U’vim’los ymei taharah l’ben o l’bas tavi keves ben she’naso l’olah u’ben yonah o tor l’chatas (Vayikra 12:6)
Parashas Tazria begins by discussing the laws governing a woman who has given birth to a child. One of the requirements is that after waiting a period of 40 or 80 days after the birth of a son or a daughter, respectively, the woman must bring certain offerings to the Beis Hamikdash. Specifically, the Torah commands her to bring a sheep as a korban olah (elevation-offering) and a dove as a korban chatas (sin-offering). If she is unable to afford a sheep, she brings two doves, one to be used as a korban olah and the other as a korban chatas.
Although the Torah lists the korban olah before the korban chatas, the Gemara in Zevachim (90a) teaches that they were offered in the reverse order, with the sin-offering preceding the elevation-offering. In his commentary on Parashas Vayikra (5:8), Rashi explains that the reason for this order is that if somebody hurts another person, first he must mollify him for his inappropriate actions, and only afterward is it appropriate to give him a present to restore the good will that was temporarily lost. Similarly, the korban chatas is offered to appease Hashem and obtain forgiveness, and it is therefore brought before the korban olah, which is comparable to a gift that is given after reconciliation has already been attained.
However, this begs the obvious question: If the sin-offering is brought before the elevation-offering, why does the Torah list them in the reverse order?
Harav Nissan Kaplan explains that although it is necessary to first apologize before giving the hurt party a present, the ultimate purpose of the appeasement process is not the apology, but rather the closeness and goodwill engendered by the gift that follows it. In other words, although the korban chatas is offered first, the Torah lists the korban olah first in order to teach us that when bringing the chatas, one’s focus should be on the closeness to Hashem, as represented by the olah, that will be the end result. Still, this begs another question: Why is this lesson specifically taught regarding the offerings brought by a woman who has given birth as opposed to through any other individual who must bring these two offerings?
A businessman who once studied in the illustrious Volozhin yeshivah brought his son to learn in Volozhin. The father told the Rosh Yeshivah, the Netziv, “Please educate my son so that he will be an honest and upright Jew who will be kovei’a itim (make fixed times each day to study Torah).”
The Netziv replied, “You’re making a mistake. When your father brought you to Volozhin, he said that his goal was that you should become a talmid chacham (Torah scholar), and you turned out to be an honest Jew who is kovei’a itim, but if you start out aspiring only that your son should become a kovei’a itim, who knows what he’ll actually become?”
In light of the Netziv’s lesson to his former student, Rav Nissan explains that when it comes to educating our children, we have to aim for the stars and bring them up with lofty goals and aspirations. Therefore, when the Torah is addressing a woman who has just given birth, it specifically emphasizes this concept by hinting to her that although on a practical level she must begin by offering a korban chatas, in her mind she must remain focused on the big picture and the ultimate goal: the close relationship with Hashem created by the korban olah.
Q: In conjunction with an affliction of tzaraas that strikes a house, the Torah writes (14:35) that the owner of the house shall come to the Kohen to ask him to examine it. Regarding a tzaraas affliction that befalls a person on his skin, the Torah says (13:2) that he shall be brought to the Kohen. Why does one of them come to the Kohen on his own, while the other must be brought by a third party?
A: The Daas Z’keinim writes (14:34) that Hashem punishes in a light manner first by afflicting a person’s home. If he doesn’t get the message and repent, his clothes are stricken, and only if he continues to sin does tzaraas strike his body.
In light of this explanation, Harav Shlomo of Karlin suggests that an individual whose house has been afflicted with tzaraas has only recently begun to sin. As such, his spiritual compass is still sufficiently intact that he is able to take the message to heart and approach the Kohen on his own in an attempt to rectify his ways.
On the other hand, an individual who is stricken with tzaraas on his body has already been warned multiple times, yet has continued in his sinful ways. Because his bad habits have become so deeply ingrained in him, he is not capable of seeking out the Kohen in order to repent on his own, and he must be brought to the Kohen by others.
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.