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PARSHA61 -23: Parshat Vayikra

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Yeshivat Har Etzion's Israel Koschitzky Virtual Beit Midrash

Mar 28, 2001, 3:25:53 AM3/28/01
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This parasha series is dedicated
in memory of Michael Jotkowitz, z"l.


In memory of 10-month-old Shalhevet Pass z"l hy"d,
shot two days ago in Chevron, as well as the victims
of this morning's terrorist attack.
We pray for a refua shelema for Yitzchak Pass,
Daniella Fein, and the many others wounded in the recent

The Meal-Offering

By Rav Yonatan Grossman

Parashat Vayikra describes three types of voluntary
sacrifices, i.e., sacrifices which a person decides of
his own free will to bring to the mishkan. (Following
these, the parasha goes on to describe the obligatory
sacrifices: the sin offering [chatat] and the guilt
offering [asham], which a person is required to bring
under certain circumstances.)

The various options open to a person wishing to
bring a voluntary sacrifice are the burnt offering (olah
– chapter 1), the mincha (chapter 2) or the shelamim
(chapter 3). While the olah and shelamim are animal
sacrifices, the mincha is not: "his offering shall be of
fine flour (solet)" (2:1).

I would like to address one of the major questions
that arises in view of the location of the commandment
concerning the mincha sacrifice.

The literary style of the Torah is such that a
general rule is usually followed by various details
pertaining to that general rule. The formulation is
usually in the form of "When (ki)… if (im)…" In other
words, the general rule opens with the word "ki," and the
details are introduced with the word "im." An outstanding
example of this is to be found in parashat Mishpatim,
where there are several general laws ("ki") followed by a
list of possible specific cases ("im"), for example:

"When (ki) you buy a Hebrew servant, he shall labor
for six years, and in the seventh he shall go out
free, for nothing.
If (im) he came in [to servitude] by himself, he
shall leave by himself.
If (im) he is married, his wife shall leave with him.
If (im) his master gave him a wife and she bore him
sons or daughters, the wife and her children will be
her master's, and he will go out by himself.
And if (ve-im) the servant should say…" (Shemot 21:2-

A similar phenomenon is to be found in parashat
Vayikra, where the Torah again supplies a general
introduction using the word "ki," and then lists details
beginning with "im." Thus we find at the beginning of the
parasha dealing with the sacrifices:

"When (ki) a person from among you brings a sacrifice
to God, from the cattle – from the herd and from the
flock – shall you bring your sacrifice.
If (im) his sacrifice is a burnt offering (olah)…
And if (im) his sacrifice is from the flocks – from
the sheep or from the goats, as a burnt offering…
And if (im) his burnt offering to God is from the

The general introduction deals with a person who
wishes to bring an animal sacrifice, and thereafter the
text starts to list the various options available to this
person. The first possibility is that of an "olah," which
itself is further subdivided – it may be "from the
cattle," "from the flock" or "from the birds."

Now the reader expects to find further options for
animal sacrifices, since otherwise the introduction,
"When a person from among you brings a sacrifice to God,
from the cattle…" is not appropriate as an introduction,
but rather represents a single law that stands on its
own. Indeed, the continuation of the list of
possibilities for animal sacrifices is resumed at the
beginning of chapter 3:

"And if (ve-im) his sacrifice is a peace offering:
If (im) he offers it from the herd…
And if (ve-im) his offering is from the flock…"

Thus, there are two categories of possibilities from
which the person wishing to offer an animal sacrifice may
choose: either an "olah" (burnt offering) or a "shelamim"
(peace offering).

However, the order of the different sacrifices is
not as we would have expected. After the laws pertaining
to the olah in chapter 1, the text – surprisingly enough
– goes on to discuss the mincha (chapter 2). This
sacrifice cannot represent an additional instance that
falls under the general introduction with which the
parasha of the sacrifices began, because the introduction
specifically mentions an animal sacrifice, while the
mincha is a vegetable sacrifice!

