Beit Midrash

  • Torah Portion and Tanach
  • Vayikra
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Hirsch At Your Table

Paying Homage to God

A brief Dvar Torah on the Parsha, based on R. Samson Raphael Hirsch’s Torah Commentary


Rabbi Matityahu Clark

ונפש כי תקריב קרבן מנחה לד' סולת יהיה קרבנו ויצק עליה שמן ונתן עליה לבונה: (Lv 2:1)
The Torah describes a series of קרבנות called קרבן מנחה. A קרבן מנחה consists of fine wheat flour, oil and frankincense.

The קרבן מנחה is a sign of homage, acknowledging that a person's very existence is dependent on God. The word מנחה (gift) often refers to a gift to someone who has complete control over the giver's fate. However, in the case of the קרבן מנחה, there are two possible explanations of the root of this word.

The word מנחה can be based on the root נ-ח-ה "to lead to a self-endorsed goal" or on the root מ-נ-ח "to give willingly." The first root (נ-ח-ה) refers to a leader, in this case presumably the recipient of the קרבן. The second root (מ-נ-ח) refers to the giver, who conveys his possessions to his leader.

The first word of the above verse, נפש (individual), sets the tone and the purpose of this קרבן. It is the individual who gives his possessions as a קרבן, in recognition of his fealty to God. This is in contrast to the קרבן עולה, where it is the individual himself who is the קרבן. The ingredients of the קרבן מנחה are identified as סולת (fine flour) שמן (oil), and לבונה (incense).

The word נפש is from the root נ-פ-ש "to return to the individual's spiritual repose." In this verse, the word refers to the individual person. The word סולת is from the root ס-ל-ת "to shake energetically." Fine flour is the result of energetic sifting of the flour grains. The word שמן is from the root ש-מ-ן "to nourish." Oil is considered a healthy and nourishing food. The word לבונה is from the root ל-ב-ן "to purify." The incense, when inhaled, creates the feeling of simplicity and purity.

The main ingredient of this קרבן is flour. This reflects the staple of life, bread, which sustains the human being. Bringing a קרבן מנחה acknowledges that the person's very existence is in the hands of God, the recipient of the קרבן. The additional two ingredients, oil and incense, enrich the basic food and enhance the enjoyment of the eating experience.

This מנחה can be brought only by an individual. (There are several instances where the community brings a different kind of מנחה, such as showbread or omer. But only individuals are eligible to bring this מנחה.) This קרבן is the perfect expression of השגחה פרטית (Divine providence). God watches over the individual, provides him with his basic necessities, and the individual in turn expresses thanks for God’s beneficence by bringing this מנחה to God.

The word השגחה is from the root ש-ג-ח,"to concentrate attention." The word פרטית is from the root פ-ר-ט "to separate" one thing from many.

This interpretation is supported by analysis of the Hebrew root מ-נ-ה, meaning "to apportion," which is closely related to the root מ-נ-ח. The root מ-נ-ה is the basis of the word מן (manna), which is the food God provided to sustain the Jews in the wilderness. God ensured that each individual received his portion, a tenth of an איפה (approximately four liters), enough to sustain a person for each day. Similarly, the מנחה ingredients require a minimum of a tenth to be considered a valid קרבן.

Copyright © 2014, Matityahu Clark. All Rights Reserved. This is an excerpt from the forthcoming Hirsch At Your Table, a collection of brief divrei torah based on R. Samson Raphael Hirsch’s Torah Commentary.
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