HOW CAN WE BRING THE SACRIFICES TODAY?
March 25, 2015
Rabbi H. Greenberg in #967, Parsha Thought, VaYikra

THE FIVE OFFERINGS

The Biblical book of Leviticus (VaYikra) is devoted to the laws of the various offerings in the Bais HaMikdash. This week’s parsha, Tzav, speaks of the Ola Mincha, Chatas, Asham and Shlamim offerings, among others.

When the Torah introduces these five offerings, it introduces each of them with the identical words: “This is the law (Toras) of the…” followed by either: “Ola-Burnt Offering; “Mincha-Meal Offering”; “Chatas-Sin Offering”; “Asham-Guilt Offering”; or “Shlamim-Peace Offering.”

The Talmud and Midrash derive from these introductory phrases that when one studies the laws concerning these offerings, the Torah regards it as if one had actually brought them to the Bais HaMikdash.

The question has been asked, why the Torah needed to make this introductory lesson separately for each of the five offerings in this week’s parsha? Why the need for five separate but identical lessons?

TORAH AND INTIMACY

Upon deeper analysis we can see that each one of these offerings pose a different challenge for us to be able to replace them with Torah study.

The Ola offering was unique because it was burnt on the Altar in its entirety. This offering alludes metaphorically to people whose passion for G-d is total. No part of their personality is held back from their devotion to G-d.

How does Torah study, a cerebral exercise, take the place of unbridled passion for G-d?

A simple yet profound explanation can be offered:

Torah is G-d’s expression of love for us. It is through the Torah that we have become “betrothed” to G-d, as it were. A well-known Biblical phrase concerning the Torah alludes to this: “The Torah Moses commanded us as an inheritance to the assembly of Jacob.” The word for inheritance in Hebrew is morasha, which the Talmud says can also be rendered me’urasa-betrothed. No other nation, the Talmud rules, may study Torah the way we do because to do so would violate the law against adultery!

To be sure, the nations of the world are encouraged to study the teachings of the Torah that relate to the observance of their Seven Noachide Commandments. But, G-d vouchsafed Torah as a life-partner to the Jewish people exclusively.

The passion that one expressed through the all-encompassing Ola offering can be replaced now by the all-embracing manifestation of love and intimacy one experiences with G-d’s Torah.

TORAH: ELICITS THE SOUL

The Mincha offering too possessed its own uniqueness. It is by far the least extravagant of the offerings and one might think it was, therefore, also the least significant.

In truth, the opposite is true. When the Torah introduced the Mincha offering in last week’s Parsha it said, “When a Nefesh-person-soul offers a Mincha-meal-offering…” Rashi cites the Talmud’s discussion as to why the Torah introduces the Mincha with the word nefesh, which also means soul. The answer is: “Whose custom is it to bring a Mincha? A poor person. Says the Holy One, Blessed is He, ‘I regard it as if he has brought his own soul.’”

When a person who might be poor, in the sense of a lack of sophistication, intellectual or spiritual prowess, makes a seemingly nominal gesture to get closer to G-d, He regards it as if they had given everything. Precisely because this individual is so bereft of high qualities, his or her insignificant gesture is indeed more profound than that of the spiritual sophisticate who brings the Ola, totally consumed with a passion for G-d in every fiber of his being.

While the sophisticated person brings the totality of his or her knowledge, emotions and actions to the worship of G-d, the simple Jew brings his or her soul!

By introducing the Mincha offering with the words “This is the Torah of…” the Torah instructs us that the value of Torah study is measured not by the quantity but by the effort put into it. As the Talmud puts it: “Whether one does a lot or a little; as long as his heart is directed towards Heaven.”

The power of Torah study to achieve that which a Mincha offering would arises when it is studied as a poor man’s offering, with humility. Consider what we say at the end of the Amida prayer: “Let my soul be as dust for all,” which is then followed by “open my heart to Your Torah.” When we study Torah with a poor person’s sincerity and humility we offer our very soul to G-d, not just our external faculties.

 TORAH: “SPICES” THE ANIMAL SOUL

The Chatas-Sin-Offering is likewise unique. While the offering was not entirely consumed on the Altar like the Ola, it possessed another salient feature:

The Sin-Offering atoned for certain serious breaches of the Torah. However, it was only offered for the unintentional violation of these prohibitions.

Why would a person who transgresses unwittingly be in need of atonement?

