
enter into a relationship. (R.
Shimshon Refael Hirsch, opening to Sefer Vayikra)
closeness (the root is K.R.V. – near); bringing things together … it
engenders compassion, never harshness.
That is why it is Korban L'Hashem, a gift to the name of
Hashem. However, Zevach is
brought to the name of God implying evaluation and judgment: "The Zevach of Elokim is a broken
spirit; God will not mock a broken heart … (Tehillim 51:19)" (the
distinction, we gain new insight into how our parasha orders the
Korbanot. In Parashat
Tzav, the Torah focuses on the varying levels of the sanctity of the
Korban. The Korban
Olah comes first, then the Korban Chatat, the Korban Asham,
and finally the Korban Shelamim.
We clearly see that those Korbanot offered entirely on the altar
come first; those Korbanot where the service must be close proximity of
the altar follow, and finally those whose consumption can occur anywhere within
the sanctified areas come last.
However, the order in our parasha reflects not the sanctity of the
offering, but the desire that leads to its being brought. The complete gift, the Korban Olah,
comes first. The Korban
Shelamim, shared between the owner and Hashem follows. Finally, the parasha mentions the
mandated Korban Chatat and the Korban Asham, which are never
brought as gift.
The appearance of the bird offerings and the flour offerings at the end
of Chapter 1 and the beginning of Chapter 2 supports this thesis. The interruption of the animal
sacrifices with the Korbanot Of and Mincha led to the
Abrabanel's ninth question: "Why does the Torah discuss the laws of the
Mincha in all its varieties prior to the Shelamim? After all,
since the Shelamim is taken from the cattle or from the herds, we would
have thought that it should be commanded prior to the Mincha." However, if the order follows the level
of closeness that the Korban symbolizes, then their appearance is
fitting. Chazal, sensitive
that these offerings reflected the poor economic circumstances of the person who
offered them, confidently stated that their value lay far beyond their monetary
his Korban is a bird (1:14): Is
there any smell that is more nauseating than that of burning feathers? Yet, you
say that the Kohen shall bring it all upon the altar (1:17)?! The only explanation is that the beauty
is found in a different way – it is beautiful with the offering of someone poor,
who can afford no better … (Vayikra Rabbah 3:5)
an individual soul presents a Korban Mincha (flour) … (2:1): Why does it mention here the 'soul,'
only as regards the Korban Mincha?
Because who is it that can only afford a Korban Mincha – the poor
man. If he brings Me a gift, I
regard it as if he has brought his very soul before me … (Rashi, quoting
Korban of the poor man is the most important to the Holy One, Blessed be
He, for that man is really bringing two gifts at once … [for beyond the
bird/flour he is] offering the Holy One, Blessed be he his heart, his care, his
spirit, his soul – And that is more precious – chaviv - than anything
else imaginable. [the
We have come
full circle from the language of precious chibba that begins our
parasha to the preciousness (chaviv) of the poor person's
offering. We see that our
parasha is not a dry listing of sacrificial practices. Instead, our parasha conveys one
steady theme – the closeness and proximity that we felt at Har Sinai has not
been severed. The Korbanot
offer humanity the ability to recreate the closeness and proximity. All that it
requires is a willingness to offer that which is most valuable - oneself.