The Korban Minchah
By Rabbi Yitzchak Etshalom
OVERVIEW OF SEFER VAYYIKRA
Sefer Vayyikra is devoted to the subject of Shekhinah - God's Presence among
the Jewish People. The Sefer can be broken up, in broad strokes, into the
Ch. - Topic
1-7: Korbanot (offerings)
8: Investiture of Kohanim
9-10: Inauguration of the Mishkan
11-15: Various Sources of Impurity
(which render one unfit to participate in
16: Purification of the Mishkan (Yom haKippurim)
17: Laws Related to Offerings
18-20: Sanctity of the People
21-22: Sanctity of the Kohanim
23: Festivals (and their "Mishkan" aspect)
24: Additional Offerings
25: Sanctity of the Land
26: Covenantal Blessing and Warning
27: Sanctified Objects
Parashot Vayyikra and Tzav overlap two of these topics (Korbanot and
Investiture of the Kohanim); we will focus on the first of these - and on
the first seven chapters of Vayyikra.
VAYYIKRA & TZAV: DIFFERENT PRESENTATIONS
Although we have listed the first seven chapters under the title "Korbanot",
there is a significant difference in the presentation of the Korbanot in
Parashat Vayyikra (Chapters 1-5) and that in Parashat Tzav (Chapters 6-7)
(which, at a cursory glance, seem to be somewhat redundant). Whereas the
presentation in Vayyikra comes from the non-Kohanic perspective - i.e. from
the point of view of the "bringer" of the offering - the presentation in
Tzav is Kohanic in function. Each of the Korbanot is introduced with the
phrase *Zot Torat ha...* - "this is the instruction regarding [the offering]
of ...". In Parashat Vayyikra, the emphasis is on what types of
circumstances would motivate the bringing of an offering, what type of
animal (or grain) is brought etc. In Tzav, the focus is on the procedure of
the officiant Kohen once the offering has been brought.
KORBANOT: DEFINITIONS AND CATEGORIES
The word Korban is traditionally translated as "sacrifice". Regardless of
what the original meaning of "sacrifice" was (it probably comes from a
combination of Latin words - meaning "to make holy"), its common usage bears
little - if any - resemblance to the ideology -or etymology - of a Korban.
In conventional English, a sacrifice is something given up in exchange for
nothing - but on behalf of a noble cause (e.g. defense of country, raising
children etc.) The word Korban, on the other hand, comes from the Hebrew
root "K*R*B - meaning "to come close". A Korban is a vehicle for Man to come
close to God. For purposes of this shiur, we will either refer to these
offerings as Korbanot (plural of Korban) or as "offerings".
There are, generally speaking, two types of Korbanot: Zevachim (lit.
"slaughtered") and Menachot (grain offerings). Although we will focus on the
Korban Minchah, a brief overview of Zevachim is in order - and it will help
us understand the phenomenology of the Korban Minchah with greater insight.
ZEVACHIM: AN OVERVIEW
There are four basic types of Zevachim. (My thanks to the Judaic Seminar
list, from whose archives I copies this synopsis)
1. OLAH: "ascend", seems to refer to this sacrifice's distinctive feature,
that the offering is completely burnt on the altar (except for the hide,
which is given to the participating priest), thus it totally "ascends" to
God. Only male animals or doves or pigeons (male or female) are acceptable.
2. SH'LAMIM: from "shalem" or "shalom", presents many possible
interpretations. It may express a sense of "well-being"; "wholeheartedness"
with God; a gift of "greeting" to God; or perhaps "completeness" (altar,
donor and priest all sharing in it). Male or female animals are acceptable
but not birds. Certain fat and internal organs are placed on the altar by
the kohanim. The remainder, almost the whole animal, is permitted to be
eaten. In Vayyikra Chapter 7, the Torah ordains that any pure person is
permitted to partake of the Sh'lamim, thus allowing the donor to share it
with family and invitees. Eating the Sh'lamim is permitted during the day
and night of the offering and the day following and was not restricted to
the sanctuary precincts. The "todah" (thanksgiving offering) - a Sh'lamim
subdivision - is an exception in that it is only allowed to be eaten the day
of its offering and the night following. Kohanim receive the breast and the
An individual's olah and Sh'lamim are voluntary offerings. Although their
names may connote certain purposes, and expiation was mentioned in
connection with the olah, the reasons why one may bring an olah are not
provided. [Note that Hazal do provide several explanations for the 'Olah -
notably, that it is a form of expiation for neglected Mitzvot Aseh.]
