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A person... who brings an offering to G-d (1:2)
(For regular readers - the issue below was raised in a previous series. This year's presentation is a different approach)
The subjects of this Parasha are the categories of offerings brought to the Tabernacle (and later the Temple). Broadly they fall under three categories:
(a) The Olah - burnt offering, which is brought for thoughts associated with sin (following the Kli Yakar to 1:3), and carelessness.
(b) The Shelamim - peace offering - brought for several reasons, including thanksgiving and joy (c.f. Rashi to 7:12)
(c) The Chatat - sin offering - for accidentally transgressing one of the prohibitions of the Torah. That is followed by the Asham - guilt offering - for various specified situations involving sin.
However, the logical sequence would be Chatat, Olah, and Shelamim - 'starting with the worst and finishing with the best'. Going from sorrow to joy. What may be learnt from the order as set in the Torah - Olah, Shelamim, and Chatat? Inappropriate thoughts and intentions, followed by thanksgiving and joy, and only then, sin.
But the progress of the Parasha may imply the following uniqueness in our holy traditions.
In Jacob's famous dream, G-d appeared to him in the following way:
'There was a ladder placed on the ground whose top was reaching the heavens. Angels of G-d were going up and down it' (Gen. 28:12).
The ladder was placed on the ground. That symbolizes the spiritual starting point of a person, and for that matter the nation. The Torah accepts a person as he is, and presents the means to do better.
This is represented by the Olah - the burnt offering, whose smoke is made to 'rise' (c.f. 1:9) and whose details open the Parasha. The spelling of Olah also means to ascend - to go up.
That is the starting point of our holy traditions. A person should set his life to make progress and use his gifts positively, to the fullest extent. He should aspire, plan, and execute 'going from strength to strength'.
His progress should give him spiritual (as well as material) satisfaction. That brings us to the next type of offering - the Shelamim. That may be rendered as 'peace offering' but also 'being complete - at one' with G-d. Positive achievements - the steps up the ladder - bring spiritual well being and a closeness with the Creator, as one sees His Hand in success and achievements.
But Man is not perfect. A person may 'sin unintentionally' (4:2). This creates a feeling within him where, in spiritual terms, 'the angel takes him one step down the ladder'. It is not the ideal (therefore it is placed towards the end), but it is the reality of the human condition - however well intentioned. And the Torah emphasizes that one has to stop, take account of the misdeed (in Temple times represented by the sin offering) and 'he will be forgiven' (4:31, 35), so that he may return to ascend the ladder to even greater heights.
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.co.il/parsha/solomon/archives/archives.htm
Also by Jacob Solomon:
This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
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