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15 Adar II 5763 - March 19, 2003 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Opinion & Comment
"We Will Offer the Words of Our Lips Instead of Calves"

by R' Yerachmiel Kram

"Speak to Aharon and to his sons, saying, `This is the law of the sin offering' " (Vayikra 6:18).

"Whoever Delves into the Laws of the Sin Offering is Regarded as if He Sacrificed It"

Towards the end of Menochos (110a) we find, "Said R' Yitzchok: Why is it written, `This is the law of the sin offering, and this is the law of the guilt offering'? [To teach us that] Whoever delves into the laws of the sin offering is considered to have sacrificed a sin offering, and whoever delves into the laws of the guilt offering is considered to have sacrificed a guilt offering." We learn from here that even if one is obligated to bring a chattos or oshom but for a reason beyond his control (as today when there is no Beis Hamikdosh) is unable to do so, he is assisted by Providence through an alternate way to atone for his sin. This is by studying the various laws involved in that very sacrifice which he was required to bring.

What could be easier than mouthing a few verses? How can this be compared to the effort required in bringing an actual sacrifice from Yaffo or Tzipori to Yerushalayim? Nevertheless, we should be seized by trembling and struck with fear before we so much as open our mouths in order to read the parshiyos hakorbonos.

"After Hashem promised us that the recital of the order of the sacrifices would be reckoned before Him -- at the time that the Beis Hamikdosh is not standing - - as if we actually brought those sacrifices there, how much should a person rouse his heart and be contrite over his sins before he begins to recite that respective portion. Verily, as if it were in the time of the Beis Hamikdosh when it was incumbent to repent wholeheartedly [with the bringing of the sacrifice], since without teshuva a sacrifice was not accepted, for `the sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination' " (Marpe Loshon by HaRav Refoel HaKohen zt'l of Hamburg).

Thoughts of Teshuvoh Before Saying the Portion of the Tomid

Feelings such as these must accompany us daily when we prepare, morning and evening, to recite parshas hatomid, the portion of the Torah explaining the daily sacrifice. The calculation is very simple, and we have been privileged to glean it from crumbs scattered from the table of the Alter of Kelm. This is how the Alter explained it:

Chazal determined that a minimal number of Israelites must stand by the mizbeiach at the time that the kohanim bring the daily sacrifice -- for how would it look to have a person's sacrifice brought and he be absent? (Taanis 26a). But why is it so obvious that a person must stand alongside his sacrifice?

It is necessary, for a person must imagine himself in the place of the animal sacrifice; whatever is done to the animal should have rightfully been done to him, for the sinful soul was, according to strict justice, deserving of death. It is only thanks to Hashem's mercy that one is permitted to substitute the beast for himself. The act of standing alongside the animal and surveying its sacrifice is the very crux of the whole process of korbonos. It is his proxy, but he must acknowledge it cognizantly (Ramban, Vayikra 1:9).

These must also be the sentiments of a person when he is about to recite the parshas hatomid. He must make the mental effort to have his recital represent the actual act of sacrifice.

Studying the Parshiyos of the Korbonos is Effective Only when Real Sacrifice is Impossible

We would imagine that studying the laws of the sacrifices is equivalent to the actual sacrifice only by default, bedi'eved, for how could we conceive that one who desecrated the Shabbos unintentionally during the time that the Beis Hamikdosh stood should be absolved of bringing a chattos and suffice with a mere reading of that portion in the Torah?

This is also what HaRav Zalman Sorotzkin said in his commentary on the Torah. He proves this from a famous saying of Chazal quoted by all Torah sages who wrote about the value of reciting the portions dealing with the korbonos:

"Said R' Asi: Were it not for the maamodos, the heavens and earth would cease to exist, as it is written, `And he said: Hashem Elokim, how do I know that I will inherit it?' (Bereishis 15:8) Avrohom said: Ribono Shel Olom, what if Israel sin before You? Will You treat them as You did the generation of the Flood or the generation of the Haflogoh? And He answered him: No. Said Avrohom before Hashem: Ribono Shel Olom, tell me, how can I be certain that I will inherit it? He said to him: Take unto Me a heifer that is three years old, and a ram that is three years old . . . And [Avrohom] said: That shall serve when the Temple is standing, but what will they do when there is no Temple? Hashem said: I have already prepared for them an order of the sacrifices. When they read it before Me, I will consider it as if they had brought them before Me and I will forgive them all their sins' " (Taanis 27b).

