Korban Oleh Ve'Yored Revisited

Shevuot (1:2) | Yisrael Bankier | a month ago

The first two perakim of Masechet Shevuot discuss yediyot ha'tumah. The Mishnah teaches that if one became tameh, forgets this fact, enters the Beit HaMikdash or eats from a korban while tameh, and only after is made aware of this transgression, the person must bring a korban oleh ve'yored. The korban that is offered varies with one's financial position. A wealthy person brings an animal; a poor person offers a pair of birds; and an even poorer person brings a meal offering. We discussed the korban oleh ve'yored previously (see 10(28)) analysing and contrasting the other cases where this korban is offered. In this issue we shall ask a different question: can a poor person bring the korban that is meant to offered by someone wealthy?

Whether or not the poor person can in our case of yediyot ha'tumah appears to be the subject of debate. The Rambam (Shegagot 10:13) rules that he can. The Sefer HaChinnuch (123) however disagrees and argues that the poor person would not fulfil his obligation if he brings the wealthy korban. He explains that "since Hahem had mercy on him, it is incorrect to pressure himself to bring more than he can afford". The Sefer HaChinnuch draws a general principle from this case that one should not spend more than he can afford, for this leads to theft when one subsequently requires their basic needs and can no longer afford them.

The Chatam Sofer (Shabbat 132a, s.v. ha) cites the question of the Maharach Alpandri, who notes that the Sefer HaChinnuch appears to contradict a Mishnah.1 The korbanot offered during the purification of a metzorah is another case where the korban olah ve'yored is offered. The Mishnah (Negaim 14:12) teaches that if a poor metzorah offered the korban required of a wealthy metzorah, then it would be effective. How then can the Sefer HaChinnuch rule to the contrary?

The Sefat Emet (Yoma 41b s.v. gufa) differentiates between the case of metzora and ours. He explains that for the metzora, both the wealthy and poor man offer the same types of korbanot, albeit from different creatures. Both offer a chatat (sin offering) and olah (burnt offering). Consequently, if a poor metzorah were to "upgrade" his korban, he would still offer the required chatat and olah. Our case is different because the korban offered by the wealthy individual is only a chatat, while the pair of birds is a chatat and olah. Consequently, the poor person's requirements are different, and they would not be satisfied with the wealthy korban.

The Chatam Sofer however suggests that korban oleh ve'ored serves a different purpose in these two cases. As already stated, the korbanot in the case of the metzorah is part of the purification process. The Torah affords a leniency to the poor person allowing him to bring a simpler korban. If he nonetheless wants to bring the more expensive option, it would be considered praiseworthy. In our case however, the korban oleh ve'yored achieves an atonement. The korban that achieves this end is designate to everyone according to their means. If one brings a different korban, it would be tantamount to bringing a unconsecrated animal into the Beit HaMikdash. Consequently, a poor person would not be able to offer the wealthy person's korban.


1 Other Achronim cite this question in the name of the Mishneh LeMelech.

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