Who Brings a Korban Minchah?

V’nefesh ki sakriv korban minchah l’Hashem (Vayikra 2:1)

Parashas Vayikra introduces us to the various offerings that were offered in the Mishkan, one of which was the korban minchah (meal-offering). Because the korban minchah is the only offering in which the term nefesh (soul) is used, the Midrash (Koheles Rabbah 4:6) explains that its function is to effect kapparah (atonement) and help the nefesh of the person who brings it find favor in Hashem’s eyes. However, in contrast to all other sacrifices whose precise purpose is spelled out in the Gemara, nowhere do Chazal clarify for what specific sins the meal-offering was brought to receive forgiveness.

Based on an analysis of several verses in which the word “minchah” appears, the Netziv posits that a korban minchah was brought by a person who needed kapparah for transgressions rooted in negative middos (character traits), such as depression, jealousy and anger, and the meal-offering atoned for the underlying middos that caused him to sin.

For example, the Navi testifies (Shmuel I, 18:10-11) that Shaul pursued and tried to kill Dovid because he was overtaken by a spirit of depression and anger. Accordingly, when Dovid confronted Shaul, he told him (Ibid., 26:19), “Im Hashem hesischa vi yerach minchah” — If Hashem has incited you against me, He will be appeased by a minchah. Why did Dovid specifically mention this type of offering? Since he recognized that Shaul’s actions were rooted in depression, Dovid intimated that he should bring a korban minchah to rectify his actions.

In Chumash, when Korach and his followers challenged Moshe’s legitimacy, Moshe beseeched Hashem (Bamidbar 16:15): “Al tefen el minchasam” — Do not turn to their meal-offering. What is the connection between Korach and a korban minchah? The Netziv explains that if Korach’s rebellion were merely motivated by jealousy, he would not have warranted the unprecedented punishment of being miraculously swallowed up by the earth. Moshe therefore stressed that Korach’s actions did not emanate from any negative middos, but rather from his heretical belief that he was entitled to challenge Hashem’s judgment, and for this reason Moshe asked Hashem not to allow a simple meal-offering to excuse and atone for his wrongdoing.

Similarly, in the Haftarah that is read on the Shabbos before Tishah B’Av, the prophet Yeshayah tells the Jewish people (Yeshayah 1:13), “Lo tosifu havi minchas shav” — Do not bring your worthless meal-offerings any longer. Why did he specifically single out this type of offering?

Yeshayah was rebuking his contemporaries for bringing meal-offerings to imply that their transgressions were caused by negative character traits, when in reality their misdeeds were due to a crooked and corrupt worldview that caused them to sin intentionally. Thus, he told them that bringing a korban minchah was a waste of time, for it would be unable to atone for the true root cause of their wrongdoing.

The Netziv adds that there are four different types of meal-offerings: the flour offering, the offering of baked loaves and wafers, the machavas (pan) offering and the marcheshes (deep-fried) offering. These four categories correspond to the four primary negative middos that are the roots of sin: anger, lust, frivolity and depression.

Harav Yisroel Reisman suggests that the Netziv’s insight also explains the prohibition (Vayikra 2:11) against a korban minchah including any chametz. Although chametz was permitted in some offerings such as the korban todah (thanksgiving-offering) and the shtei halechem (two loaves of bread offered on Shavuos), it was forbidden to allow any part of an individual meal-offering to be chametz. Since chametz represents arrogance, it would be counterproductive to bring an offering to atone for negative character traits that itself contains a symbol of haughtiness, and therefore the Torah expressly prohibits it.

Q: When offering sacrifices in the Mishkan, did the Kohen recite a birkas hamitzvah (blessing said before doing a mitzvah) on each act of the sacrificial process?

A: The Bahag, cited by the Ramban, maintains that each of the actions required when offering a sacrifice (slaughtering the animal, gathering its blood, transporting the blood and sprinkling the blood on the Altar) is considered a mitzvah, and the Kohen recites a brachah before each of them.

The Lev Samei’ach writes that the Rambam disagrees and says that a Kohen only says a brachah when doing an avodah gedolah (significant act of Divine service), and that that brachah exempts the other components of the offering from requiring their own blessings.

The Mishneh l’Melech argues and suggests that the Rambam may in fact agree with the Bahag. Further, he posits that there is no way to determine which acts of the sacrificial process are deemed an avodah gedolah, and adds that it is not logical that a blessing said by one Kohen over one part of the offering should exempt another Kohen who is performing a different aspect of the procedure.

Rashi writes that if a person has two animals, one that is sanctified to be offered as a korban shelamim (peace-offering) and one that is the tithe of his animals (maaser beheimah), but he is uncertain which animal is which, he should perform semichah (leaning) and tenufah (waving) of the chest and thigh on both animals, but no blessing should be recited on these actions, for maaser beheimah does not require semichah or tenufah, in which case the blessing would be in vain. The Ichud b’Chidud notes that Rashi appears to agree with the Bahag that a brachah is recited over each act of the sacrificial process.

Originally from Kansas City, Rabbi Ozer Alport graduated from Harvard, learned in Mir Yerushalayim for five years, and now lives in Brooklyn, where he learns in Yeshivas Beis Yosef, is the author of the recently-published sefer Parsha Potpourri, and gives weekly shiurim. To send comments to the author or to receive his Divrei Torah weekly, please email oalport@Hamodia.com.