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A person... who brings an offering to G-d (1:2)
The subjects of this Parasha are 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. 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). 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. Part is eaten by the kohen (priest. 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. Part is eaten by the kohen (priest). Those that bring do not partake.
It may be suggested that the offerings are categorized and arranged in that order for the teaching outlined below.
The Tabernacle (and later the Temple) was the place where the shechina (divine presence) was at its most intense. The act of bringing offerings enabled the public to interact with the Creator at a spiritually very high level – in the spirit of. ‘Seek the Lord where He is to be found: call upon Him where He is near’ (Isaiah 55:6).
But there are different reasons why a person might ‘seek G-d’.
At the lowest level relevant to the Parasha (chapter 5), a person steals deliberately, lies about it on purpose, and then owns up to the truth. He is not cut off from his people, but has, and takes, the opportunity to put things right. Having confessed his intentional sin (c.f. Num. 5:7), he connects to G-d in bringing an asham – guilt offering.
The next level upwards (chapter 4) is where a person sins accidentally. Having recognized his inadvertent sin, he connects to G-d in bringing a chatat – a sin offering.
Above that (chapter 3) is where a person has not sinned at all, but feels he owes a special ‘thank you’ to G-d for ‘looking out for him’. The individual does not connect to G-d to avoid divine punishment, but out of genuine gratitude to Him. That level is hakarat hatov – gratitude, serving G-d with ‘joy and good heart’ (c.f. Deut. 28:47). He brings a korban shelamim.
However, that person joins in the feast. He does benefit. In eating part of the offering, he does not go home hungry.
But the highest level is where he takes upon himself (c.f. Rashi to 1:3) to bring a voluntary burnt offering. He does not have to do it. He does not benefit. And in not being allowed to eat any part of the offering, he might well indeed go home hungry.
That symbolizes the highest level of service to G-d – expressed in keeping the mitzvot between Man and G-d and between Man and Man. He carry out what is right in terms of his service to the Creator, without any thought of what he might personally get out of it.
It is for that reason that the Parasha opens with the olah – as it is the offering at the highest level.
Perhaps the word olah – from the root of the word ‘to go up’ – means precisely that – ‘the highest level’.
And maybe that explains why Rashi (to 1:17) brings ‘whether he brings a lot or a little – the most important thing is that his intentions are for the sake of Heaven’ – as a comment on the olah offering only…
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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