Friday, March 07, 2014

Abarbanel chapter 1, into to Vayikra

After the preface to his introduction, Abarbanel begins the first chapter [of the introduction], which deals with the materials of the korbanot: (See prior post.)

"The word זבח and the word קרבן are not synonyms referring always to the same thing. While every זבח is a קרבן, the reverse is not the case, that every קרבן is a זבח. For the זבח refers to a living creature which is slaughtered and offered upon the altar, for זביחה is the name for slaughter, as is stated [Devarim 12:21] 'and you shall slaughter [וזבחת] of your cattle and sheep as I have commanded you.' Therefore every זבח is a קרבן which is offered upon the altar. But there is a קרבן which is not a זבח, which is the קרבן of fowl, for there is no slaughter [שחיטה] in it. And the מנחה as well, which is called a קרבן and is not a living creature for the name זבח to apply to it. If so, the קרבן is a more inclusive term than the זבח, for it refers to anything which is slaughtered and [thus] נזבח which is offered [/brought near] [שיתקרב] upon the altar, and upon the fowl and the מנחה, even though the name זבח does not apply to them. 

And the name קרבן is called so because of two reasons. The first is that it is נקרב [offered] upon the altar. And the second is that is creates great closeness between the owners bringing it and God. And this is as is stated [Devarim 4:7] 'And who is [likewise] a great nation has God so close [קרובים] to them?'

And the Torah mentioned [e.g. at the start of parashat Vayikra] that the קרבן in general, some of them are from the domesticated animals, and these are the three species of בהמה, which is the bovine, sheep, and goats. And some of those are flying species, namely the turtle-doves and young pigeons only. And some of those are from the growing plants which come from the ground, namely the מנחה, and this is of three types, namely the bread, oil, and wine. And added onto them is the frankincense.

And there is no doubt that the choicer and better קרבנות before Him are the three species, namely from the bovines, sheep, and goats only. And therefore there are no turtle-doves or young pigeons in the communal offerings, nor is there a מנחה in a נדבה [voluntary offering]. Rather, all the זבחים of the community are only from these three animal species.

And it is fitting to give a reason, why these that I mentioned were singled out as material for the קרבנות, in contradistinction from the other options and from their larger categories, and this according to that which the Rav, author of Moreh Nevuchim suggested.

Behold, the three species, bovine, sheep and goats are singled out as זבחים and to be offered on the alter for two reasons.
  1. Because these three species in their temperament, character, and nature of feeding are choicer and better than all living creatures, save those that speak.
  2. They are more readily available. 

Therefore there is no קרבן from the wild animal species, for Hashem did not wish to burden us to bring a קרבן from that which is difficult to find. And this is also why He commanded that the קרבן of fowl be only from the turtle-doves and young pigeons, for these same reasons. And so wrote the Ralbag in his commentary to the Torah.

And their words in this are correct. However, to my mind, there are an additional two reasons.

1. One of them is that these three species [bovine, sheep, goat] hint to our holy forefathers, for behold the bovine alludes to Avraham Avinu. For just as the bovine is the largest of the species of domesticated living creatures, so was Avraham the greatest of the Avos. Also because it is stated about him 'and to the cattle ran Avraham, and he took a calf, soft and good'. And the sheep allude to Yitzchak, for the sheep is the next level after the bovine. And also because of the איל [ram - male sheep] which his father offered as an burnt-offering in his place at the time of the Akeida, as it states 'and he took the ram and offered it as a burnt offering in place of his son'. And the goat alludes to Yaakov, for it is a step down from the sheep, and we find that it was said [by Rivkah] to Yaakov 'Go now to the flock, and take for me from there two young goats'. (And because of the skins from two young goats) which he wore upon his hands and his neck at the time of his father's blessing. And since these three species allude to the three forefathers, Hashem commanded [at the Brit Bein HaBetarim, Bereshit 15:9]:

ט  וַיֹּאמֶר אֵלָיו, קְחָה לִי עֶגְלָה מְשֻׁלֶּשֶׁת, וְעֵז מְשֻׁלֶּשֶׁת, וְאַיִל מְשֻׁלָּשׁ [וְתֹר, וְגוֹזָל].9 And He said unto him: 'Take Me a heifer of three years old, and a she-goat of three years old, and a ram of three years old, [and a turtle-dove, and a young pigeon].'

to hint to them as I explained above. And still, the turtle-dove and the young pigeon allude to Moshe and Aharon, as I will explain there. And perhaps for this reason as well, there came in the קרבנות turtle-doves and young pigeons. And this is the first reason.

 2. And the second reason that these species were chosen from the category of those which travel on four legs and those which fly for קרבנות, is to allude to the Israelite nation. For behold the prophets often call them by the name cattle, as is stated [Hoshea 4:16] 'For Israel is stubborn like a stubborn cow..' And they called them the cows of Bashan, and Ephraim a trained cow, and many such. And therefore the קרבן for the communal shegaga was a young bull.

And there are times that they called them by the name שה [individual sheep] and by the name צאן [flock of sheep], such as [for שה specifically, Yirmeyahu 50:17] 'Israel is a scattered sheep'. And Yechezkel said [Yechezkel 34:22] 'and I will judge between sheep and sheep.' And therefore the continual communal offerings [תמידים] was one sheep in the morning and one sheep in the evening. And so too in the language of צאן [flock of sheep, Yechezkel 34:17], 'And as for you, O My flock...', and [Yechezkel 34:31], 'And ye My sheep, the sheep of My pasture', [Yirmeyahu 50:6] 'My people hath been lost sheep', and there are many such.

