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This is the law of the… peace offering (Shelamim)… if he shall offer it as a thanksgiving offering… (7:11-12).
The previous week's parasha places the shelamim before the chatat (sin offering) and the asham (guilt offering). The shelamim is brought for several reasons, including thanksgiving and joy (c.f. Rashi to 7:12). It appears to have a voluntary element to it. In contrast, the chatat is brought for accidentally transgressing one of the prohibitions of the Torah. And the asham is offered as atonement for various specified situations involving sin, including stealing on purpose with willful denial. The chatat and the asham are requirements; they are compulsory.
This week's parasha places the offerings in a different order. The chatat and the asham come before the shelamim, not afterwards. After the shelamim comes a commandment not mentioned in last week's parasha at all: "You may not eat any blood… whether from birds or from animals" (7:26), though it is mentioned much later on with "No-one may eat blood" (17:12).
The change in order in this week's Parasha may perhaps be explained in the following way. Underlying the order of its content is the fundamental way that the Jewish people relate to G-d. The atmosphere of the chatat and the asham is severe. Like Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, they both contain the penitential element; for example "the priest shall effect forgiveness for his sin" (4:35). In contrast, the atmosphere of bringing the shelamim is likely to be more relaxed. No sin is involved, but gratitude. It is thanking G-d for being cured from sickness or having come safely through a hazardous journey that prompts gratitude to be expressed as a gift - in this way.
On one side that is very good. It shows serving G-d out of joy, not out of fear of Divine Justice. It is a higher spiritual stage. But that might mean that a person feels that he or she can take greater liberties because of feeling like an "insider" to "G-d's Circle". A person can feel that failings in other mitzvot may be "overlooked" for being "one of the family".
That, the Torah tell us, is not the case. The prohibition of blood - whether or not associated with the offerings, may not be eaten even by a person that feels "one of the family". In the similar spirit, a person is expected to observe the mitzvot on happy, non-penitential occasions such as Sukkot and Simchat Torah, not just on Rosh Hashanah and Simchat Torah. And the same applies today with synagogue worship. Decorum is not just for synagogues whose members tend to turn up once a week only - in their minds, giving G-d His Weekly Due. It applies equally to those who regularly attend three times a day. Just because by so doing they feel in the Inner Circle does not give a licence to behave less appropriately…
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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