3. HATTAT: "sin-offering", refers only to unintentional sins, generally
those that had they been done intentionally are culpable of "karet".
Carelessness and inadvertence indicate laxness as concerns one's
responsibilities; such transgressions defile the sanctuary. The hattat,
bringing purification and expiation to the sanctuary, is a mandatory part of
the unintentional sinner's repentance process. With the exception of the
Asham brought for withholding testimony, intentional sins can not be
expiated by means of a sacrifice.
Four classes of hattat, varying according to the offender's status and
without reference to the particular transgression, are itemized - those of:
a) the Kohen Gadol;
b) the whole community of Israel (explained by the sages as based on a high
c) the Nasi (including the king);
d) any individual.
From the sanctuary perspective the first two classes reflect a graver
transgression, impacting the spiritual welfare of the nation, and require an
elaborate ritual involving a young bull, a blood- sprinkling ritual on the
parokhet veil in the Ohel Moed and upon the incense altar as well as upon
the bronze altar, and burning the complete bull on the ash heap outside the
camp. The latter two classes of hattat lack these stringencies. After all,
the Nasi is not an official religious leader. He brings a male goat while
the private individual brings a female goat or ewe. Male Kohanim eat from
these latter offerings within sanctuary precincts.
Three particular transgressions of omission that require a hattat offering
for expiation are also listed:
a) one who withheld testimony despite having heard an adjuration to testify;
b) various cases of being impure in a span of forgetfulness (and entering
the sanctuary or eating sacred items); and
c) inadvertently violating an oath.
Depending on financial ability, one either brings a female sheep or goat,
two birds or a measure of flour. In the latter case, oil and frankincense
are not added, reflecting the somber nature of the offering.
4. ASHAM: "guilt-offering" of a ram, referring to three specific classes of
a) asham me`ila - an unintentional misappropriation for personal use of
sanctuary property. The violator makes full restitution and pays a penalty
of one fifth in addition to the sacrifice
b) asham taluy - the contingency asham - when one has a doubt if he
committed an unintentional transgression that had be been certain he did
transgress unintentionally would require a hattat and
c) asham g'zelot - a trespass against God in that one lied under oath,
defrauding his fellow man concerning a deposit, loan, stolen article, found
When the defrauder chooses to repent, he restores the lost capital to the
owner, adds a fifth as penalty and brings an asham sacrifice. Although the
sin was intentional, when the violator came forth himself to repent by
making restitution and paying a penalty, he is allowed the expiation
sacrifice. Bamidbar 5:5-10 contains a supplement to this asham legislation.