This is further substantiated by the fact that the
mincha opens with its own, new introduction ("ki"):

"And when (ki) a person offers a mincha sacrifice to
God, his offering shall be of fine flour." (2:1)

Without doubt, this introduction is meant to serve
as a parallel to the previous one, with which the animal
sacrifices began:

"When (ki) a person from among you brings a sacrifice
to God, from the cattle – from the herd and from the
flock – shall you bring your sacrifice." (1:2)

Chapter 2, then, starts with its own independent
introduction, since the Torah is now going to discuss a
meal offering, while the original introduction prepared
us for animal sacrifices. Why, then, does the text
interrupt its discussion of animal sacrifices and start a
new discussion concerning the flour offering, and only
thereafter continue with another animal sacrifice – the
"zevach shelamim," which complements the olah? This is
the Abarbanel's ninth question on our parasha:

"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."

I follow the lead of R. David Zvi Hoffmann with
regard to this question. The Malbim explains that
apparently the mincha is mentioned in close proximity
with the olah because of the internal connection between
them. In other words, the mincha is a sort of "comment in
parentheses" that is mentioned here in connection with
the olah. R. Hoffmann shows that in essence the mincha
too, like the olah, is offered in its entirety to God,
but God decides to give of it to His servants, the
kohanim. This we learn from the law of a special mincha
of which the kohanim are forbidden to partake – the
"minchat chinukh shel kohen" (initiatory meal offering of
the kohen):

"It is a statute forever to God; it shall be entirely
burnt. And every meal offering of the kohen shall be
entirely burnt; it shall not be eaten." (6:-15-16)

If, for whatever reason, the kohanim do not eat
their portion of the mincha sacrifice, then the mincha is
offered in its entirety to God, as an "olah."

This law is especially interesting when compared
with that of another sacrifice in similar circumstances
(i.e., where the kohanim are prevented from consuming
their portion of the meat), where the sacrifice is not
burnt in its entirety (like the minchat chinukh), but
rather the portion usually set aside for the kohen is
burnt outside of the camp. This is the law of the innards
of the "chatat" sacrifices, which, because their blood is
absorbed inwards, are forbidden to be eaten, and the meat
is therefore burnt outside of the camp (4:12, 21).

Thus the mincha in essence belongs to the altar,
even if the kohanim usually eat part of it.

In light of this, we can understand another law that
appears in the parasha of the mincha. The law regulating
the partaking of the sacrifices by the kohanim or – in
the case of the shelamim – by the person who brings the
sacrifice, always appears only in the second listing of
the sacrifices, in parashat Tzav. An exception to this
rule is the mincha, concerning which we are told already
in parashat Vayikra that whatever remains of it may be
eaten by the kohanim. Perhaps the Torah sees fit to
"explain" how it happens that the kohanim eat of a
sacrifice that is supposed to be offered in its entirety
to God. The explanation is formulated in the following

"And that which remains of the mincha is for Aharon
and his sons; it is a holy of holies of the offerings
made by fire to God." (2:3, 10)

Although the kohanim eat of the mincha, it istill to
be regarded as having been offered entirely to God, and
the kohanim are given the privilege of eating "from God's
table," as it were.

Indeed, the mincha is very often juxtaposed with the
olah. Sometimes the shelamim is presented in contrast.
Thus, for example, in the story of the altar built by the
children of Reuven, Gad and the half-tribe of Menasheh:
"…or to offer a burnt offering or a meal offering upon
it, or to offer peace offerings upon it" (Yehoshua 22:23)
– the olah and mincha on one hand, the shelamim on the

Because of this connection between the olah and
mincha, the text juxtaposes these two sacrifices even
though the mincha is not one of the categories that falls
under the first heading, which deals specifically with
animal sacrifices.

A similar idea is presented by the Abarbanel (2:1):

"The mincha offerings are mentioned prior to the
shelamim for two reasons: In order to prioritize the
levels of the olah… and the mincha is among them;
therefore after mentioning the olah from the cattle,
which is the most superior, and the olah of the
flocks which is the next level, and then the olah of
the birds which is after that, the Torah mentions the
mincha WHICH IS ALSO AN OLAH and its level is one
lower than that of the olah of the birds, since an
animal of any type is superior to a meal sacrifice.
But the shelamim is not an olah, and therefore it is
mentioned last."

The essential connection between these two
sacrifices (expressed in the halakhic connection between
them) turns on the intention of the person who offers
them: each involves an attitude of complete sacrifice
before the Master of the Universe, a psychological sense
of unworthiness to stand before God – an attitude of
honor and awe.

