This dvar Torah is dedicated in memory of my paternal grandparents, Menachem Mendel ben Chaim and Raizel ben Moshe upon their yahretzeit, the 5th of Nissan. They passed away on the same day a few years apart.
This week we begin the Book of Vayikra which mainly discusses the sacrificial offerings first brought in the Mishkan and eventually in the Beis HaMikdash.
Rabbeinu Bachye says the simple reason of why offerings were brought to Hashem was, “The offerings were all for the sake of mankind. For The Exulted Hashem desired that man shall be the chosen species and for him the world was created in order to be totally spiritual like the angels of Hashem, without sin. But when man sinned, he was guilty because of his evil inclination (yetzer hara) embedded inside him. It is therefore befitting for him to regret, recognize, and focus on the meek state of himself and the glorified quality of his Exulted Master who he rebelled against His word. And he is obligated to place in his heart that he sinned before Him with his body and soul. Since all the actions of man can be included in 3 categories, action, speech, and thought, which are 3 ways to sin, therefore the Torah obligated man to bring a sacrifice for his sin…” (See Rabbeinu Bachye in his entirety in Vayikra 1:9).
One of the forms of sacrifice for atonement of sin was a meal offering. There is an important lesson here which relates to Pesach. The Torah states, “Any meal offering that you will bring to Hashem should not be made with chometz, for any leaven and any honey should not be burned on the fire to Hashem” (Vayikra 2:13). Rabbeinu Bachye explains that the simple reason why no chometz or honey was part of the meal offering was because, “sacrifices were an atonement for our sins, and if not for the inciter, and enticer who is the yetzer hara, man would not sin and would not need to bring a sacrifice at all. Leaven and honey are the yetzer hara itself as Chaza”l say regarding chometz and matzah on Pesach that a person must turn his heart from the yetzer hara. That is why the Torah says, ‘Don’t eat upon it chometz’ (Devarim 16:3), referring to the korban Pesach. And the Korban Pesach was an atonement for the idols they worshipped in Egypt. For this reason, He distanced them from the yetzer hara in order to not go back to idolatry…” (Click here for Hebrew text.)
Rabbeinu Bachye concludes his simple understanding of why there aren’t chometz and honey in meal offerings saying, “and therefore [Hashem] distanced leaven and honey from the offering for it doesn’t make sense to have a dichotomy in one subject, furthermore it would appear as if one is trying to purify himself with a creepy crawler in his hand, this is self-understood.”
It would seem, and it seems logical, that the meal offering should ideally have been made with chometz in order for it to be a more respectable offering. We even find two pesukim later that Rabbeinu Bachye explains the simple reason of why offerings were salted “because it would be unbefitting for a sacrifice to Hashem to be bland, without salt. The Torah is teaching us proper manners that the Kingdom in Heaven is like the kingdom on earth, and in this manner, ‘Were you to offer it to your governor’ (Malachi 1:8)?” In fact, the korban todah, the thanksgiving offering, which is an offering giving thanks and not given as atonement for sin, was indeed made out of chometz. Ideally, an offering fit for The King should be given in the nicest and choicest way possible. It is only because the yetzer hara is associated with chometz and honey that the Torah did not want any association with it for an offering used as an atonement. Rabbeinu Bachye illustrated this point with the example of the korban pesach, which was brought as an atonement for idolatry in Egypt. In fact, the Jews worshipped the lamb along with the Egyptians, so Hashem said to slaughter the lamb and eat it as a means of belittling and defaming the Egyptian god, and only matzah can be eaten with it, in order to not have even a tiny hint, not even one iota of an association with, the yetzer hara, in order to have no association whatsoever with the enticement of sin.
Why then does the Rabbeinu Bachye add that the reason for not having leaven and honey is in order to not have a dichotomy in one’s offering or to not be holding onto an impure object while trying to purify himself? It seems that that is the reason why these ingredients aren’t allowed, and not because in order to leave the sinful path that one was on by going to the extreme to distance himself from any spec of sin or evil inclination?
It would seem that the main issue of having chometz with one’s offering for atonement is not the association with sin and the evil inclination but rather the self-contradiction created in such a sacrifice. Whether it sends a message of a dichotomy or actually in a sense is a real physical contradiction, in any event, to harbor such a state even though it might look more respectful and honorable for The King, it is not the way Hashem wants us to live our lives.
The Paschal Lamb and matzah as well as every other sacrificial atonement made without chometz sends a message that we must live a life of harmony and consistency.
Click here for Audio or here for video of another Pre-Pesach message.