The Torah in Parashat Emor introduces the prohibition against offering a ba’al mum – an animal with a physical blemish – as a sacrifice, and the Torah here lists the various defects that disqualify an animal for use as a sacrifice. However, the Torah adds 22:23) that although such animals may not be offered as a “neder,” they may be offered as a “nedava.” Rashi, based on Torat Kohanim, explains that these terms refer, respectively, to what Chazal call “kodshei mizbei’ach” and “kodshei bedek ha-bayit” – that is, animals consecrated as sacrifices, and animals donated to the Temple treasury. The former are slaughtered and offered on the altar, whereas the latter are sold by the treasury to obtain funds with which to pay for the Beit Ha-mikdash’s various maintenance expenses. Animals with a disqualifying physical defect may not be offered as sacrifices, but they may be donated to the Temple treasury.
Seforno offers an explanation for why the Torah found it necessary to emphasize that such animals may be donated to the treasury. He writes: “Although the blemishes are very visible, and one would think that they are not worthy even for bedek ha-bayit, [the verse] stated that they are worthy of being donated for bedek ha-bayit….” One might have assumed that an animal with obvious blemishes is unfit for the Beit Ha-mikdash altogether, even as a purely monetary – as opposed to ritual – function. If such an animal is unsuitable as a sacrifice, one could have reasoned, then it has no place at all in the Temple. The Torah therefore dispels this notion and emphasizes, “nedava ta’aseh oto” – a blemished an animal may be brought as a financial donation to the Beit Ha-mikdash, despite its unsuitability as a sacrifice.
We all have “blemishes” that render us “unfit” for certain roles. Every person, in one way or another, is a “ba’al mum” – a defective creature. No human being is perfect, and thus no human being is eligible for any position he or she desires. We are all restricted in some sense, due to our flaws and limited capabilities. The Torah reminds us, however, that “nedava ta’aseh oto” – we all nevertheless have a place, and a significant place, within the “Beit Ha-mikdash,” in the service of the Almighty. Even if we are unfit for “kodshei mizbei’ach,” we must strive for the privilege of “kodshei bedek ha-bayit,” of contributing to the sanctity of Am Yisrael in any way we can. We are all capable of, and worthy of, making an impact, each in accordance with his or her own unique set of talents and opportunities. Our “blemishes” should not discourage us, but rather direct our focus onto those areas where we are eligible to enter and where we are invited and urged to make the most significant contribution that we can make.