- Vayikra 101
March 2008, Contributed by
Asher ben Shimon
to Torah Portions Archive
This week's portion Vayikra, discusses various
sacrifices. Today we'll discuss the asham taluy.
Even in a kosher animal, not all fats are Kosher. It takes an expert to
know the difference; which is why we rely on the butcher and the kosher
supervisor. If one were to have 2 pieces of fat in front of him under
the impression that both were of the kosher type and he ate one of them.
Then he is informed that one of the two was in fact the non kosher type.
Since both pieces are identical in look and texture there is no way to
find out if he ate the kosher or the non kosher one.
To atone for such a sin one brings a korban (sacrifice) named asham
taluy. A 'hanging' sacrifice.
The Torah commands us to sacrifice only in the temple. Slaughtering an
animal that was meant to be a sacrificed, off temple ground is a sin.
The rule is that any sin that wasn't done intentionally can be atoned
for by bringing a korban named 'chatat'. A sin offering. A technical
detail of this law is that the chatat can only be brought for an action
done without intention, which if done intentionally would have been a
What would be the law if someone took his asham taluy and slaughtered it
outside? Do we consider this a sin for which one can bring a chatat?
The Talmud brings an argument on this matter between R' Meir and the
rest of the sages.
R' Meir maintains that there is no difference between the asham taluy or
any other korban. If it is brought outside, the law has been
The rest of the sages maintain that the asham taluy is different. If it
would have been a Chatat, which comes to atone for a definite sin, it
would be a sin to bring it outside. The asham taluy is only brought
because the person may have sinned. Therefore the status of the entire
korban is hanging in the air. So bringing it outside temple grounds is
also not a definite sin.
Another argument we find in the Talmud:
The fat was eaten and it wasn't clear which one was the Kosher one. The
sinner goes to his rabbi and asks him what he should do. The Rabbi tells
him he has to bring an asham taluy. So he buys an animal and designates
it to be brought as an asham taluy.
At this point he receives new information and he finds out with
certainty that he did, or did not, eat the kosher one. Either scenario
prohibits him from bringing the asham taluy.
If he ate the kosher one, he never sinned. If he ate the non kosher one,
he has to bring a chatat, which atones for definite sins.
What to do with this animal?
R' Meir maintains that there is no holiness connected to the designated
asham taluy and it can go back to farm where it came from.
The sages maintain that it retains the status of a korban. It should
remain in the temple fields till it eventually gets a blemish that will
render it unfit to be used as a korban. Once that happens it may be
sold. The profits go to the temple.
The reason why the sages hold that the animal is holy even though we now
know that there is no use for it, is because people always worry about
their sins and look for atonement. When the animal was designated to be
an asham taluy the possible sinner did so having in mind that he
possibly did sin. He did not focus on the possibility that he would get
the animal back in case he were to find out he had not sinned.
Since in his mind this animal was going to be sacrificed, it remains
holy even when we find out that it is not needed anymore.
The rulings in the two cases mentioned above seem to be contradicting
each other when we take a closer look.
We just said that in the opinion of the sages the asham taluy remains
holy even when we are certain that it is not. Why then did they argue on
R' Meir saying that sacrificing it outside is not a problem since it is
not 100% clear that it is needed. Even if it were 100% clear that it is
not needed these same sages hold that the animal is holy!
The way to understand this is by approaching the cases from different
There is the law the way it pertains to us, humans. And there is the way
G-d looks at it.
To us humans it is forbidden to use an animal designated to the temple
for personal use. Since the 'sinner' bought this animal for the purpose
of a korban, it remains holy in our eyes even when he no longer needs
it. We are still not allowed to use it for ourselves.
This is the law the way it pertains to us.
The way G-d deals with it is different. G-d wants the sinner to bring a
chatat, and a non sinner nothing. Since the sinner isn't sure if he
sinned he brings the asham taluy. It is his lack of knowledge that
forces him to do so. To the sinner this animal is holy because it is the
most he can do. To G-d it is either a replacement of a chatat or
nothing. Therefore if it is brought outside there is no problem. If he
didn't sin, G-d certainly doesn't mind that this animal is being
slaughtered outside. But even if he did sin he will not be able to bring
a chatat for his new sin of sacrificing outside.
A chatat is brought when one unintentionally transgresses a sin which
would warrant a punishment if it were done intentionally.
There is no way to be punished for intentionally bringing an asham taluy
outside since by definition an asham taluy lacks intention!
What are the differences between a chatat and asham taluy?
The law is that a chatat should cost one 'danka' (type of coin) whereas
an asham taluy should cost 48!
Rabeinu Yonah explains why it cost so much more to atone for something
that may not even be a sin than to atone for a definite sin.
When one knows that he has sinned, he feels a need to repent. When one
isn't sure he sinned, he will -in the back of his mind- always be open
to the idea that he is completely righteous. Not knowing one's problems
is the biggest problem and needs a bigger atonement!
But a korban is more than a means to bring the sinner to repentance. It
achieves atonement. It fixes the damage that was done by the sin. Why is
it that the damage done by an action which possibly wasn't a sin is
bigger than damage done by a real sin?
We mentioned before that a chatat atones only for a sin done
Why does one have to atone for something he didn't do on purpose?
Our sages teach us that sins do not happen unintentionally to the
Involuntary actions are caused by a rotten personality. Previous
unrefined behavior later causes unintentional sins. It is for all those
previous acts that one needs atonement.
In a way we can say that an unintentional sin is worse than an
intentional one. It can happen that one ends up in a situation which
makes a sin very attractive. Being that humans are not perfect, it is
possible that this person will fall this one time for temptation and sin
intentionally. This does not necessarily mean the sinner has a rotten
Unintentional sin on the other hand shows us that this person is so
involved in impurity that all his actions are permeated by it.
Worse is when one is not even sure he sinned. He still thinks he may be
Once a person realizes that he sinned unintentionally, he feels that his
inside has been affected by his evil inclination. And he atones for it
by brining a relatively cheap chatat. The one who is not sure he sinned
is completely taken over by his evil inclination to the extent that he
can't even come to the conclusion that he has a problem!
Such a person needs the more expensive asham taluy to atone for his
Now that we know this, we can take another look at our aforementioned
When someone has reached a stage where he needs to bring an ashsam taluy,
it doesn't matter if the action was actually a negative one. The mere
fact that he is in a situation where he is so enveloped by impure forces
that he can't even pinpoint which actions stem from his good side and
which from the other, arouses in him a need to bring an asham taluy.
Therefore, even when later we find out that in this particular case he
did not perform a forbidden action, the general problem remains; and we
say that he still wants to bring his asham taluy. Although actually
bringing the asham taluy is not permitted in such a case, the animal
All this is from the sinner's point of view.
From G-d's point of view things work different.
G-d punishes only for wrong actions. The fact remains that an asham
taluy is brought for an action that may not be a sin. To G-d, who knows
the truth, it might not be a korban at all if the sin never happened.
Therefore one does not bring a chatat for slaughtering an asham taluy
off ground, because there is no way he can perform this action as an
intentional sin of sacrificing a korban.
Translations in Torah Portions of the week are partially taken from the ArtScroll
Stone Edition Chumash and from
Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch Chumash
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