Chassidus explains that the unwitting commission of a sin is a sign that one’s animal nature is still untamed, causing one to gravitate towards transgression without even realizing it. If our Animal Souls were refined and receptive to our G-dly souls, with whom they share “occupancy” of our bodies, we would never be prone to an unintentional sin. It is said of a Tzaddik that he or she is protected from doing even an unintentional sin. In one respect, the inadvertent transgression is even more serious than an occasional lapse into committing an intentional sin.

For example, one might lose his temper for which one must certainly atone by seeking forgiveness. Contrast that with a person who loses sensitivity to another’s needs and behaves in a way that causes pain and anguish without even realizing it. The latter situation is more egregious for two reasons.

First, it is a sign that one’s Animal Soul is simply out of touch with decency and civility.

Second, when a person commits a crime with malice and forethought, he or she is aware that it is a crime. As a result there is a strong chance that he or she will seek ways to make amends. Not so those who don’t even realize that they have done something wrong.

The objective of offering an animal as a form of atonement was symbolically to bring sensitivity to the Animal Soul.

By introducing the section concerning the Sin Offering with the words, “This is the Torah of…” the Torah suggests that study of its teachings regarding this sacrifice is a suitable substitute for refining the Animal Soul.

This is consonant with the Talmud’s statement that Torah can “spice” one’s Yetzer Hara-Evil Impulse. The spicing metaphor implies that our Animal Soul, which houses the Yetzer Hara, does not have to be eliminated; instead, it has to be refined and edified.

TORAH: SHEDDING LIGHT ON OUR INNER SELVES

The Asham-Guilt Offering takes the lesson of the Torah’s refinement of the Animal Soul a step further. The Asham was brought by a person who wasn’t sure if he had actually transgressed. The Rebbe explains (Likkutei Sichos Volume 3 p. 946) that, in a certain sense, this person’s Animal Soul is so desensitized that he or she isn’t even aware of sinning. This phenomenon points to a much more deeply rooted spiritual and moral problem. It takes a most powerful spiritual “drill” to reach into the deepest recesses of the Animal Soul and get to the root of the problem.

The Asham gave the person bringing the offering the resources to extricate his Animal Soul from its trapped state and lead it to a state of closeness to G-d, alongside his G-dly soul.

Proper Torah study, specifically the study of the laws of the Asham, serves as a substitute because it too can reach deep into the inner layers of the Animal Soul and cause its refinement. Torah is called the light which can expose things that were previously concealed. Torah shines a light on our inner personality, exposes our Animal Soul’s insensitivity and then serves as the medicine or “spice” to refine and transform it.

TORAH: THE
SOURCE OF PEACE

The Shlamim-Peace Offering is so called because it was “shared.” A part of it was “given” to G-d and consumed on the Altar, a second part was given to the Kohen, and a third part of it was enjoyed by its owner. It represents a threefold peace: Peace between us and G-d, peace between one Jew and another and peace between body and soul.

We can easily understand how Torah study can serve as a substitute for bringing the Shlamim:

Proverbs describes Torah as the source of peace: “Its ways are pleasant ways, and all its paths are peace.” Moreover, our Sages declared: “Torah was given to make peace in the world.” Kabbala teaches that Torah corresponds to the attribute of tiferes, beauty and harmony. It is a synthesis of chesed-kindness and g’vura-judgment; fire and water.

GALUS: ALL OF THE ABOVE

In short: Torah study is the ultimate experience of intimacy with G-d (Ola); reveals the inner soul of the Jew (Mincha); has the capacity to heal and spice the Animal Soul (Chatas); can expose and shed light on the most deeply rooted flaws of the Animal Soul (Asham) and brings peace on all levels (Shlamim).

Torah is thus the most fitting medium by which we may rectify the symptoms of Galus, which is marked by a lack of the passion and intimacy generated through the Ola. Galus makes it difficult to express our inner soul (Mincha), and our Animal Souls are desensitized to their utmost (Chatas). We are often not even aware of the darkness in which we live (Asham). We certainly need the power of the Shlamim to rectify the lack of peace in all three areas.

The straightforward way to get ourselves out of Galus, as the Rebbe exhorted us on so many occasions, is to study Torah, specifically the parts that deal with Moshiach and Redemption. This is the easiest way for us to bring Moshiach, whose Torah teachings will obviate the need for any of the above-mentioned sacrifices. As our Sages state: “In the Messianic Age all sacrifices will cease except for the Thanksgiving offering” (also discussed in this week’s parsha), to express our gratitude for the imminent Redemption.

Article originally appeared on Beis Moshiach Magazine (http://beismoshiachmagazine.org/).
See website for complete article licensing information.