We see from here that studying the subject of the korbonos is no more than a second-best substitute, for want of the real thing. It shall only serve when the Beis Hamikdosh is not in existence and there is no alternative way of achieving atonement. Under such circumstances, the sinner may occupy himself in the study of the korbonos, and he will be credited with having brought the sacrifice in reality. But when the Beis Hamikdosh is standing, then surely he is obligated to actually bring the sacrifice.

This can be further verified by what is said in the gemora, according to R' Shimon Bar Yochai, that even when the Beis Hamikdosh stood and sinners brought their sacrifices, it was necessary for them to recite the portion dealing with it in the Torah, for omitting this invalidated the sacrifice. Rashbi learns this from what is written, "This is the thing (hadovor) that Hashem commanded," implying that even proper dovor -- dibbur impedes the atonement of a sacrifice (Yoma 6).

We see that the act of sacrifice was accompanied by the recital of the text in the Torah referring to it. According to the gemora in Taanis, this alone sufficed to atone for sins. Nevertheless, it was necessary to actually bring the animal sacrifice, for the power of atonement through the reading of the portion is only a derivative of the original commandment of atonement which includes a sacrifice accompanied by the recital of the portion pertaining to it. Today, however, when we are unable to carry out the sacrifice part, we are mercifully permitted to suffice with the reading of the respective portions.

"For You Do Not Wish Sacrifice and Tribute"

We have seen, then, that the means of atonement via studying the laws of the sacrifices is only second- best, when there is no better choice. But we must continue to hope for that day when we will be able to fulfill this commandment in its preferred, natural manner, and actually bring sacrifices in the Beis Hamikdosh. In the light of this, the Kli Yokor illuminates with a new brilliant clarity the verses in Tehillim:

"Hashem, open my lips and my mouth shall rehearse Your praise. For You desire not sacrifice, or else I would give it; You delight not in burnt offering. The sacrifices of Hashem are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, Hashem, will You not despise. Do good in Your favor to Zion; build the walls of Yerushalayim. Then shall You be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness, with burnt offering and whole burnt offering. Then shall they offer bullocks upon Your altar" (Tehillim 51:17-21).

The Kli Yokor explains that these verses were said as a form of prophecy relating to the period of the churban, a period when we would be unable to bring sacrifices and when Hashem would find no favor in burnt offerings and sacrifices. This appears to be the meaning from the end of this particular chapter in which Dovid Hamelech prays, "Do good in Your favor to Zion, build the walls of Yerushalayim."

Apparently he is prophesying about a time when those walls will have been destroyed. He therefore begs Heaven to shower upon him a bounty of intelligence with which to study Torah, the laws of the korbonos which are considered a substitute for them. "Hashem, open my lips and may my mouth tell Your praise." Dovid Hamelech then continues and explains, "When do I ask that You accept my study? `For You do not desire sacrifice and tribute; a burnt offering You do not want.' " The word `for,' here, serves as `when,' that is, at that time when the Beis Hamikdosh will be in ruins, then You shall not desire sacrifices and burnt offerings. At that time I will ask that You open my lips and arrange my heart to study Your Torah.

Study of the laws of the korbonos should also lead to a broken spirit. "The sacrifice of Hashem is a broken spirit." And "A broken and contrite heart, Hashem, You shall not reject." Still, this is only so because we are prevented from actually bringing sacrifices. Yet we pray, "Do good in Your favor to Zion; build the walls of Yerushalayim." For "Then shall You be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness, with burnt offering and whole burnt offering; then shall they offer bullocks upon Your altar." At that time, we will not have to suffice with the lip service through the study and recital of the portions dealing with the sacrifices.

