SALT - Friday, 2 Nissan 5780 - March 27, 2020

  • Rav David Silverberg
            In discussing the procedure for the ola sacrifice, which is burnt entirely upon the altar, the Torah commands that after the officiating kohen skins the carcass and separates its various parts, he then arranges them “on the wood which is on the fire which is on the altar” (1:8,12).
            The Gemara in Masekhet Menachot (22a) comments that the Torah emphasizes that the animal is placed “on the wood which is…on the altar” to indicate a parity of sorts between the wood and the altar in this context.  The Torah here speaks of an individual who voluntarily decides to offer a personal sacrifice.  One might have assumed, the Gemara says, that this individual must bring the firewood that would be needed for his sacrifice to be burned on the altar.  Since this is a personal sacrifice, we might have thought that he must provide not only the animal, but also the wood to feed the fire that consumes the animal.  The Torah therefore emphasizes that the sacrifice is placed “on the wood…on the altar” – to instruct that just as the altar was built with public funds, collected from the entire nation, the firewood, too, is provided from public funds.  An individual who brings a personal sacrifice does not have to provide the firewood, as this wood is supplied through donations to the public treasury.
            Rav Menachem Bentzion Sacks, in his Menachem Tizyon (to 1:2), notes that this halakha demonstrates the “public” element of even private sacrifices.  The fact that the individual’s sacrifice is burned with publicly funded firewood means that the entire nation, if only to some small extent, participates in his sacrifice.  The public pays a slight portion of the expenses entailed in each person’s private sacrifice – such that a private sacrifice is not entirely private.  Religious growth, even of a single individual, is a national project.  When one person fails, the entire nation is affected, and when one person advances, the entire nation is enhanced.  And so all Am Yisrael must participate in the personal sacrifice of any one individual, because one individual’s efforts to achieve atonement and to grow are made not only for himself or herself, but for the entire nation. 
The public funding of the firewood instructs that we are all responsible for the spiritual growth of each and every fellow Jew, that we must do our share to help facilitate and encourage each individual’s advancement.  Any person who brings a “sacrifice,” who takes the time and invests effort to reach higher, should find a community willing and eager to help, to provide the “firewood” for his “sacrifice,” and to assure him that he is not alone in his quest for growth, but is rather joined by us all, who collectively seek to advance in our connection to the Almighty.