by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek
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Parashas Tazria/Mezora 5767This week we read double parshios, both dealing with the laws of ritual purity. They begin with the laws of a woman after childbirth and go on to describe the laws of purification in other circumstances, when is necessary.
Let us examine a Rashi dealing with a woman's Temple offering after childbirth.
The woman, depending on her financial ability, may bring different types of offerings.
But if she cannot afford the cost of a lamb she shall take two doves or two young pigeons; one as a burnt offering and one as a sin-offering and the priest will atone for her and she will be purified.
One as a burnt-offering and one as a sin-offering: Rashi: The verse only placed [the burnt-offering] first for the purpose of reading [in the Torah] but regarding offering it the sin-offering precedes the burnt-offering. Thus we have learned in tractate Zevachim (90a) in the chapter kol hatadir."
WHAT IS RASHI SAYING?
The Torah tells us that a woman after childbirth is to bring two sacrificial offerings; a burnt offering and a sin offering. Rashi points out that the order of the sacrifices as listed in this verse, the burnt offering before the sin offering, is not the order that they are, in fact, to be offered in the Temple.
Your question on this comment:
A Question: How does Rashi know that the order here is not followed when these birds are sacrificed ?
Actually, to be fair to the student, we should point out that Rashi himself tells us that this is learned from the Talmud in Zevachim 90a. So the surest way of understanding this comment is to see what the Sages say in Zevachim.
Answer: The Sages cite a verse in parashas Vayikra ch. 5:7-9, where the Torah speaks of the guilt-offering ( a type of sin-offering). It says:
"....and he shall bring ...two doves or two pigeons for Hashem, one for a sin-offering and one for a burnt-offering. And he shall bring them to the priest and he should sacrifice the sin-offering first ....and the second should be made a burnt-offering, and the priest shall atone for him from his sin which he sinned, and he shall be forgiven."
We see clearly that the sin-offering is brought first, then the burnt-offering. The Sages learn that this order is to be followed whenever there are two offerings. This, then, is the source of Rashi's conclusion.
But we should still question this procedure.
QUESTIONING THE SAGES' CONCLUSION
A Question: Why is it necessary that the sin-offering be brought first?
Another Question: If the sin-offering is first, why is the order in the Torah reversed?
Hint: Rashi himself, deals with this question in Leviticus 5:8.
UNDERSTANDING THE SAGES' LESSON
An Answer: Rashi, on his commentary to Leviticus 5:8 writes:
"The sin offering precedes the burnt-offering. To what can this be compared?
To an advocate who entered (the palace) to obtain pardon for his client. (Once) the advocate gains pardon (with the sin-offering), the gift (burnt-offering) is brought afterwards."
The point being that atonement must first be made by means of the sin-offering, then, and only then, is it appropriate to give the gift, i.e. the burnt-offering. Giving the gift first would smack of bribery!
But, the question remains: Why, then, does the Torah in our verse, place the gift, the burnt-offering, before the sin-offering ?
Can you think of a reason?
A DEEPER UNDERSTANDING
A Possible Answer: The question must be asked: Why does a woman after childbirth have to bring a sin-offering at all? What sin has she committed? The Sages ( Tractate Nida 31b) explain that the reason for this offering is that while she experiences the painful birth pangs the woman may have sworn off any further relations with her husband, to prevent becoming pregnant again and having to go through the traumatic childbirth experience. Thus we see that in fact the woman did not sin in any "sinful" way. In her duress she uttered an oath, which she certainly didn't fully intend.
In view of this, I would suggest that perhaps the Torah mentioned the sin-offering last, after the burnt-offering, in order to de-emphasize its significance in this unusual case, because she is not really guilty of a terrible sin. Nevertheless, in actual practice the woman must first bring her sin-offering before her gift offering.
As with all sin offerings which are brought when one sins unintentionally, the Torah teaches us that we are accountable for all of our actions - willful or not - But if an act is done unintentionally we are accountable at a lesser level of responsibility. So too with the woman after childbirth.
This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
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