Before addressing the fifth type of Korban - the Minchah - we will look at
two approaches among the Rishonim as to the meaning behind Korbanot
RAMBAM AND RAMBAN ON KORBANOT
Rambam, in his philosophic work Moreh Nevuchim (The Guide for the
Perplexed), devotes a good deal of discussion to the topic of Ta'amei
haMitzvot (the rationale behind the Mitzvot). Most of the third (and final)
section of the Guide contains a study of many of the ritual Mitzvot and
prohibitions found in the Torah. Rambam's general approach (unlike that of
Rashi as noted in the beginning of this week's special reading, Bamidbar 19)
is that every Mitzvah is driven by a specific and deliberate rationale. Much
of the thinking behind ritual prohibitions (e.g. Sh'a'atnez, meat & milk),
according to Rambam, can best be understood against the background of
Canaanite pagan practice at the time of the Torah. Since the pagans
practiced such rituals as cooking a kid in its mother's milk, performing
cult-worship in clothes made of a wool-and-linen mix etc., the Torah
prohibited these practices to separate us from them and their idolatrous
In his discussion of the rationale behind Korbanot, Rambam similarly follows
a path of reasoning guided by historic considerations:
"It is impossible to go from one extreme to the other suddenly. Therefore
man - according to his nature - is not capable of abandoning suddenly that
to which he was deeply accustomed ... As it was then the deeply-ingrained
and universal practice that people were brought up with to conduct religious
worship with animal sacrifices in temples ... God in His wisdom did not see
fit to command us to completely reject all these practices - something that
man could not conceive of accepting, according to human nature which
inclines to habit ... He therefore left these practices but transformed them
from their idolatrous associations ... that their purpose should be directed
toward Him. Thus, He commanded us to build a sanctuary for Him with an altar
to His name and offer sacrifices to Him... In this way idolatry was blotted
out and the great foundation of our faith - the existence and oneness of God
- was established. This was accomplished without confusing people's minds by
prohibiting the worship they were accustomed to and which alone they were
familiar with ... God doesn't choose to change man's nature with a miracle
... As sacrificial worship is not a primary intention ... only one Temple
has been appointed ... in no other place is it allowed to sacrifice ... to
limit such worship within bounds that God did not deem it necessary to
abolish it ... because of this the prophets often declared that the object
of sacrifices is not very essential and that God can dispense with
them..."(Guide III:32). [It should be noted that this approach stands in
stark contrast to that taken by Rambam in the Mishneh Torah. Scholars have
attempted to harmonize these approaches with varying degrees of success.]
While this approach has a certain attraction - especially in assuaging our
modern sensibilities which are easily ruffled by the picture of animal
offerings - it carries with it considerable difficulties. First of all, this
places the entire scope of Korbanot in the realm of a temporary exigency
born out of a regrettable situation. The implication of this is that
Korbanot do not belong to the realm of the ideal - and, as such, have no
place in our vision for the Messianic future. There are two additional
challenges to this approach, voiced by Ramban. After quoting Rambam's
approach, Ramban challenges:
"But these words are mere expressions, healing casually a severe wound and a
great difficulty, and making "the Table of the Eternal polluted", [as if the
offerings were intended only] to remove false beliefs from the hearts of the
wicked and fools of the world, when Scripture says that they are "the food
of the offering made by fire, for a pleasing odor." Moreover, [if the
offerings were meant to eliminate] the foolish [ideas] of the Egyptians,
their disease would not thereby be cured. On the contrary, it would increase
the cause of sorrow, for since the intention of the above-mentioned wicked
ones was to worship the constellations of the sheep and the ox, which
according to their opinion possess certain powers [over human affairs], and
which is why they abstain from eating them in deference to their power and
strength, then if these species are slaughtered to the Revered Name, it is a
mark of respect and honor to [these constellations]. These worshippers
themselves were in the habit of so doing, as He has said: "And they shall no
more sacrifice their sacrifices unto the satyrs," and those who made the
[golden] calf sacrificed to it. Now the Rambam mentions that the idolaters
used to sacrifice to the moon on the days of new-moon, and to the sun when
it rose in a particular constellation known to them from their books. The
disease of idolatry would surely have been far better cured if we were to
eat [these animal-deities] to our full, which would be considered by them
forbidden and repugnant, and something they would never do.
"Furthermore, when Noah came out of the ark with his three sons, there were
as yet no Chaldeans or Egyptians in the world, yet he brought an offering,
which was pleasing to God, as concerning it Scripture says: "And the
Eternal smelled the pleasing odor"...Yet there was as yet not the slightest
trace at all of idol-worship in the world...The Scriptural expression
concerning the offerings is "My food which is presented unto Me for
offerings made by fire, for a pleasing odor unto Me" (Bamidbar 28:2). Far be
it that they should have no other purpose and intention except the
elimination of idolatrous opinions from the minds of fools.
