By Rabbi Eliezer
theme of this weeks parsha is korbonos or offerings.
The first offering mentioned in the Parsha is the Korban Olah
or elevation offering. Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch explains
that the Olah denotes a korban brought by one who wishes
to elevate himself spiritually, perhaps referring to the fact that
the Korban Olah is completely burnt on the altar,
while other sacrifices require that the one who offers it eat a
portion of its meat.
In the middle
of the parsha (4: 27-35) the Korban Chatas, the sin offering
for a private individual is discussed. This is the korban sacrificed
by one who sins unintentionally. In contrast to the Korban Olah,
which may only be offered from male animals, the Korban Chatas
is offered from either a female sheep (ewe) or a female goat. The
Torah, however, utilizes a slightly different terminology when referring
to one who offers a goat as opposed to one who offers a sheep. In
4:31 regarding one who offers a goat, the Torah says, "
And the Kohen shall provide atonement, and it shall be forgiven
him." In contrast, when referring to one who offers
a sheep as his Korban Chatas, the Torah says "and
the Kohen shall provide him atonement for his sin that
he committed and it shall be forgiven him." What is
the Torah teaching us by adding the phrase "for his sin
that he committed" when referring to one who brings a goat?
Leib Diskin offers an answer based on the Gemorah in Sotah 32b.
The Gemorah explains that the reason we recite Shemoneh Esrei quietly
is so as not to embarrass a person who asks for forgiveness for
his private sins. This is similar, explains the Gemorah, to that
which we find that the Torah is careful not to embarrass one who
brings a Korban Chatas. The Torah tells us to slaughter the
Chatas in the same area of the Mishkan as we slaughter the
Korban Olah. In order that no one realizes that the person
is bringing a Korban Chatas, we go out of our way to give
the Korban Chatas similar laws to the Korban Olah.
The Gemorah goes on to ask that one can easily discern a Chatas
from an Olah. As explained above a Chatas is from
female animals and the Olah is from male animals. How, by
slaughtering the Chatas in the place of the Olah,
can we delude people into thinking that the person is not bringing
a Chatas? The Gemorah answers that a sheeps tail, being
long, disguises whether it is a ewe or a ram. The Gemorah responds,
that when one offers a goat, with its short tail, it will still
be obvious that he is sacrificing a Korban Chatas. The Gemorah
concludes by saying that if one wants to avoid embarrassment, he
should bring a sheep. The Maharsha comments that there is still
an advantage in bringing a goat, for the embarrassment he suffers
will add to his level of atonement.
Yehoshua Leib, that the Gemorah in Brochos 12b tells us "if
one becomes embarrassed because of a sin he committed, he
achieves atonement not only for this sin but for all of his sins".
The reason for this is that the embarrassment suffered as a result
of his sin will strengthen his resolve to avoid sin in the future.
With this in
mind, we can understand why the Torah changes its wording when referring
to sheep. When a person brings a goat as a Chatas he becomes
embarrassed. Offering a goat is an advertisement of sorts that he
did indeed sin. Therefore he atones not only for this particular
sin but also for all his sins. In contrast, a person who brings
a sheep avoids embarrassment, as others will think that perhaps
he is offering a Korban Olah. When he receives atonement,
it is only "for the sin he committed" referring only to
this specific sin, whereas one who sacrifices a goat, "it shall
be forgiven him" indicating a general forgiveness, of all of
It is important
that we keep in mind the double-edged lesson we can learn from this.
That sin should be cause for embarrassment, and, however, that this
embarrassment can pay a very large dividend.
Parsha Encounters is © 1998
by the Chicago Community Kollel
Published Thursday, March 26, 1998