By Rabbi Dr. Meir Tamari
After the incident of the spies, came the injunction
regarding the libations, ‘nesachim’, that were to accompany the free will
offerings. In order to understand the connection between the two in the
text, we need to examine the nature and the role of the libation. Korban
has the same root as the word, to draw close, so the purpose of offerings
was to enable a person to draw close to HaShem. Animal offerings, which
were the Nefesh of the animal, came to enable a person's wisdom that is
the human's nefesh, to draw close to G-d. “ Let the nefesh of the animal
come to atone for the nefesh of Mankind”(Rashi, 25:5).
The libations came from the vegetable kingdom and so they
represent pure physical and natural forces, “My soul yearns after You “.
Therefore they come to allow the body and the mind of the human being to
draw closer to HaShem
The characteristics of the two components of the
sacrifices, is perhaps made clearer when we examine the following passage
from the Talmud. "One who read the two paragraphs of the Shema without
wearing Tefillin, is like one who offered free will sacrifices without the
libations" (Berachot, 14b). These two paragraphs represent wisdom since
they express the unity of G-d, acceptance of His rule and of the mitzvot.
The Tefillin represent human actions and thought; that of the head comes
to subject the mind and the impulses that flow from the brain, while that
of the arm represents the actions. Through the Shema without the Tefillin,
only human wisdom draws close to HaShem, just as the animal sacrifice only
comes to bring the atonement of human wisdom. Together, the Shema and the
Tefillin enable the whole human personality to be bound up with G-d, just
as the free will sacrifices together with the libations enable the whole
human personality to draw close to Him.
In Kohelet (9:7) we read, “ ‘Eat your bread in
joy and drink your wine with a good heart’, the bread refers to the
mitzvah of challah and the wine to the libations; [the continuation of the
verse is] ‘ because HaShem has accepted your actions’- this is the entry
of Israel into the Land” (Devarim Rabbah, chapter17). Soforno explains
that prior to the sin of the Golden Calf, we do not find libations with
the sacrifices; these became necessary only after that sin, to make the
communal sacrifice acceptable. This is problematic, since we know that the
communal sacrifices are halakhically acceptable even without the
libations. However, before the erection of the Mishkan, the world had not
reached the spiritual level at which they were able to bring even the body
close to HaShem, only the animal nefesh that is wisdom. That explains why
we do not find libations in the offerings of Noah or of the Patriachs. The
Mishkan, as a meeting place between human beings and G-d, enabled them to
rise to a new spiritual level at which even their bodies could draw close
to Him. Israel merited the libations, through which this is promoted, when
they said, “We will do and hear”, the former an action of the body and the
latter of the human mind.
Nevertheless, the free will offerings of individuals still did
not require the libations. These were only introduced in our sedra after
the sin of the Spies. The Spies had ruptured or rendered defective the
unity of the House of Israel, since they had prevented the people entering
the Land of Israel. This is the Land that unites and binds together in one
corporate body, the whole of the people. It must be remembered that as
long as Israel was in the desert, they were separated into their tribes
and clans. It was only after they crossed the Jordan into the Land of
Israel, that they intermingled and were united together. Since they had
destroyed the unity of the people, each individual now had to labor and
exert spiritual endeavor to protect themselves from evil and sin. So now
they needed the libations that would enable their minds and the actions,
the body and the soul, to draw close to HaShem. The libations that enabled
them to do this were given to them as a reward for the remorse and
teshuvah that they showed when they heard the Divine decree that they
would not go into the Land. Their remorse and teshuvah created within them
the dedication and ‘mesirat nefesh, which made them go up to attempt to
conquer the Land. Despite the warning by Moses that any military endeavor
would fail and lead only to bloodshed, they, in an attempt to redeem them
selves, went up to do battle to take possession of the land they had
refused to enter previously. HaShem in His Mercy gave them the libations
to enable them even as individuals, to draw close to Him with their very
bodies and brains.
While the sin of the Golden Calf remained with Israel till the
destruction of the First Temple, that of the Spies remained till the
destruction of the Second Temple. The destruction of the First Temple was
due primarily to idolatry, which is a sin of the human wisdom, but the
Second Temple was destroyed by gossip, slander and needless hatred. The
idolatry does not destroy nor rupture the unity of Israel as was caused by
the sin of the Spies. So their sin was reflected in the gossip, slander
and needless hatred that caused the destruction of the Temple.
Shem Mi Shmuel, 5670.
Text Copyright © 2004 by Rabbi Meir Tamari and Torah.org.
r. Tamari is a renowned economist, Jewish scholar, and founder of the Center For Business Ethics (www.besr.org) in Jerusalem.