This week we begin reading Sefer Vayikra, which already Chazal have called “Torat Kohanim.” Our parasha, as well as next week’s parasha (Parashat Tzav), deal with the laws concerning the various sacrifices. I would like to focus on the unique feature of Parashat Vayikra, specifically by considering it in light of Parashat Tzav.
There are many clear repetitions in these parshiyot. Suffice it to mention that just as the list of sacrifices is completed in Parashat Vayikra, this list is begun once again as Parashat Tzav opens. The Torah in Parashat Tzav again goes through the korbanot (sacrifices) and explicates their various laws, after having already done so in Parashat Vayikra!
In order to understand the reason why both parshiyot were written, let us take note of the main differences between them, and on this basis try to identify the distinctive characteristics of each. I would like to begin specifically with a stylistic difference, ignoring in the meantime the detailed laws. I refer here to the sequence of the korbanot as they appear in these two parshiyot.
In Parashat Vayikra, the Torah lists the sacrifices in the following sequence: 1. Ola (burnt offering); 2. Mincha (flour offering); 3. Shelamim (offering from which the individual himself receives a share); 4. Chatat (sin offering); 5. Asham (guilt offering). This sequence is perfectly understandable and logical. The list begins with the korbanot that an individual decides to bring of his own volition, voluntarily, that he decides he wants to bring and offer in the Beit Hamikdash – a voluntary ola, a voluntary mincha, and a voluntary shelamim. Afterwards, the Torah introduces a new command, dealing with the obligatory sacrifices – chatat and asham, which are required when a person commits an inadvertent transgression or when he is unsure whether or not he transgressed.
For this reason, when we proceed to Parashat Tzav, we are most surprised to discover a different sequence of presentation of the various sacrifices: 1. Ola; 2. Mincha; 3. Chatat; 4. Asham; 5. Shelamim. The most obvious difference between the two lists relates to the position of the korban shelamim: in Vayikra, this sacrifice appears adjacent to the ola and mincha, whereas in Tzav, it was transferred to the very end of the list. We must explain, therefore, why in Parashat Tzav does the korban shelamim appear at the end of the list?
An important feature that the Torah emphasizes in its description of the korbanot in Parashat Tzav is the consumption of the given sacrifice. Namely, who is permitted to eat from the sacrifice. This idea helps us to understand the sequence in Parashat Tzav and hence the position of the shelamim. The list begins with the korban that is entirely burnt on the altar (ola), proceeding to those of which the kohanim receive a share (mincha, chatat, asham), and concluding with the unique korban from which even the individual bringing it partakes (shelamim).
Why does the list in Parashat Tzav emphasize the issue of the korban’s consumption, whereas the list in Parashat Vayikra all but entirely ignores this topic? This distinction likely touches upon the different purposes of the two lists, or, more precisely, the question of to whom they are addressed. The list in Parashat Vayikra begins, “Speak to Benei Yisrael and say to them…” This list is told to Benei Yisrael, and it is therefore presented from their perspective. The list of korbanot in Parashat Tzav, by contrast, begins, “Command Aharon and his sons… “Meaning, this list is presented to the kohanim and from their perspective. Throughout all the laws of korbanot in these two parshiyot, the difference in interlocutor clearly emerges. In Vayikra, the Torah makes no particular reference to the one hearing the rules, because Moshe here addresses himself generically, to any Jew who wishes to bring a korban. In Tzav, by contrast, it is the kohanim who hear the commands; and thus, when the Torah discusses laws concerning the person bringing the sacrifice, it mentions him explicitly, as the subject now changes.
In light of this, it becomes clear why the two lists present the korbanot in different sequences. In our parasha, where the regular Jew takes center stage, the two basic categories are voluntary sacrifices and mandatory sacrifices. From the perspective of the one bringing the korban, these are two very different experiences, and his entire trip to the Beit Hamikdash changes in light of the reason on account of which he brings the sacrifice. Clearly, this distinction is hardly relevant to the kohen serving in the Mikdash!
The work involved in offering a korban is not directly impacted by the issue of the reason for its offering. Whether he deals with a voluntary korban brought by one person or another, or if he deals with an obligatory korban, the kohen must skin the animal, cut it into its various pieces, place the fats on the altar, and so on. From the perspective of the kohen performing the service, the more significant factor is the korban’s consumption. Meaning, from his perspective, there is a very big difference (both practical and experiential) between an ola, in which he receives no share of the meat, and the korbanot in which he shares a portion with the altar, and the shelamim – the offering that bestows peace upon the world, as all the participants together share the sacrifice’s meat.