Class Notes - Class #22

We have reached the beginning of Leviticus, and will spend much of the next several classes on sacrifices and other matters related to the Temple ritual.  Our author tried to balance introducing the material well enough for the student to become familiar with it, while not drowning in detail.  We will try to reach that same balance.  We will start with an outline of the sacrifices, but this description is not exhaustive.


There are five major types of sacrifices:

  1. Olah,” a “burnt offering,” because it is entirely burned on the altar. (Mitzvah #115.)
  2. Hattat,” a “sin offering.” (Mitzvah #138.)
  3. “Asham,” a “ guilt offering.” (Mitzvah #140.)
  4. Shlamim,” a “peace offering.” (Mitzvah #141.)
  5. Minchah,” a “meal offering.” (Mitzvah #116.)

We will start with these five mitzvot, each of which outlines the proper procedure for bringing that type of sacrifice.  For each one we will discuss how the sacrifice was brought and under what circumstances it was brought.  We will also cover other matters of note that appear in these mitzvah/essays.  In the next class we will go on to mitzvot that fill in more of the details.   (I tried to include parallel information about each type of sacrifice, but I probably did not succeed.  We have lots more mitzvot to cover that will provide lots more detail.)

            There is an excellent essay at the end of the first volume of the Art Scroll Vayikra that outlines basic information about korbanot.  I used it extensively in preparing this class.


Mitzvah #115 is a positive mitzvah to bring an olah according to the appropriate rules.  The mitzvah applied when the Temple was in existence, to male cohanim.  An olah was unique in that it was entirely burned on the mizbeah.  There are many varieties of olah, some communal and some individual:

  1. Tamid.”  [Communal]  Every day, one sheep was brought each morning and evening as a communal sacrifice.
  2. The cohen gadol brought many sacrifices on yom kippur.  Among them was a personal olah.  [Personal]
  3. A convert to Judaism bring an olah. [Personal]
  4. An individual can voluntarily bring an olah. [Personal]
  5. When there were no other sacrifices being brought and the altar was quiet, the cohanim would bring an olah to keep the mizbeach in use.  [Communal]

Sacrifices were sometimes brought in groups that included several different categories of sacrifices, and these groups often included olot:

  1. A woman after childbirth brought an olah.  This was brought at least 40 days after the birth of a boy and 80 days after the birth of a girl. [Personal]
  2.  Mussaf.”  On Shabbat, holidays, and rosh hodesh, additional animals were brought as olot.  The array of animals varied depending on the day. [Communal]
  1. An olah was one of the three sacrifices brought by each pilgrim to the Temple on Pessah, Succot and Shavuot. [Personal]
  2. On Shavuot, a unique group of sacrifices were brought that included two breads (called the “shtei halechem.”)  This group included several olot. [Communal]
  3.  An olah accompanied the omer that was brought on the second day of Pessah.  [Communal]
  4.  When the community as a whole has participated in idol worship, the community brings an olah and a hattat. [Communal]
  5.   A metzorah who was healed went through a special procedure including several sacrifices one of which is an olah.  [Personal]
  6.   Similarly, a nazir whose term of n’zirut ended went through a special procedure including several sacrifices one of which is an olah.  [Personal]


An olah is an animal sacrifice, a male of any age.  It can be from cattle, sheep or goats, although the olah required for certain situations might be a specific type of animal.  A person who cannot afford a larger animal may bring a bird as an olah.  The bird must be a turtledove or a young pigeon.  This works for a personal voluntary olah, the olah of a woman who has given birth and the olah of a metzorah.  Each olah was accompanied by a wine libation and a minchah of flour and oil.  The details of these varied depending on the type of animal involved.


The author describes the procedure for bringing an olah.  We will describe the procedure for an individual bringing a voluntary olah.  Then, when we get to other types of sacrifices, we will be able to point out the differences between this voluntary individual olah and other types of animal sacrifices.

1.      The fire on the mizbeah was refueled and relit every morning and evening.

2.      The person bringing the olah would obtain an appropriate animal, either from his or her own flock or by purchasing the animal. 

3.      The person would bring the animal to the designated place in the Temple and do “smichah.”  This involved placing one’s hands on the head of the animal and pressing down.  If the person wanted to make a confession, “vidui,” this was the opportunity.

4.      The animal was taken to the sacrificial area at the northern part of the azarah.  Its legs were tied, two right legs together and two left legs together, and the animal was slaughtered.  (The slaughterer did not have to be a cohen.)  A cohen caught the blood from the wound in a designated vessel.

