Monday, March 26, 2007

Positvely Burnt

The Torah says[1] regarding a wholly burnt-offering (Korban Olah) that it serves as an "appeasement in front of HaShem" for its owner. This implies that the Olah offers forgiveness for some sort of sin. Rashi[2], citing the Midrash[3], explains that the methods of repentance for inadvertent sins which, if done purposely would be punished by execution in Beis Din, spiritual excision (Kerisos), Heavenly death, or lashes in Beis Din, are taught elsewhere, so the Olah does not atone for those sins in their inadvertent forms. The general rule in the Talmud[4] is that a Sin Offering (Korban Chatas) is brought if one inadvertently committed those sins for which one is executed in the Earthly court or is punished with divine ex-communication when committed with criminal intention. Nachmanides explains[5] that the inadvertent performance of an act for which one would be punished with lashes or death from the Heavenly court, had it been done on purpose, does not require an atonement at all, and therefore the Torah prescribes no offering. Therefore, the Olah must have been an "appeasement" for some other type of sin.

Rabbi Shimshon ben Avraham of Sanz (1150-1230) asked[6] why the Midrash did not entertain the possibility that the Olah sacrifice atones for a sin committed intentionally for which one is usually punished with death, but was exempt from punishment for whatever legal technicalities[7]. My Rebbe answered[8] that an action for which one is obligated for a specific punishment, but is not punished because of a technical reason, is not halachikly considered a new type of action, which would necessitate a new punishment or sacrificial obligation for the transgressor. Rather, this action is totally considered a sin punishable with the first punishment. Halachikly[9], one not only cannot be punished a second time for the same action (whether an act of ritual prohibition or civil) that one was already punished for. The Talmud derives[10] from the Exodus 21:22 that even if one's punishment cannot practically be carried out, the exemption from a second punishment still applies. This is analogous to the contemporary legalistic procedure known as "double jeopardy", which exempts one from a second punishment for the same sin even if he was practically not punished with the first punishment.

Rashi, quoting the Midrash[11], explains that an Olah sacrifice is an atonement for one who violates a positive commandment or for one who violates a negative commandment and fails to perform the positive commandment that is supposed to rectify the negative commandment[12]. Rashi explains[13], in a point furthered explained by Rabbi Yaakov Ettlinger (1798-1871)[14], that one is never obligated to bring a Olah as an atonement, rather, if one does, he attains his atonement. Tosafos seemingly argue with Rashi's Midrash because Tosafos say[15] an Olah does not completely atone for positive commandments, it is only semi-atonement. Tosafos must have learned like another Midrash, which said[16] that an Olah is an atonement for one who thinks about sinning and thus has sinned with his intellect, not for one who violates a positive commandment.

[1] Leviticus 1:4
[2] To Leviticus 1:4
[3] Toras Kohanim 4:8
[4] Kerisos 2a, Horayos 8a, Yevamos 8b, etc...
[5] Ramban to Leviticus 1:4
[6] Rash MiShantz to Toras Kohanim 4:8
[7] Such as a lack of witnesses, warning, a unanimous verdict (which disqualifies the verdict), etc…
[8] Shabbos Lunch, Parshas Vayikra 5767
[9] Bava Kamma 35a
[10] Kesuvos 35a
[11] See also Yoma 36a and Zevachim 6a
[12] For example, Leviticus 19:11 outlaws stealing with a negative commandment, while Leviticus 5:23 says that if one sinned by committing the prohibition of stealing, one can rectify his sin by performing the positive commandment of returning a stolen object. Accordingly, Rashi is saying that one who stole and did not return the object can achieve his atonement for his sin by offering an Olah sacrifice. (Although this merely exonerates one in the eyes of HaShem, nonetheless, in this situation, the thief must still offer monetary compensation to his victim.)
[13] Erachin 21a
[14] See Aruch L'Ner to Makkos 17b
[15] Bava Basra 48a
[16] Leviticus Rabbah 7:3 quoted in Ramban to Leviticus 1:4

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