“When any man of you bringeth an offering unto the L-RD.”
– Leviticus 2:2, JPS
The completion of the Mishkan was followed by the manifestation of H’Shem’s presence, in the form of a cloud that filled the Tabernacle, and prevented Moshe from entering. Then H’Shem calls (vayikra) to Moshe from the Ohel Moed (Tent of Meeting); He proceeds with instructing Moshe to speak to B’nei Yisrael, concerning the bringing of a korban (offering). The Hebrew word, “korban” is derived from the shoresh (root word) KRV, meaning to draw near. This implies that the offerer draws near to H’Shem through the bringing of an offering.
The passage continues by describing five general types of offerings, beginning with the olah. The olah represents spiritual elevation, because the entire offering is burnt on the mizbeach (altar), sending the smoke to shomayim (heaven). The word olah is connected to the word aliyah, meaning to ascend. Next, the meal offerings are mentioned: “And when any one bringeth a meal-offering unto H’Shem” (Leviticus 2:1, JPS). Literally, the verse reads, “when a soul brings a meal offering.” This is because a poor person who brings a meal offering, it is as if he offers up his own soul” (Rashi).
Next, the Torah discusses shloshamim (peace offerings), meant to reconcile the offerer to G-d and man. After this, the chatas (sin offering), and the asham (guilt offering) are mentioned. Both of these were brought specifically to atone for sin. Yet, the olah, burnt offering could also be made on a voluntary basis to atone for impure thoughts. All of these offerings give us an indication of what we need to be concerned about in our relationship to H’Shem.
Today, there are no offerings to bring, except for our prayers. When we confess our sins, from a place within ourselves, denoting a sincere heartfelt recognition of the gravity of our aveiros (sins), we may ascribe to the words of the psalmist, “The sacrifices of G-d are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O G-d, Thou wilt not despise” (Psalm 51:19, JPS 1917).