On Korbanot and Fasting

Menachot (13:11) | Yehuda Gottlieb | 12 years ago

The final Mishnah in Masechet Menachot notes that the words “a fire offering - a pleasing offering” are stated with reference to the Olah offering of an animal, the Olah offering of a bird and a Mincha offering. The Mishnah infers from this fact that whether one does much (marbeh) or does little (mam’it) the only consequential fact is whether one has had the intentions of doing so Le’shem Shamayim.

The Rambam notes in his commentary to the Mishnah that besides the pasuk mentioned, there is indeed another pasuk that links all the categories of offerings together: “This is the law (Torah) for the Olah, Mincha and Chatat” (Vayikra 7:37). The reference to all the Korbanot in unison and the addition of the word Torah teaches us that one who toils in Torah study is as if he has offered up an Olah, Mincha and Chatat.

The Rambam goes further to chastise those who say that there is no need to learn any of the topics surrounding korbanot or avodat ha’Mikdash because it is not applicable today. He states that all those who learn and study the halachot of the avodah is as if he has rebuilt the Beit Ha’Mikdash in his days. Therefore it is essential that we continue to study these laws despite the fact that people think they are insignificant and irrelevant to today’s day and age.

Besides Torah study, there is another action that one can do and be credited as if he has offered a korban. The Gemara (Brachot 17) tells the story of Rav Sheshet who, when fasting, would recite the following prayer:

Master of the Universe, it is known before You that when the Beit Ha’Mikdash was established a person would sin and bring a korban and the fats and bloods would be offered before you and atone. Now, I have sat in a fast and have weakened my own fat and blood. May it be your will that my fat and blood is as if I have offered them on the Mizbeach and may they affect atonement.

The Ben Ish Chai notes that the name of a person (Adam) is mentioned in the parsha of korbanot: “When a person (אדם) will offer a korban”. This word, made up of א, ד and ם, contains a hint to this weakening of a person’s body through fasting and the translation of this into the kavanot for a korban. The ד and ם of the word אדם make up the word blood (דם). In turn, the last letter – ם – has the gematria (numerical value) of 40, which is the same as the word חלב (fats). Therefore this word within the pasuk hints to fasting weakens a person’s fats and blood and its ability to be viewed as having offered a korban.

Additionally, the Ben Ish Chai notes that the letter ד of אדם is also significant. If one was to take the gematria from the last two letters of the Hebrew word for דלת i.e. ל and ת – one would come up with

  1. This has the same gematria as the word נפש (soul). This implies that it is not enough for one to consecrate his blood and fats to Hashem as a Korban – it is also necessary to include the soul, the proper intentions, into such a Korban. This lesson echoes the lessons taught by the above Mishnah. It matters not whether one is rich and can afford to bring a large animal offering or whether one is poor and brings a Korban Mincha. The essential part of both the above is to have the proper intentions and to focus on who the Korban is being offered to.

May we focus our kavanot used in both Torah study in general and fasting this Tisha B’Av in order to merit the physical rebuilding of the Beit Ha’Mikdash in our days.

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