5.      The cohen walked to the northeast corner of the mizbeah and threw some of the blood directly from the vessel onto the bottom corner of the mizbeah such that some of the blood landed on the north wall of the mizbeah and some of the blood landed on the east side.  Then he walked to the southwest corner and threw the blood so it landed on the south and west walls.  He then emptied any remaining blood in one of the drains at the base of the mizbeah ramp.

6.      The animal was skinned.  The skin belonged to the cohanim and was stored, probably in the Parveh chamber.

7.      The animal was then butchered into designated parts.  This included removing the sciatic nerve, as we saw in mitzvah #3.  The internal organs were put into a vessel and washed.  The legs were also washed.  The wound from the slaughter was covered with a designated piece of fat.  The pieces were given to designated cohanim to hold.  More cohanim were involved in holding the pieces of communal olah than an individual’s olah.

8.      In a prescribed order the pieces were brought to the ramp and salted.  Then they were put on the fire on top of the mizbeah and entirely burned.


Mitzvah #138 requires the cohanim to follow the requisite procedure in bringing a hattat.  A hattat could be brought by the community or by an individual, but there was no voluntary hattat.  A hattat was brought only when one was required.

1.      We are already familiar with the individual hattat, brought when someone committed a transgression b’shogeg that, had the person done the transgression b’mazid it would have been punishable by karet.  A female kid or lamb was sacrificed.  There are several variations on this theme.

a.      When the king had to bring a personal hattat, he brought a male kid.  Otherwise, his hattat was the same as anyone else’s.

b.      When the sin involved was idolatry, the person brought a female kid.

c.       A poor person had the choice to bring a less expensive hattat in certain cases.  The person can bring two birds.  If even that is too expensive, the person can bring a minchah.  These sacrifices are called an “oleh v’yored,” “up and down,” because the value of the sacrifice varies according to the financial means of the person bringing the sacrifice.  This option is available for someone who makes a vow and does not keep it, if someone swears in a civil case that he does not know anything relevant when he really does know something relevant, and for entering the Temple and eating sacrifices when tamei. 


The procedure for bringing a hattat for an individual differs from the procedure for bringing an olah in several ways.  Instead of tossing the blood onto the bottom corners of the mizbeah, the cohen dabs the blood by hand on the “karnot hamizbeah,” the protrusions on the top of each corner of the altar.  The emurim were burned on the mizbeah, but the rest of the hattat was eaten by the cohanim.  We saw the requirement that the cohanim eat their portion of a hattat in mitzvah #102.


2.      A hattat was a component of the group of sacrifices brought on rosh hodesh, brought with the shtei halechem on Shavuot, brought by a healed metzorah, and brought by a nazir who has completed his or her term of n’zirut.


3.      There were five versions of the hattat where the blood was applied to a specific place or places inside the heichal rather than on the mizbeah in the ezras cohanim.  The cohanim did not eat the meat of these sacrifices; instead the sacrifices were entirely burned outside the Temple.

a.      On yom kippur, the cohen gadol brought a personal hattat of a bull to atone for his own sins, the sins of this family and the sins of the cohanim.

b.      On yom kippur the cohen gadol brought a communal hattat.

c.      If the Sanhedrin made an erroneous ruling, and the community followed that ruling, the Sanhedrin brought a hattat to atone for everyone’s incorrect behavior.  The sacrifice was a bull. We will learn more about this in mitzvah #120 in our next class.

d.      If the Sanhedrin made an erroneous ruling about idol worship and the community followed that ruling, the Sanhedrin brought a hattat of a male kid, accompanied by an olah.

e.      If the cohen gadol made an erroneous ruling about his service in the Temple he brought a hattat.


In his essay on this mitzvah, the author reiterates what he said in his essay on mitzvah #95, that there are no rational explanations for the details of how each type of korban worked.  He mentioned earlier that there might be mystical explanations.  Here he says that only a rare expert in the mystical tradition might have some insight into the details, and that expert would likely only know the “beginnings of reasons.”  This will apply to many of the mitzvot, not just this one.

            The author also points out that Ramban does not count the five mitzvot outlining the procedures for each type of korban in his official count of the mitzvot.  Rather, Ramban considers the procedure for each korban as part of the mitzvah that requires one to bring that korban when the appropriate circumstances arise.  The author agrees with Ramban but sticks to his plan of following the Rambam’s count of mitzvot.  Note the respectful way the author refers to Rambam’s opinion with which he disagrees. The author says that if we don’t understand the Rambam’s opinion, that is more likely our lack than his.  After all, this entire project is grounded in Rambam’s thinking.