"It is far more fitting to accept the reason for the offerings which
scholars (Ibn Ezra?) say, namely that since man's deeds are accomplished
through thought, speech and action, therefore God commanded that when man
sins and brings an offering, he should lay his hands upon it in contrast to
the deed [committed]. He should confess his sins verbally in contrast to his
[evil] speech, and he should burn the inwards and the kidneys [of the
offering] in fire because they are the instruments of thought and desire in
the human being. He should burn the legs [of the offering] since they
correspond to the hands and feet of a person, which is analogous to the
blood in his body. All these acts are performed in order that when they are
done, a person should realize that he has sinned against his God with his
body and his soul, and that "his" blood should really be spilled and "his"
body burned, were it not for the loving-kindness of the Creator, Who took
from him a substitute and a ransom, namely this offering, so that its blood
should be in place of his blood, its life in place of his life, and that the
chief limbs of the offering should be in place of the chief parts of his
body. The portions [given from the sin-offering to the priests], are in
order to support the teachers of the Torah, so that they pray on his behalf.
The reason for the Daily public Offering is that it is impossible for the
public [as a whole] to continually avoid sin. Now these are words which are
worthy to be accepted, appealing to the heart as do words of Agadah.
(Commentary on the Torah: Vayyikra 1:9)
In summary, whereas Rambam views Korbanot as a historical exigency, Ramban
sees them as [close to] ideal, reflecting man's obligation or need to
vicariously offer himself on the altar - the image of which will surely stir
him to repentance. As we explained earlier (in the shiur on Parashat Vay'chi
this year), the act of Semikhah (laying the hands on the animal immediately
prior to slaughtering it) is the vehicle through which the person transfers
his "energy" to the animal, thus effecting the substitute-offering.
Although there are some theological and philosophical (as well as
historical) difficulties with this approach, there is one which comes
directly from our text. How does Ramban explain a Korban Minchah - which
cannot possibly constitute a human substitute and where the law of Semikhah
does not apply?
Besides this problem, there are several textual "flags" in the Torah's
commands regarding the Korban Minchah which we will address.
A Minchah, meaning "tributary gift" to God, is the fifth type of Korban.
Although in other parts of Tanakh the term "Minchah" is applied to offerings
of both agricultural produce and animals (B'resheet 4:3-4; Sh'muel I
2:15-17), in Korbanic legislation it strictly refers to grain offerings.
Generally, it is comprised of semolina wheat (solet) and olive oil with some
frankincense spice (levonah) added. It could be offered in several
varieties: raw, oven-baked in either a thick or thin preparation, or fried
either on a griddle or deep-fried in a pan. A fistful is burnt on the altar
and the remainder eaten by male priests within sanctuary precincts.
The laws of the Minchah are delineated in Vayyikra, Chapter 2 - and later,
from the Kohanic perspective, in 6:7-11. [It is recommended that you read
these sections before continuing].
There are several textual anomalies in this section:
1) Unlike the first chapter, which describes the "Korban Olah" (and later
sections describing the other Zevachim), the section on the "Korban Minchah"
is introduced with the phrase *v'Nefesh ki Takriv*. A "Nefesh" (which means
soul in Rabbinic Hebrew) means "a person" in Biblical Hebrew. The specific
orientation of the word is "life-force", as we see in Vayyikra 17:11, "The
Nefesh of all flesh is in the blood". Why is the Minchah uniquely described
as being brought by a Nefesh?
2) The "Kometz" (fistful) of the Minchah which is burned on the altar is
called an *Azkarah* - commemoration. What is this commemoration and what is
3) In 2:11, the Torah prohibits a leavened Minchah - or the use of any
leavening or sweetening agent on the altar. Why is Hametz to be distanced
from the Mikdash?
4) Within the context of the Korban Minchah, the Torah commands us to salt
every Minchah - with the *Melach B'rit Elohekha* (The salt of the covenant
of your God - 2:13). What is the significance of salt - specifically within
the context of the Korban Minchah?
There are two other questions, both related to the issue of Hametz:
5) Although the Torah forbade the use of leavening in preparing a Minchah,
we are commanded to offer a communal Minchah on Shavuot composed of two
loaves (known as Minchat Sh'tei haLechem - specifically made of Hametz
(Vayyikra 23:17). Why the exception?
