Shabbat Parshat Vayikra 5779
Olah vs Shelamim
Adapted from Rabbi Braun’s sermon in 5776
Our Torah reading begins with a list of the animals from which one brings a sacrifice.
ויקרא פרק א
ב) דַּבֵּ֞ר אֶל־בְּנֵ֤י יִשְׂרָאֵל֙ וְאָמַרְתָּ֣ אֲלֵהֶ֔ם אָדָ֗ם כִּֽי־יַקְרִ֥יב מִכֶּ֛ם קָרְבָּ֖ן לַֽיקֹוָ֑ק מִן־הַבְּהֵמָ֗ה מִן־הַבָּקָר֙ וּמִן־הַצֹּ֔אן תַּקְרִ֖יבוּ אֶת־קָרְבַּנְכֶֽם
2. Speak to the people of Israel, and say to them, If any man of you brings an offering to the Lord, you shall bring your offering of the cattle, of the herd, and of the flock.
The Herd is the holy cow, and the flock is sheep and goat.
There is only very significant issue with this verse. Before we make it out of the chapter we realize that it is at the worst a wrong list or at the very best an incomplete list.
The first sacrifice offered is the Olah, which is totally consumed on the altar.
In verse 14 we read:
ויקרא פרק א
יד) וְאִ֧ם מִן־הָע֛וֹף עֹלָ֥ה קָרְבָּנ֖וֹ לַֽיקֹוָ֑ק וְהִקְרִ֣יב מִן־הַתֹּרִ֗ים א֛וֹ מִן־בְּנֵ֥י הַיּוֹנָ֖ה אֶת־קָרְבָּנֽוֹ
14. And if the burnt sacrifice for his offering to the Lord is of birds, then he shall bring his offering of turtledoves, or of young pigeons.
It is not just the cow, sheep and goat that can be offered, there is an option for birds as well.
Given this information the second verse which is the introductory verse to the entire section should have included the birds as well.
Why are birds excluded? Is there a difference between the bird sacrifice and the animal one?
Rav Amnon Bazak, a Rebbe at the Gush suggests that following explanation.
The list of sacrifices in our parsha break down into 2 general sections. Chapter 4 and on detail the obligatory sacrifices that individuals must bring. You sin and are required to offer a sacrifice.
The first 3 chapters detail voluntary sacrifices that an individual may bring. Chapter one speaks about the Olah, the consumed offering, chapter 2 the flour offering and chapter 3 – the Shelamim, the peace offering.
In the world of animal sacrifice each of these sacrifices brought by regular people have a bird option except for one – the Shelamim, the peace offering.
Thus the introduction in order to apply to every sacrifice detailed, lists only the animals that can be brought for every type of sacrifice.
Now comes the critical question- why can’t you bring a bird for the Shelamim?
To understand that, let’s ask another question: why does one bring a voluntary sacrifice?
There is an important discrepancy between the Olah and Shelamim which answers our question.
In chapter 1 verse 4 we read that the voluntary Olah is brought – וְנִרְצָ֥ה ל֖וֹ לְכַפֵּ֥ר עָלָֽיו, and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him.
Even in this voluntary sacrifice, there is an element of atonement.
When reading through the peace offering in chapter 3 there is no mention of atonement at all.
Even in the world of voluntary sacrifice, when there is nothing specific that one has done wrong, there are two models of gift or sacrifice.
The first is the Olah. Despite the absence of specific sin, there is still something off, you feel a distance between yourself and hashem and you would like to come closer. So you bring an Olah.
The second is the Shelamim. Everything is wonderful, the relationship is great and you feel close to Hashem. And you want to express your gratitude – you want to share a meal (you and the kohen partake of this offering), give a gift with the expectation of nothing in return. There is no atonement you are trying to achieve. You bring this gift as a sincere expression of your love and gratitude toward God.
Everyone needs to have the ability to bring a real sin offering should they sin thus if you can’t afford a real animal you bring a bird.
And if there some distance and you would like to voluntarily come closer, everyone has that opportunity as well. You can bring a bird as a voluntary Olah.
The Shelamim represents the ideal sacrifice – a sincere expression of your love and gratitude toward God. Here there are no birds. First, the ideal must be brought from the ideal, an animal of substance. Second – there is a shared meal – between you Hashem the Kohen and friends. We want other people to see the pure love and devotion that you have. The only way to include everyone is to have a large animal. There is simply not enough pigeon to go around.
We must attempt to live the ideal, to feel close to Hashem and to express that connection through generosity and devotion.