Mitzvah #140 sets the required procedure for a korban asham.  The procedure for an asham was like the procedure for an olah but the cohanim ate the meat except for the emurim.  We saw the requirement that the cohanim eat their portion of an asham in mitzvah #102.  An asham was always a male sheep; some types of asham required older sheep and some younger.  An asham was always an individual sacrifice, never a communal sacrifice.  It was a required sacrifice in certain circumstances, never a voluntary sacrifice.  There are six circumstances that require a korban asham:

1.      If someone owed money and swore falsely that he or she did not owe the money, he or she brought an asham of a ram.  The person also had to repay the debt plus a penalty.

2.      If someone unintentionally used sacred property for personal use, he or she brought an asham.  The person also had to pay the Temple for the property plus a penalty.  For example this would apply if someone used an animal already designated to be a korban for personal use or if someone misappropriated funds from the Temple treasury.

3.      A woman was half-slave and half-free; that is, she was owned in partnership by two people one of whom freed her.  She was married to an eved ivri, but they have completed only airusin, not nisuin.  Then another man has sex with her.  Normally the penalty for adultery is death, but in this odd case the man who had sex with her is not subject to capital punishment.  He is, however, required to bring a korban asham.

4.      Someone thinks he or she might be required to bring a hattat, but he or she is not sure.  That person brings a ram as an asham.  If it later turns out that the person was required to bring a hattat, the person brings the hattat.

5.      Someone is a nazir.  During his or her term of n’zirut, the person becomes tamei.  At that point, the nazir undergoes a ceremony and then starts the term of n’zirut again.  An asham is part of that transition ceremony.

6.      An asham is part of the group of sacrifices brought by a healed metzorah. 


Mitzvah #141 covers the procedure for bringing a korban shlamim.  In most cases an individual brings a shlamim, and that person, along with his or her guests, get to eat the meat of the shlamim.  As opposed to other sacrifices, where the animal was slaughtered in the northern area of the ezras cohanim, a shlamim can be slaughtered anywhere in the ezras cohanim.  Sacrifices that can be slaughtered anywhere in the ezras cohanim are called “kadashim kalim.”  After the animal has been slaughtered and butchered, the owner and the cohen take the emurim and the breast and right hind thigh and wave them in all four directions and up and down.  Then the emurim are salted and burned on the altar.  The cohen keeps the breast and right hind thigh, which he may share with members of his family and eat anywhere in Jerusalem.  The owner and his or her guests get to eat the rest anywhere in Jerusalem sometime before sunset on the following day.

            A shlamim can be a sheep, cow or goat, young or old.  A bird cannot be a shlamim.

            There are several types of korban shlamim:

1.      An individual may voluntarily bring a shlamim.  It can be any kind of kosher mammal of any age.

2.      On Pessah, Shavuot and Succot, men who make the pilgrimage to Jerusalem bring two sacrifices, a chagigah and a shalmei simchah.  These are brought without accompanying m’nachot. We saw the requirement to bring a chagigah in mitzvah #88.

3.      A shlamim is a component of the shtei halechem sacrifice brought on Shavuot.  This is an unusual shlamim in three ways.  The two live sheep of the sacrifice are waved with the two breads before the sheep are slaughtered.  The sheep must be slaughtered in the northern area of the ezras cohanim.  The meat, except for the emurim that are burned on the mizbeah, is eaten by the cohanim within the Temple.

4.      A shlamim is part of the package of sacrifices brought by a nazir who completes his or her term of n’zirut.  This shlamim has to be a ram.  The shoulder of the animal went to the cohanim, who had to eat it under special conditions. It comes with a specific selection of cakes of minchah.  (See below.)

5.      A todah is a voluntary sacrifice offered to give special thanks to God.  The rabbis explain one should bring a todah when one has survived a serious illness, returned safely from a dangerous trip through the desert or by sea, or has been released from prison.  But anyone can bring a todah for whatever reason the person wants to give thanks.  The todah consists of a shlamim and forty cakes of minchah, ten of each of four types.  One of each type of minchah is included in the waving and given to the cohen, who gets to eat them.  The owner gets to eat the remaining m’nachos.


Mitzvah #116 requires the cohanim to bring minchah sacrifices according to the required procedures.  M’nachot were sacrifices consisting of flour, sometimes with oil and sometimes with water, and sometimes with frankincense.  In general, they could not be hametz. 

