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The Torah's Weekly Portions
Vayikra - Vayikra 101

Hanging Sacrifice
March 2008, Contributed by Asher ben Shimon
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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 sin.

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 transgressed.

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 angels.

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 unintentionally.

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 righteous.

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 personality.

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 good inside.

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 deeds.

Now that we know this, we can take another look at our aforementioned laws.

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 remains holy.

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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