And there are times that they called the nation by the name goat [עז] and he-goat [שעיר]. And therefore Yeshayahu said [Yeshayahu 25:3] עַל-כֵּן, יְכַבְּדוּךָ עַם-עָז 'Therefore a goat nation [rendered otherwise a strong nation] shall glorify you.' And Yirmeyahu said regarding the nation [Yirmeyahu 48:17] אֵיכָה נִשְׁבַּר מַטֵּה-עֹז, [typically rendered 'How is the strong staff broken', not 'how is the goat staff broken']. And Yechezkel said [Yechezkel 7:24], וְהִשְׁבַּתִּי גְּאוֹן עַזִּים [typically rendered 'I will also make the pride of the strong to cease'], the pride of your strength, such that therefore the he-goat upon which the lottery is to Hashem corresponds to the nation. And Chazal said [Beitza daf 25b, Resh Lakish], there are three עזים [fierce things] and it enumerates Israel among them.

And since these three species allude to the nation, the Navi refers to it as such in the pain of the exile, when he says [Yeshayahu 53:7], 'as a lamb [שה] that is led to the slaughter, and as a sheep [רחל] that before her shearers is dumb; yea, he opened not his mouth,' for the words צאן [plural of שה] and רחלים encompass both sheep and goats.

And therefore Hashem commanded that they sacrifice their קרבנות from these species which are similar to them, such that it is like their offered their [own] blood and their [own] flesh. And upon this is said [Vayikra 1:2] אָדָם כִּי-יַקְרִיב מִכֶּם קָרְבָּן, לַה, 'when any man from among you [מִכֶּם] brings a קרבן to Hashem', that from them and those that are similar to them, namely [as the pasuk concludes to inform, מִן-הַבָּקָר וּמִן-הַצֹּאן], which is the bovines and the צאן, which means the שה of sheep and the שה of goats, [תַּקְרִיבוּ, אֶת-קָרְבַּנְכֶם] shall they offer their קרבן.

However, if he is poor, and he is not able to afford this, He commanded that he offer from the turtle-doves and from the pigeons, since the nation is compared to them as well, as is stated [Shir Hashirim 2:14] 'O my dove [יונתי], that art in the clefts of the rock', and it refers in poetic matter to the prayer of the nation, [Shir Hashirim 2:12] 'the time of singing is come, and the voice of the turtle-dove [תור] is heard in our land'.

And the Ramban wrote that these specific two species were chosen from the birds because turtle-doves only have intercourse with their mate, and the pigeons do not abandon their mate. And so too is Israel with Hashem. And his words are correct.

And I have found support for his words in the sefer Deot HaPhilosophim on parashat Shemini, for it is written there as follows:

[Josh: I don't know which of these it is:


"And the יונים [pigeons] only mate with the one they are accustomed to of the females, except if she dies, for in rare instances they will then mate with another female. And regarding the females of the תורים [turtle-doves] , there will only be a single male for a given female, and she will not yield to another male." End quote [of Deos Haphilosophim].

And it is possible to say further that the turtle-doves and pigeons were chosen since they are of the portion of stars which impact the houses of the worship of Hashem, which are [the planets] Jupiter [צדק] and Venus [נוגה], for it is written in the Sefer Reishit Chochma [Josh: from Ibn Ezra?] as follows:
Jupiter [צדק], in its portion are the houses of prayer and the place of service of Hashem, and the pure places, and among the birds, the יונים [pigeons]. And Venus [נוגה] has in its portion the love of righteousness [צדק], houses of service of Hashem, and from among the birds, the תורים [turtle-doves]. 
End quote [from Reishit Chochma].

Meanwhile, the substance of the Mincha offering is flour, oil, frankincense, and wine to libate. For behold, since the manner of a Mincha [present] which a person sends to his master, to ascend upon the table of the king, He commanded that its substance be of those more necessary and choice items in the table-food, which are bread, oil, and wine. And this is as the poet said [Tehillim 104:15]: 'And wine that maketh glad the heart of man, making the face brighter than oil, and bread that stayeth man's heart.'

And since it is the manner of people, when they offer a mincha present to their masters, that if it is the harvest time they offer the produce of the land, and if it is the time where there are no fresh fruits, they bring from the flour and oil, and spices to improve the odor of the mincha, and wine to drink upon it -- therefore, Hashem commanded that so should they do as well before the Master of the entire world, that at the start of the fruits they should bring a minchah of bikkurim, and at other times they should bring their mincha from those good things which grow from the field, and those are the bread, oil, and wine. To improve its smell they place upon it frankincense.

And behold, there are four types of Mincha, according to what their custom was at that time, to bring before their masters. And I will further give regarding this another reason, regarding "forms" [צורות] another reason, in the following, second chapter.

Behold, it has been explained that the substance which is most honored and choice to bring from it a korban to Hashem is from the three species of domestic animals which move on four legs; and less than that is chosen, for the one who cannot afford that, two flying species; and less than that was the mincha, whose substance is from the three species of plants which are most choice of the produce of the ground, which come from the field.

End first chapter of Abarbanel's introduction to sefer Vayikra.

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