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G-d spoke to Moses, saying: 'This is the law of the sin offering. You slaughter the sin offering in the place that you slaughter the burnt offering…' (6:17-18)
The subjects both this week's Parasha and the previous week's Parasha were the categories of offerings brought to the Tabernacle (and later the Temple). They fall under four categories:
(a) The Olah (chapter 1 and 2) - burnt offering (animal or grain-based) - usually brought on a voluntary basis. This week's Parasha revisits the Olah from the kohen's point of view. Part is eaten by the kohen (priest), and the rest is burnt 'as a fire offering to G-d'. Those that bring do not partake.
(b) The Shelamim (chapter 3) - peace offering - brought for several reasons, including thanksgiving and joy (c.f. Rashi to 7:12). Again, this week's Parasha revisits the Shelamim from the kohen's point of view. Part is eaten by the kohen. And those that bring do partake.
(c) The Chatat (chapter 4) - sin offering - for accidentally transgressing one of the prohibitions of the Torah. Once more, this week's Parasha revisits the Chatat from the kohen's point of view. Part is eaten by the kohen. Those that bring do not partake.
(d) The Asham (chapter 5) - guilt offering - for various specified situations involving sin, including stealing on purpose with willful denial. And yet again, this week's Parasha revisits the Asham from the kohen's point of view. Part is eaten by the kohen (priest). Those that bring do not partake.
Thus combined, the two parashiot present the offerings in two frameworks. First, from the viewpoint of the public. And then from the viewpoint of the kohen.
It may be suggested that the Torah's placing the offerings in first the people's framework, and then the kohen's framework is to teach us the following lesson. Very often, the most successful enterprises of all descriptions come from need, come from demand. First the want has to be there, and if it is worthy, it must be stimulated. Secondly the people who satisfy that want have to know what they are doing - as the kohen had to. And only finally comes the opening ceremony with the formalities that set the tone for the services provided in the future.
It often happens that someone embarks on a worthy project - such as a new scheme offering higher education - without patiently researching whether people are actually interested in taking part when there are so many other well-established activities competing for their attention and custom. The message of the arrangement of the parashiot shows that - first the want must be created. In this case, people must recognize the need for centralized worship - be it of the Temple or synagogue variety. Next, and in that order, resources should be applied to prepare suitable people to administer and conduct those services. And only finally - with the appropriate formality - should the institution and/or service be launched for the community it is meant to serve.
I remember hearing one remark made by a head of a community in my youth, whereby he defined a successful kehilla as one which outgrew its smaller premises and had no choice, but construct the larger ones. The people came first, then the buildings and facilities. Not the other way round.
For those looking for more comprehensive material, questions and answers on the Parasha may be found at http://www.shemayisrael.com/parsha/solomon/questions/ and on the material on the Haftara at http://www.shemayisrael.com/parsha/solomon/haftara/ .
Written by Jacob Solomon. Tel 02 673 7998. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org for any points you wish to raise and/or to join those that receive this Parasha sheet every week.
Parashiot from the First, Second, and Third Series may be viewed on the Shema Yisrael web-site: http://www.shemayisrael.com/parsha/solomon/archives/archives.htm
Also by Jacob Solomon:
This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
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