This week’s parsha is all about the offerings that were made in the Mishkan. There was usually a donor from the community and the kohen or kohanim who actually performed the ceremony on behalf of the donor. The exception was where the kohen was also the donor.
Throughout the parsha, the format is generally ‘For this reason the offering is this, and the way of performing the ceremony is that’. Chapter one discusses the olah offering which was meat and explains what to do if the donation was a bull, sheep or goat, or a chicken. It was voluntary offering and nothing is written about when to give which animal.
In chapter four, the parsha moves on to sin offerings which are made after an unintentional sin. If the Kohen Gadol sins, he offers a bull. If the ‘entire assembly of Israel’ sin it collectively offers a bull. If a ruler sins, he should offer a male goat. It is all very specific. In Chapter 4:26 it moves on to an individual who sins unintentionally and that the offering should be a she-goat although verse 32 offers the option of offering a female sheep.
Chapter five discusses the offering to be given after an intentional sin – refusing to be a witness in a court. It is put together with the sin of becoming impure through touching a carcass. The offering should be a female sheep or goat. All similar to what has gone before.
And then it says in 5:7 ‘But if his means are insufficient for a sheep or a goat….then he shall bring… two turtle doves or two young doves…’. Verse5:11 continues ‘But if his means are insufficient…..then he shall bring… a tenth of an ephah of fine flour….’.
It seems to be the only place in the parsha where the offering that one gave was based on additional criteria – in this case, wealth. It got me thinking about who decided which offering should be brought. Was there a full means disclosure to a kohen or was it left to the individual? What happened to when an individual was on the cusp of sheep/dove? Was it rounded up so that the individual felt ‘pain’ as a consequence of his sin or was it rounded down, the very act of bringing an offering was all that was required?
It feels similar to me to giving a charitable donation. I may be different to you but I normally have an idea of how much I am going to donate before I hear an appeal – I have decided how deeply I want to dig into my pockets. Then I hear a powerful speech that makes me give more than I had intended even though it means that I don’t have the money to use for something else.
I’d like to think that the ‘sinner’ had to determine which level of offering he was going to provide and that that led to a certain amount of soul searching and was part of a process of self- improvement.