This is hinted at in the Torah, "This is the law of the oloh -- this is the burnt offering that shall be burning all night on the altar." The laws of the oloh are regarded as if it were actually sacrificed upon the altar. However, this is only `all night,' during the long night of the exile and the destruction, until the Redemption shall begin to illuminate and the Beis Hamikdosh be rebuilt. For then, our duties and obligations will not be paid through a mere lip service of `Toras ha'oloh,' that is, the study and recital of the laws, but by an actual enactment of that portion.

Reciting the Parshas Hakorbonos -- a Temporary Atonement?

Furthermore, R' Zalman Sorotzkin adds that since the atonement achieved through the reading of the portions of the korbonos is only a substitute, it can only be effective until the rebuilding of the Beis Hamikdosh. Once it is rebuilt, every person will be required to bring the necessary sacrifices of oloh, chattos, oshom.

As proof, he mentions what R' Yishmoel ben Elisha said when he suddenly realized that he had done something contrary to the teaching of the Sages: he had studied on Friday night by lamplight and unintentionally adjusted the wick. As is related in the gemora, he wrote himself a memorandum that when the Beis Hamikdosh was rebuilt, he would bring a fat chattos sacrifice to atone for his inadvertent sin (Shabbos 12b).

He could have sought atonement through reading the portion of the sin offering and we can assume that he did this, but his atonement was only provisory, and when the Beis Hamikdosh will be rebuilt everyone will be obligated to bring those sacrifices.

We find an example by the sacrifices themselves. If someone doubts whether he transgressed a sin atonable by a chattos or by an oshom, he brings a provisory oshom tolui, which is only a temporary atonement while he clarifies if his sin was punishable by koreis, at which point he must bring a regular chattos. Here we also find a substitute for a sacrifice, only that the substitute is an alternative, different sacrifice, and not only in the form of study, which serves only as a temporary means of atonement to protect the perpetrator from suffering until he is able, through circumstances, to actually bring his chattos.

This proof is also brought in the name of a certain sage in a responsa of HaRav Zvi Pesach Frank, which was printed in his work of responsa, Har Zvi (Orach Chaim, simon alef). He also found support for this from the wording of Maran the Beis Yosef, commenting on the words of the Tur, who writes, "And when he finishes the portion of the oloh, he should say: `Master of the World, May it be Your will (Yehi rotzone) that this be significant and accepted before You as if I actually sacrificed the oloh at its designated time.' But after having said the portion of the chattos, he should not say this, for a chattos cannot be brought on a voluntary basis. [And it may be that he has no obligation to bring a chattos. An oloh can be brought voluntarily even if he has no obligation to bring one.]"

The Beis Yosef comments: "And if you ask, Since he does not say the Yehi rotzone, so why does Rabbenu tell us to read the parsha of chattos? The answer is that certainly the recital of parshas chattos atones in some measure for a sin he committed that warrants such an offering. But even if he does not know that he sinned in such a manner, he should recite it just in case, out of doubt. For if he did sin, the reading shall atone for him a little; and if he didn't -- then he has, in any event, read from the Torah."

R' Zvi Pesach Frank infers that the Beis Yosef regarded reading those portions as a nominal atonement, which is effective as a temporary protection and safeguard until the Beis Hamikdosh is rebuilt, when each and every person will bring those sacrifices which he is obligated to bring.

Two Elements of Atonement in Every Sacrifice

Chazal teach us about the components of atonement inherent in the offering of sacrifices in various places. Chazal say that atonement is achieved only through blood; it is the sprinkling of the sacrificial blood upon the altar which brings atonement. On the other hand, we find elsewhere that Chazal expounded upon the posuk, "And they who shall eat it shall be absolved through them," to the effect that [when] the kohanim eat of the sacrifices, the profferers thereby gain absolvement. This goes to show that aside from the atonement in the sprinkling of the blood upon the Mizbeiach, there is the further atonement achieved through the eating of the kohanim from that sacrifice.