6) There is one other exception to the Hametzless-Minchah rule: the loaves
which accompany the Korban Todah (a subset of Sh'lamim). In Vayyikra
7:12-13, the Torah commands us to bring (40) loaves as an accompaniment to
the Korban Todah (thanksgiving offering) - and ten of them must be Hametz!
Again - why the exception? (See M. Menachot 5:1, where these two are
presented as the only two exceptions.)
RAV BIN-NUN'S APPROACH
Regarding the sh'tei halechem, I'd like to share the synopsis of an approach
developed by R. Yo'el Bin-Nun. The complete thesis is found in Megadim
13:25-45. This synopsis was put together by Shalom Holtz for the Virtual
Beit Midrash of Yeshivat Har Etzion:
The key difference between Hametz and Matzah lies in how sophisticated the
wheat has become through production. Hametz is wheat in its most complex
form. It is the goal of the wheat grower and the final stage to which the
wheat- growing process can be taken. Matzah, on the other hand, is bread in
its most basic form, at the beginning of the bread- baking process. These
physical characteristics of Hametz and Matzah shed light on several mitzvot
which govern their consumption, including the prohibition of Hametz on Pesach.
Because of its simple nature, Matzah is considered "lechem oni," bread of
poverty. A poor person, one who cannot afford to bring the wheat to its most
advanced form of Hametz, bakes Matzah. The Israelites are commanded to eat
matzot and maror, together with the korban Pesach, in order to remember the
poverty and slavery they experienced in Egypt.
It would seem more appropriate that with the redemption from Egypt would
come a commandment to eat Hametz. Just as the Matzah has symbolized the
Israelites' state of poverty and enslavement, Hametz would be an appropriate
symbol of their newly-obtained freedom and prosperity, for Hametz is the
food of the wealthy. However, the instructions for the days which
commemorate the period immediately following the exodus commands exactly the
opposite: not only a commandment to eat Matzah but also a ban on Hametz.
"Throughout the seven days unleavened bread shall be eaten; no leavened
bread shall be found with you, and no leaven shall be found in your
territory (Shemot 13:7)." What, then, is behind this prohibition and the
Matzah symbolizes that the exodus from Egypt is only the beginning of the
redemption process. After the night of the korban Pesach, the Israelites are
not fully redeemed. Matzah, bread at the beginning of the process of its
production, serves as a reminder that the exodus is just the beginning of a
journey, a long hard road through the desert, with the goal far in the distance.
The process which begins at the exodus culminates in two other major events:
the giving of the Torah and the entrance into the Land of Canaan. The mitzva
of bikkurim, the offering of the first-grown fully-ripe fruits, commemorates
both of these events in Jewish history. The holiday marking the beginning of
the harvest of the wheat crop, Shavuot, falls out on the same date as the
giving of the Torah, the sixth of Sivan. A major component of the ceremony
of the offering of the bikkurim, which commemorates the arrival in the Holy
Land, is mikra bikkurim, the recitation of Devarim 26:5-10. These verses
constitute a declaration of thanks for a successful crop grown in the Land
of Israel. The mitzva of bikkurim, which commemorates the dual conclusion of
the redemption process, includes a positive commandment regarding Hametz.
The meal-offering brought with the bikkurim, known as minchat shtei
ha-lechem, is an offering of two loaves of leavened bread. This sacrifice of
Hametz on Shavuot represents the completion of the process begun on Pesach,
which was symbolized by the matzot.
The "maggid" section of the Haggada is centered on the recitation of the
midrashic interpretation of mikra bikkurim. However, the reading is limited
to the first verses, which focus on the history of Am Yisra'el:
"My father was a wandering Aramean, and he went down to Egypt and sojourned
there, few in number. He became there a great mighty, and populous nation.
The Egyptians dealt ill with us and afflicted us, and laid upon us hard
labor. And we cried out to Hashem , the God of our fathers, and God heard
our voice and saw our affliction and our toil and our oppression. And God
took us out of Egypt with a strong hand and with an outstretched arm, and
with great terror and with wonders." (Devarim 26:5-8).
