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Judaism: Sacrificing to Hashem, Sacrificing for Hashem

This Dvar Torah is by Rabbi Baruch Winetraub, formerly head of the Toronto Torah Mitzion Kollel.
Published: Monday, March 17, 2014 4:59 AM


The redundancy in the laws of sacrifices

When we compare our week's Parshah (Torah reading) - Tzav to last week's – Vaykra, we see an interesting phenomena; the structure and order of these two parshiot are strikingly similar:

Vaykra begins with the laws of Olah (burnt offering) and the whole of Chapter 1 is dedicated to the various types of this offering; Parshat Tzav also opens with the laws of Olah, especially the Tamid (daily offering).

Vaykra continues to describe the Mincha (meal offering) to its different types in Chapter 2; Tzav, too, moves on to Menachot, and especially Minchat Cohen.

The rest of Vaykra elaborates the laws of Shelamim (peace offering), Chatat (sin offering) and Asham (guilt offering). Tzav is going through the same Korbanot, offerings, in a slightly different order – Chatat, Asham, Shelamim.

The parshiot's structure just described is begging the question – on what basis were the sacrifices laws diided into two?

Ramban, in his commentary at the beginning of Tzav, explains the difference between these two Parshiot. He makes a note of the fact, that while Vaykra begins with a call to the whole nation (Vaykra 1:2), Tzav begins with a call to the Cohanim (priests) alone (Vaykra 6:2). According to that, Ramban maintains, we can understand easily the dividing line between the Parshiot: Vaykra speaks about the sacrifice from the Human point of view, and that is why it address the whole nation; Tzav speaks about the sacrificing as a deed done by the Cohanim, and so only they are addressed.

It can be suggested, that the same reason underlines the slight order differences noted earlier. In Vaykra Shalamim comes before Chatat and Asham, because the Shlamim in eaten by the owner, and so has more importance from the giver's point of view. In Tzav Chatat and Asham are mentioned first, as or thfe altar they are more important and more of them is consumed on the altar than in the shlamim.

The Ramban's division, thus, explains the difference between the parashot; but it does not answer the question, what is so important in this division which caused the Torah to emphasize it so much. Would not it be simpler to write all the halakhot of each korban by itself, instead of splitting them to two different places?

My mentor, Rabbi Moshe Lichtenstein, a Rosh Yeshiva in Har Etzion (Gush), in an article called 'Zot Torat HaKorbanot' (Maamar HaZevach', P. 99), offers the following explanation – in every sacrifice there are two different aspects. On one hand, the sacrifice is a gift being given from man to G-d, and exists as a part of the intimate relationship between them. In this aspect, the Kohen is representing the giver and serves as his delegate. The second aspect of the sacrifice relates not to the giver but to the temple – the korban is holy because it is 'the altar's bread'. In this aspect, the Kohen is G-d's representative and delegate.

In his article, Rav Moshe continues to analyze this duality in the sacrifice – as a personal gift and as a part of the temple system – from an halakhic point of view. Here, I would like to focus on their philosophical basis.

Sacrifice to G-d, Sacrifice for G-d

Recently, Professor Moshe Halbertal published a short book named 'on sacrifice'. He divided the book into two sections, following two different but interrelated meanings of the term sacrifice. The first meaning is 'to sacrifice to…', and is describing a gift being given; but in contrast to a regular gift, being given to a recipient who can enjoy it, the sacrifice is being given as a part of relationship in which the giver cannot benefit the recipient in any way. The sacrifice, then, come in order to express the subordination of the giver, and its acceptance is validating the relationship. A rejection of a sacrifice, as happed to Cain, is not only a rejection of the sacrifice, but a rejection of the sacrificing man, and that was the reason to Cain's awful rage.

In its second sense – 'to sacrifice for…' – the sacrifice is not being seen as a part of a relationship but as a way to express acceptance and identification with a certain value. For example, we can say that someone 'sacrificed his best years' - or even his life - 'for the state of Israel'. Obviously, the state of Israel is not an existing being one can have relationship with or to give it gifts; rather, it is an idea, a value and a symbol. Thus, when I sacrifice 'for something' instead of 'to someone', my expectations are not to be acknowledged neither to get near someone; my purpose in the second type of the sacrifice is to realize and cherish a value. Sacrificing for something gives it strength and power beyond what it was before. It can be said, the force of the sacrifice that was made for something empowers it.

Our Sages, Chazal were well aware of that, as they said – "Rabbi Shimon Ben Elazar says: Every Mitzvah that Israel gave their life for at the time of persecution, as Avoda Zarah and Milah, they still hold to. And any Mitzvah they did not give their life for at the time of persecution, as Tefflin, they are still weak in keeping" (Shabbat 19a).

It seems, that these two meanings of Korban underline the division we saw earlier between Vayikra and Tzav. Vayikra speaks about sacrifice to G-d, as part of the relationship between man and his Creator. Tzav, on the other hand, expresses the importance of a sacrifice as being the altar's bread – unrelated to the question who brought the Korban and why – the mere fact that sacrifices are being brought on G-d's table is sanctifying His temple and His Name.