The author points out that m’nachot do not have the same emotional impact as animal sacrifices; there is no animal that loses its life with which we can identify.  Rather, he says, we should think of m’nachot as a gift, which can be significant and meaningful even if it is something small.

            There are several different recipes for m’nachot, each following its own procedure.  For all m’nachot, first the person brining the minchah would consecrate the ingredients and measure out the amount of flour and olive oil needed.  The person would start by pouring a little bit of the oil into a mixing vessel, then adding the flour, then adding the rest of the oil and mixing the ingredients.  A little more oil was added.  At this point, the recipe for each type of minchah diverged:

1.      An unbaked minchah is done at this point.  Since there is only oil and flour, there is no danger of its becoming hametz.

Frankincense is added and a cohen takes the pan, and touches the pan to the southwest corner of the mizbeah.  The cohen then takes a handful out by reaching into the pan and closing his middle three fingers around some of the minchah.  He places this in a separate vessel, gathers the frankincense from the first vessel and puts it on top of the second vessel, brings the second vessel to the top of the mizbeah and adds salt, and then adds that to the fire on the mizbeah.


2.      For a minchah al machvat, water is added and the dough is kneaded.   The person doing the kneading needs to keep kneading it so that it does not become hametz.   The dough is formed into cakes and placed on a pan that looks something like a cupcake pan turned upside down.  The cakes are then placed over heat so that the cakes fry in the oil. 

3.      A minchah al marcheshet is the same as a minchah al machvat except that the cupcake pan is right side up and the dough is placed in the cups.

4.      Challot” are m’nachot baked in an oven.  All of the necessary oil is added during the first mixing process.  Then water is added and the dough is kneaded.  The cakes are baked on the bottom of the oven.

5.      To make “r’kikin” the flour is mixed with the little bit of oil added at first and with water.  Then it is kneaded, made into cakes and baked.  After that, the rest of the oil is spread on top of the cakes.

For all of these m’nachot, after they are cooked they are folded and broken into pieces.  Frankincense is added and a cohen takes the pieces, in a pan, and touches the pan to the southwest corner of the mizbeah.  The cohen then takes a handful out by reaching into the pan and closing his middle three fingers around some of the minchah.  He places this in a separate vessel, gathers the frankincense from the first vessel and puts it on top of the second vessel, brings the second vessel to the top of the mizbeah and adds salt, and then adds that to the fire on the mizbeah.  The remaining cakes are eaten; who eats them depends on the purpose of the minchah.

            Here are some of the occasions on which a minchah was brought:

1.      Olot and shlamim were accompanied by m’nachot and wine libations.

2.      An individual may voluntarily bring a minchah of any of the five types mentioned earlier. There is a minimum for the amount of flour used. If a cohen brings the minchah, the entire minchah is burned on the altar.  Otherwise the cohanim eat the part of the minchah that is not burned on the altar. 

3.      A minchah is an option for poor people for certain hattat offerings.

4.      Every day the cohen gadol offered 12 m’nachos, half in the morning and half in the evening.  This was a personal sacrifice of the cohen gadol, and the cakes were entirely burned on the mizbeah.  There was a unique recipe for these m’nachot; the dough was first boiled, then fried, then baked.

5.      Every cohen brought a minchah on the day he was initiated into the Temple service.  This was called the “minchat hinuch.”

6.      A minchah was part of the sotah ceremony.  This minchah was made of only barley flour and water.

7.      The minchah was also part of the omer ceremony.  It consisted of oil and barley flour.

There are four other m’nachot no part of which was burned on the altar:

8.  The lechem hapanim that was placed on the shulhan and was replaced every Shabbat.  The outgoing frankincense was burned on the altar but the outgoing breads were eaten by the cohanim.

9.       The shtei halechem, two loaves that were part of a set of sacrifices on Shavuot.

10.   The breads that were part of the todah.

11.   M’nachot were part of the set of sacrifices brought by a nazir who completed his or her term of n’zirut.


There were other sacrifices that do not fit easily into this rubric: the behor (see mitzvah #18), one in ten of a flock of newborn animals, the korban pessah, and several others.  Three of the m’nachot were communal:  the omer, the shtei halechem and the lechem hapanim. The shtei halechem and part of the todah were  the only  m’nachot that were hametz.


We mentioned earlier that there was an option to bring birds for certain korbanot.  These sacrifices had a different procedure, which we will cover when we get to the relevant mitzvot.