The last verses, which contain the expressions of thanks: "And He brought us
to this place, and He gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey.
And now, behold, I have brought the first fruit of the land which You, God,
have given me" (ibid., 9-10) are not recited on the night of the Seder. The
selection of this section of the Torah for maggid is a reminder of the
nature of the Seder night and of Pesach in general. Pesach commemorates the
beginning of the process of redemption whose conclusion is symbolized by the
bikkurim. On Pesach we remember that the exodus was only a beginning, and to
do this we eat Matzah. Similarly, we recite only those verses within mikra
bikkurim which pertain to the process of redemption. We leave out the verses
pertaining to the final arrival in Eretz Yisra'el as a reminder that on
Pesach, at least, the process has just begun.
ANOTHER APPROACH TO HAMETZ
I would like to propose another understanding of Hametz and the rationale
behind the prohibition of Hametz both on Pesach and in Menachot. This will
also explain the other text anomalies pointed out above.
Along with Rav Bin-Nun's take on Hametz, positing it as representative of
the completion of a process, there is another, more basic reality about
Hametz and about what it may represent.
Although on a molecular level there is certainly change which takes place in
flour and water - that change is not visible (in a short time period) to the
naked eye. Hametz, on the other hand, is the very soul of radical change.
Flour and water, baked without leaven, can remain in that flat state
(Matzah) for a long time and nothing much would change in the makeup of that
bread. Once leaven is introduced, rapid change takes place - change which
also introduces rapid entropy and mutation. Take a piece of Hametz and look
at it several weeks later - the same leaven which caused it to rise and
become glorious and airy - has introduced the mold which makes it inedible.
Hametz represents immediate and radical change.
This explains why the Torah places such stringent prohibitions on the use of
Hametz on Pesach. Although we might consider that Pesach is a time of change
(from slavery to nobility, from darkness to a great light etc.), a quick
look at the text of the Torah will give us a very different picture.
Throughout the Exodus narrative, we are reminded that the merit by which we
were redeemed was an ancient covenant - going back to B'resheet 15 and the
B'rit Bein haB'tarim (Covenant between the pieces). The very essence of
Pesach is timelessness - that the B'rit was only dormant, not dead and that
its time had come to be fulfilled. There is no room for Hametz on Pesach,
because the celebration and commemoration of Pesach is the historical bond
which we share with our ancestors going all the way back to the Exodus - and
several hundred years before that. Indeed, Pesach can act as the model for
the future Redemption because the absence of Hametz allows the experience to
remain unchanged and alive.
We can explain the Sh'tei haLechem on Shavu'ot in this light. Although we
are accumstomed to thinking of Shavu'ot as the commemoration of the Giving
of the Torah, this association is not made anywhere in the T'nakh (the
earliest source is the Book of Jubilees, an apocryphal work from the first
two centuries BCE). Within the context of the Torah, Shavu'ot is purely an
agricultural festival, commemorating the beginning of the wheat harvest.
Unlike Pesach, which represents the timeless nature of Jewish
(meta-)history, the harvest season is a time which, by definition, we wish
to see pass. It would be counterproductive (and, by definition, impossible)
to have every day be the beginning of the harvest - it is specifically the
change from growth, to harvest, to plowing etc. which causes the greatest
blessings to be realized in the field. Hence, the offering brought on
Shavu'ot is specifically Hametz - we are celebrating this particular time
and its passage.
BETWEEN ZEVACHIM AND MENACHOT
We can now revisit our earlier questions about the prohibition of Hametz in
Menachot and the textual anomalies in Parashat Menachot.
The thesis here is that unlike Zevachim which (following Ramban) represent
Man's desire to have a one-time "altar experience", a Minchah represents
Man's yearning to stand in God's presence at all times. This is the
sentiment expressed by David:
One thing I asked of Hashem , that will I seek after: to live in the house
of Hashem all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of Hashem , and to
inquire in His Temple" (T'hillim 27:4).