It thus seems that there are two styles of atonement in a sacrifice, one of which is prevalent in every sacrifice, which is the sprinkling of the blood and the eating of the sacrifice by the kohanim. The second style is only present by an oloh, that sacrifice which is consumed in its entirety upon the mizbeiach, with no portions thereof eaten by the kohanim.

R' Moshe Chofetz dwells upon this in his work, Meleches Machsheves. He infers that atonement through the study of the parshas korbonos can only replace the part of the altar, for if in the past Hashem received His portion, as it were, by what was consumed upon the altar, nowadays He suffices with our study of the laws of these sacrifices. But the portion of the sacrifice which was consumed by the kohanim does not have a representational counterpart today, for here the Kohen does not receive a portion.

How, then, can this aspect find its respective atonement today?

The Steipler Gaon made a similar distinction in his work, Yeshuos Yaakov. He adds that our present- day substitute to the eating of the kohanim is a person's manner of eating -- that it be in sanctity and for the sake of Heaven. Chazal said that at the time that there is no Beis Hamikdosh, a person's table serves as his [altar and] atonement.

We see then that the law applying to one who committed a sin atonable through an oloh is different from that applicable to one whose sin requires him to bring any other sacrifice. The oloh-sinner can suffice by reading and studying the portion of the oloh sacrifice, since the blood is sprinkled upon the altar and the animal itself is wholly consumed on it, and this counterpart is duly achieved through the study. He needs no more since the kohanim, in any case, did not partake of this sacrifice.

But one who committed a sin atonable only through a chattos or an oshom, or one who pledged himself to bringing a shlomim or other sacrifice, cannot suffice with only reading that respective portion, for only the element of the Mizbeiach is substituted, but not that of the consumption of the kohanim. For the added atonement, it is his own table that must serve as the substitute.

"This is the Torah of the Oloh, . . ."

According to this explanation, R' Yaakov Orenstein seeks to reconcile the verses in the Torah homiletically. On the one hand, Chazal derived from the verse, "This is the Torah for the oloh, minchah, chattos, oshom and the miluim and the zevach hashlomim" -- whoever studies the laws of any given sacrifice is considered to have brought it. Yet in another place, we find this only with regard to the oloh. "This is the law of the oloh" (Vayikra 6:2). They derived therefrom that whoever studies the laws of the oloh is considered to have brought one. Why, then, is the oloh mentioned twice?

According to the differentiation above, the difficulty is resolved. All of the other sacrifices differ from the oloh in that the absolvement they offer is only partial and a person must still achieve atonement through his own table. But with regard to the atonement of the oloh or, rather, its substitute form of reading the laws pertaining to it, the atonement here is complete. This is why Chazal derived from "This is the Torah of the oloh," the rule that whoever delves into the portion thereof is considered to have sacrificed an oloh, even though this pertains to the other sacrifices as well. The exception is that with the oloh, the reading thereof is altogether like an actual sacrifice.

This is verified through the actual wording of the text, as well. "This is the Torah of the oloh, this is the oloh . . . " Why the repetition? It seems altogether superfluous.

However, it is not. The Torah comes to teach us that "the Torah of the oloh," that is, the study of the laws of this sacrifice "is" in fact, equivalent to an oloh most precisely, and no other act is necessary to complete it, as distinct from the Torah of the oshom and the chattos, which are not completely and wholly like those respective sacrifices, since the latter require additional action on the part of the sinner.

In passing, we must add what the Yeshuos Yaakov explains as a reason for the distinction between the oloh and the chattos. Every other sacrifice comes to atone for two parts of the commission of any given sin: the thought behind it, and the actual act. The thought, which only Hashem can divine, is atoned for through the consumption of the sacrifice upon the altar by fire and through the sprinkling of the blood thereupon. The action part, the commitment of the sin, is atoned for through the eating of the kohanim.

The oloh comes to atone for forbidden thoughts, a sin that is purely intellectual, with no actual deed committed. Therefore, its atonement is achieved by the consumption of the sacrifice upon the altar as a total burnt offering unto Hashem.

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