Musings of an Orthodox Jew

Thoughts on Torah and the Jewish world today.

Parshas Vayikra 5770- The offerings of the poor

There is an interesting distinction made when it is discussing the various sacrifices. The first major anomoly is with the bird offerings. it states the full bird, including its feathers, should be thrown onto the altar and burn as a “pleasing aroma to Hashem”. However, as anybody who has burnt a feather knows, the smell of a burning feather is repulsive so why is it stated as being a pleasing aroma? Rashi points out that the bird offering is being contrasted to the animal offering and through this we are being taught that Hashem wants the altar to be adorned with the offerings of the poor as much as with the offerings of the rich!

This is emphasised even more with the next category. With the animal sacrifices it refers to a man bringing the sacrifice- but for the flour sacrifice states a “nefesh”, a soul, brings the sacrifice. Here, Rashi points out that the Torah wants to emphasise that the flour offering of a poor man is viewed as if he had sacrificed his entire soul to Hashem. For him, it is far more difficult to bring this sacrifice than for a wealthy man, or poor but not impoverished man, to bring their sacrifrices.

What else can we learn from this? When we do teshuvah, it is not only for the righteous- but also for those poor in deeds. The tzadik’s teshuvah might be perfect, comparable to the Kohen gadol bringing a bull- but the Rashah who does true teshuvah, who turns his life around might only do so like the poor man who brings the flour sacrifice; but Hashem views his teshuvah as a complete reworking of his soul and such a person can stand in a place that a tzadik cannot reach!

A Mishnah in Pirkei Avot Chapter 4 emphasises the importance of repentance:
17. He (Rabbi Yaakov) would also say: A single moment of repentance and good deeds in this world is greater than all of the World to Come. And a single moment of bliss in the World to Come is greater than all of the present world.

There is another lesson that this teaches us: the flour of the poor man is viewed as an offering of his whole soul, a nefesh bings it, yet for all the other sacrifices it is only an adam. If we took the metaphorical view on this, why it would seem to emphasise the offering of the rashah over the tzadik? Here we are being taught humility- we should not conduct our lives as if we are great tzaddikim, as if we are perfect and never err; rather, we should always remember that we can stumble at anytime, that we need to continuously watch and evaluate our actions. As Hillel says in Pirkei Avot Chapter 2 Mishnah 4: Do not believe in yourself until the day you die.

Note: based on ideas found in Darash Moshe (R’ Moshe Feinstein zs”l on the Torah) and Biurei HaChofetz Chaim. Translations from Pirkei avot taken from the Chabad website


March 17, 2010 - Posted by | Parshah, Torah | , , , , , , , , , ,

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