It is not just the "Adam" (person) who brings a Minchah - it is the
"Nefesh", the essence of the person, that brings this offering in his
attempt to come - and stay - close to God; to appease Him and enjoy His
Presence. However, since the individual cannot practically stay in the
Mikdash, in front of the altar and he must (sadly) depart - he leaves a
piece of this offering behind, to commemorate not only his visit, but his
yearning to stay. That is why the Kometz (fistful) is called an Azkarah - it
commemorates his visit (almost, if you will, like signing a guest book).
Although it has been a number of years since I nestled in the safety of the
Beit Midrash in Har Etzion, that experience is something which has a
timeless component. I return there in my mind often and maintain those years
as a series of unyellowed, fresh snapshots. I share this perception - which
we all have in our souls with regards to some place or person in our past -
to illustrate the ideology of the Minchah and the hopes of the person
offering it. The endeavor of the Minchah is an experience which the Makriv
(person bringing the offering) would like to have bronzed in time. His brief
stand in the holiest of places, in front of the altar, in God's Presence, is
a moment out of time which (hopefully) lasts forever. As such, there is
absolutely no room for Hametz in the composition of a Minchah - it
represents the fleeting, the temporary, the passing event.
Salt, on the other hand, plays the exact opposite role. Where Hametz
mutates, salt preserves. Salt is called the Melach B'rit (salt of the
covenant) because just as salt preserves meat for a long time, the B'rit is
preserved (and preserves us) forever. The Minchah, which represents Man's
desire to ever and always be standing "there", is salted in order to
represent that timelessness.
We now come to the one other exception to our Hametz-rule: Lachmei Todah -
the loaves which accompany the Korban Todah.
The Korban Todah is not brought by someone who just feels gratitude; it is
brought by someone who was in some sort of danger and was saved. The Gemara
(Berakhot 54b) states: There are four [circumstances in which a person] must
give thanks. [They are:] those who travel by sea, those who travel through a
desert, someone who was imprisoned [or taken captive] and freed - and a sick
person who was healed. (The B'rakhah known as "Birkat haGomel" is recited
today in lieu of that Korban).
Unlike a conventional Korban Sh'lamim, which might be brought as a
demonstration of goodwill (see above), the Korban Todah is brought in direct
response to a potentially tragic situation which was averted by the grace of
God. There is every reason to introduce Hametz here - because this is a
situation which the person bringing it would not want to see repeated - it
is not a "snapshot in time" which is cherished, rather a horrible
possibility which we would never want to experience again.
[Note that only 10 of the loaves are Hametz, whereas the other 30 are not.
Perhaps the idea is that the person bringing it was in one of the four
dangers mentioned (sea, desert, prison, illness) - so that 1/4 of the loaves
Compare the Lachmei Todah with its "sister-Minchah" - the *Lachmei Eil
Nazir*. When a Nazir completes a successful term of N'zirut (see Bamidbar
6), he brings an offering which includes a ram - and the ram is accompanied
by 40 loaves. Here, however, all 40 are Matzah - no Hametz at all. According
to our thesis, this is easy to understand. Much as the Nazir is returning to
the "real world", he likely sees the term (30 days or more) of N'zirut as an
idyllic period of spiritual cleansing and sanctity - which he would like to
preserve. Again, there is no room for Hametz here.
V'ARVAH L'Hashem ...
In Malakhi (3:4), we read a vision of the Messianic future which begins with
this oft-quoted verse:
And the Minchah of Yehudah and Yerushalayim will be sweet to God, just as in
days of old and like years past.
We can now approach this verse with a new understanding - the Minchah is the
Korban which lasts forever and which, when God redeems us, will represent
more than any other offering, the eternal link which we have with God and
with the worship at His altar. Is it any wonder that Rav Kook zt"l was of
the opinion that when the third Beit haMikdash is built, that all Korbanot
will take on the spiritual flavor of the Minchah? The B'rit which God
maintains, keeping us alive and restoring us to our Land, is symbolized by
the eternal Korban Minchah.
Text Copyright © 2012 by Rabbi Yitzchak Etshalom and Torah.org. The author is Educational Coordinator of the Jewish Studies Institute of the Yeshiva of Los Angeles.