[The olah contains a note of atonement even though
it is a free-will offering – "…it shall be accepted for
him to atone for him" (1:4). This is the impression we
gain from the olah sacrifices offered by Iyov for his
children: "…for Iyov said, Perhaps my children have
sinned, an have cursed God in their hearts" (Iyov 1:5).
See also the Ramban's commentary on 1:4.]

But at the same time there would appear to be a
fundamental difference between the olah and the mincha
(in contrast with the Abarbanel's proposition that they
are to be considered identical). The hint at the
difference between them is to be found in the two
introductions. In the case of the olah, the Torah begins
with the words, "adam ki yakriv" (literally, "a person,
when he offers…"), while the mincha opens with the words,
"ve-nefesh ki yakriv" (literally, "a soul, when he
offers…"). Chazal note this discrepancy:

"For what reason is the [introduction to the] mincha
changed, to say 'nefesh?' The Holy One said, Who is
it who usually brings a mincha? A poor person. I will
[therefore] consider it as though he sacrifices his
soul (nefesh) before Me." (Menachot 104b)

The discrepancy in the introduction may also hint at
something else. In the context of sacrifices, the term
"nefesh" has a clear association:

"For the life (nefesh) of the flesh is in the blood,
and I have given it to you upon the altar to atone
for your souls (nafshotekhem), for it is the blood
that makes atonement for the soul (nefesh)." (Vayikra

"Nefesh" expresses the life itself, embodied in the
blood – including the blood of the olah that is offered
upon the altar. We may therefore propose that in the case
of those sacrifices whose blood is offered, we cannot
speak of a "nefesh" offering the sacrifice, since the
nefesh (or at least that which symbolizes it) is
sacrificed on the altar. However, in the case of the
mincha, where there is no blood – i.e., the nefesh is not
offered upon the altar – we may say that it is the nefesh
which offers the sacrifice.

In other words, by the act of sacrificing an animal
the worshipper declares that his life, his very
existence, belongs to his Maker, and therefore he offers
a life upon the altar. By offering a mincha he is
declaring something not about his life but rather about
his food and his other vital needs. A person brings his
meal to the mishkan, adds oil (a symbol of wealth [1])
and levona (a symbol of contentment, according to some of
the commentaries – see Rav S.R. Hirsch) and declares that
all of this does not belong to him and he is not worthy
of it, and therefore he brings it to its true Owner – the
Master of the Universe.

This idea also finds expression in the quantity of
fine flour that is always required for a mincha offering:
a tenth of an "efa." This quantity apparently represents
a person's food for one day. This we learn from the
parasha of the manna, where Bnei Yisrael are required to
take an "omer" per person each day (Shemot 16:16). At the
end of the parasha we read, "And the omer is a tenth of
an ef"" (Shemot 16:36) – teaching us that a person's food
for one day is a tenth of an efa. Rashi immediately
comments on the connection with the mincha: "A tenth of
an efa… and that is the set quantity for challa and for
mincha offerings" (Shemot 16:36). There seems to be a
profound connection between the descent of the manna –
God providing food for man – and the mincha offering,
where man "gives" food upon the altar, but a discussion
of this idea lies outside the scope of this shiur. In any
event, by bringing a mincha a person offers his daily
bread to its true owner – God.

In summary, the mincha offering appears immediately
after the laws of the olah because of the close
connection between them – a connection related to the
religious declaration that accompanies each of these, in
which the person expresses his sense of unworthiness of
all the good that God is showering upon him.[2] The
religious feeling that is expressed in the olah pertains
to the person's very existence: he feels that his life is
not his own, and he sacrifices a "life" – a "soul" – upon
the altar. In contrast – or perhaps as a continuation –
the sentiment that finds expression in the mincha
pertains to a person's needs – his food and physical
welfare. These, as it were, he brings to the altar as a
declaration that he is unworthy of them, and that God is
their true owner.

(Translated by Kaeren Fish)


[1] We see that oil (shemen) is a symbol of wealth in
Yaakov's blessing to Asher: "From Asher his bread will be
fat (shemena)" (Bereishit 49:20), and in the instructions
Moshe gives to the spies who are sent to Canaan: "Whether
[the land] is fat (shemena) or thin" (Bemidbar 13:20).

[2] This is in contrast to the shelamim, which expresses
a completely different religious sentiment – a feeling of
joy and neighborliness. This idea was addressed in the
VBM shiur on parashat Tzav two years ago.

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