Poor Sacrifice - In Memoriam of Mr. David M. Warren (Menachem Dovid ben Harav Yosef Z'L)
Following Nahmanides (Rabbi Moshe ben Nahman of Gerona, Spain 1194 -1270; Leviticus 1:9) reasoning the temple sacrifices were designed to help the individual internalize the symbolism and thereby grow spiritually.
For example, the first step is to place one’s hand upon the animal’s head (Leviticus 1:4) and introspect within oneself why this sacrifice is necessary. After the animal is slaughtered, the innards are burnt upon the Altar (Leviticus 1:9) as penance for one’s innards that desired to rebel against G-d’s will. The animal’s forelegs and hind legs are burnt to symbolize the hands and legs that acted against G-d’s will.
Among the different sacrifices was the “Olah”, offered as penance for violations of positive commandments. (Nahmanides: Leviticus 1:4) Based upon a person’s financial ability and desire, he would offer either a bull, sheep, goat, fowl, or fine flour. Generally, the more expensive the sacrifice, the more affluent the person to offer it.
Examining the options between the Olah offerings, the Kli Yakar (Rabbi Shlomo Ephraim ben Aaron Luntschitz, Prague, 1550 – 1619; Leviticus 2:1) notes a critical difference. For each type, the Torah states the following:
Bull – “wash its innards and its legs.” (Leviticus 1:9)
Sheep or goat – “wash the innards and legs.” (Leviticus 1:13)
Fowl – “remove its crop with the innards and dispose it among the ashes…”(Translation according to Rashi, 1040 - 1105; Leviticus 1:16)
Meal Offering – “If a Soul shall bring forth a meal offering… the priest shall take a handful and create with it smoke upon the Altar… The remains shall be for Aaron and his sons, Holy of Holies, from G-d’s fire.” (Leviticus 2:1-3)
Bearing in mind the more expensive options are only available to the more affluent, by the bull, in contrast to the sheep or goat, the Torah adds the word “its”. By the bull, i.e. the affluent individual, only the bull’s innards and legs are washed; indicating that atonement is incomplete until the person additionally also cleanses his own thoughts and actions.
By the sheep or goat, i.e. the well-to-do individual, his own innards (desires) and legs (actions) are cleansed as well, yet they remain with him.
By the simple person offering the fowl, just as he “removes” its crop and “disposes” it, so does he remove from himself his sinful desires and actions.
Finally, the humble and destitute individual who gives all he can give, though it be only a meal offering, he has dedicated to G-d with his “soul” and his sacrifice shall be considered above all others, a “Holy of Holies, from G-d’s fire.”
As the Torah states, “Yeshurun (Israel), became fat and strayed away. You became fat, you became thick, and you became corpulent, and deserted G-d, your maker.” (Deuteronomy 32:15)
Just as the affluent have the privilege to donate generously, assume positions of prominence, and serve G-d with extravagance. Just as the rich can afford to sacrifice the bull. So, too, surrounded by their wealth, do they have the more difficult challenge to achieve spiritual heights, to recognize, as the poor man does naturally, that everything they have, everything they desire, is completely dependent upon G-d’s will.
The destitute that can barely afford a meal offering, they bring it forth with their “souls”. Their sacrifices are likened to the Holy of Holies offered through “G-d’s fire”. For the rich, who gladly offer the most lavish sacrifices, it is but the first step on a long journey.