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Vayikra 5 describes the offering required as a Chatat. This subcategory allows offerings of varying value, depending on what the guilty person can afford. Vayikra 5:11 reads

וְאִם־לֹא֩ תַשִּׂ֨יג יָד֜וֹ לִשְׁתֵּ֣י תֹרִ֗ים אוֹ֮ לִשְׁנֵ֣י בְנֵי־יוֹנָה֒ וְהֵבִ֨יא אֶת־קָרְבָּנ֜וֹ אֲשֶׁ֣ר חָטָ֗א עֲשִׂירִ֧ת הָאֵפָ֛ה סֹ֖לֶת לְחַטָּ֑את

And if his means do not suffice for two turtledoves or two pigeons, he shall bring as his offering for that of which he is guilty a tenth of an ephah of choice flour for a sin offering

It seems to be the case that some people cannot afford mammals or birds, so the text allows them to achieve atonement using a flour offering instead. This option, though, is not given for other offerings, and yet those same people would have the same financial limitation. Would they then not be allowed to atone for other sins or satisfy other sacrificial obligations?

In Vayikra 14:21, the text again discusses someone of limited means. One who can't afford 2 lambs (as per pasuk 10) can bring one lamb and 2 birds. But while the text acknowledges that someone might not have money, and includes the variable notion when making the offering, there is no option for "only flour" (at least to replace the animal part of the offering).

How does the poor person satisfy his various obligations if there is no "flour only" option and why doesn't the text offer the same option for the poor man as it does in those limited cases in perek 5 in other situations?

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They're not entirely identical -- earlier in Leviticus, the atonement for a handful of sins requires a sacrifice, and there are options from livestock to birds to flour.

Here we are dealing with those who have become impure due to various weird bodily things, and the sacrifice is needed for them to be fully pure enough to allow regular access to the Temple. Note that those who became impure due to bodily functions require some amount of blood when they're finished! Something's going on there.

Additionally, I suspect there are more options in the "sinner" category because if someone is thinking about admitting that (for example) he swore falsely when he was supposed to testify, we want to make the atonement process easier. Raise the bar too high, and they'll just keep on sinning. (The Talmud talks about that concept in some different cases.) Sforno says these handful of sins are very common among the poor, so we want to give them more of a chance.

Not a complete answer ... but at least there are some distinctions between the cases.

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  • Thanks -- I understand that they are different (though even in the metzora case, the text uses the phrase "v'cheepeir alav" also so there is some parallel). But if the poor person can't afford an animal in one case, what does he do in other cases where he has no option?
    – rosends
    Apr 18 at 16:33
  • @rosends the Mishna in Shkalim says there was a fund for them. (In the meantime, they're still tahor enough as long as they don't deal with sacrifices or the Temple.) Agreed -- question is better than my half-baked shuffle towards an answer.
    – Shalom
    Apr 18 at 19:24
  • I'm only up to daf 4 in Sh'kalim so I'll see it when I get there, but if there was a fund, then why in the chatat case, did there need to be a flour alternative?
    – rosends
    Apr 18 at 19:46
  • @rosends that's precisely the point -- Mishna Shkalim 6:5. "Bird pairs for those who need them." For the zava and the like for whom there's no cheaper option. Wasn't intended for those who sinned and could bring flour.
    – Shalom
    Apr 18 at 23:06
  • flour was cheapest. If there was a fund to help people move up to birds, why ever make a flour option. Otherwise, why not make a fund to help people afford flour? And why not allow flour as the bottom option in all cases if people can't afford animals? (and for some reason, when I try to tag you, your name just disappears...sorry)
    – rosends
    Apr 18 at 23:35

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