SALT - Sunday, 3 Adar Bet 5779 - March 10, 2019

  • Rav David Silverberg
            Yesterday, we noted Ibn Ezra’s discussion (Vayikra 5:7) regarding the korban oleh ve-yoreid – the sin-offering required to atone for certain transgressions, which applies differently to people in different financial situations.  A financially secure individual brings a sheep or a goat; a needy person brings two birds; and a destitute person brings a grain offering.  The two birds brought by those in the middle category are offered as two separate sacrifices – one as a chatat (sin-offering), and the other as an ola (burnt offering).  Ibn Ezra cited a source explaining that the second offering is required to atone for the angry thoughts and feelings which the disadvantaged individual likely has over his difficult condition.  People enduring financial hardship often complain and express resentment towards God, and thus when a poor person is required to bring a korban oleh ve-yoreid, a second sacrifice is added to atone for his resentful thoughts.
            Chida, in his Penei David, raises the obvious question of why, according to this explanation cited by Ibn Ezra, the additional sacrifice is required only in the middle case, when the individual can afford birds but not an animal.  As we saw, there is also a third category – those who cannot even afford birds, whom the Torah allows to earn atonement through a simple grain offering.  Why are these needy individuals not required to offer a second sacrifice to atone for their feelings of grievance?
            Chida explains, very simply, that for people in this condition, facing severe hardship, such feelings are understandable.  Atonement is needed for the times when we complain about relatively common and tolerable difficulties.  If a person is struggling and cannot afford what most others can afford, this should not cause bitterness and anger.  But in the case of a person enduring actual deprivation, these emotions are excusable.  God does not demand atonement for such a person’s thoughts of bitterness, because he truly suffers, and so these thoughts are natural and understandable.
            Chida’s comments perhaps remind us that while on the one hand, we are expected to strive for, and demand from ourselves, very high standards, at the same time, we must recognize and accept our human limitations.  A delicate balance must be maintained between high ambitions and realism.  God, who created us as frail, limited creatures, recognizes our constraints and the pressures we face.  We, too, must recognize our limits, and strive to achieve as much as we can without being discouraged by our inability to achieve more than that.