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Soul Offerings

bag of grains

“‘When anyone brings a grain offering to the LORD, their offering is to be of the finest flour. They are to pour olive oil on it, put incense on it.’” — Leviticus 2:1

The Torah portion for this week is Vayikra, which means “and He called,” from Leviticus 1:1–5:26, and the Haftorah is from Isaiah 43:21–44:23.

Many different kinds of offering were brought to the Temple each day. Some were mandatory, others voluntary. Some sacrifices were animals, others were birds, and some, grain. But one sacrifice in particular was more beloved to God than all the others. That sacrifice was called the mincha sacrifice. It was a voluntary sacrifice made simply of grain and oil.

In describing the other offerings, when Scripture refers to the person bringing the sacrifice, he is referred to only as “him” or “a man.” But when describing the mincha offering, the Hebrew word used to describe the worshiper is nefesh, which means “soul.” The verse literally reads: “When a soul brings a grain offering to the LORD . . .” This is how the Jewish sages learn that bringing this particular offering is especially beloved by God.

Here’s why: All the other offerings were usually brought by the wealthy people. Only they could afford animals and birds. But the poor would bring the grain offering. They would grow the wheat, grind the flour, and take from their meager sustenance to give sacrificially to God. Because this was such a difficult offering to make, God saw it as if the person were giving God his very soul! The small sacrifices of the poor were more precious to Him than the most expensive animal sacrifices brought by the wealthy.

There is a legend told that when King Solomon first built the Temple, he divided the work into many parts so that the entire nation could play a role. The wealthier people used their money to buy supplies and hire workers. The poor who couldn’t do so were given the task of building the western part of the outer wall that surrounded the Temple complex. They had to hew stones from the quarries themselves, chisel them, and haul them into place. It was back-breaking work, to be sure, but it was work done out of love for God.

Tradition teaches that God treasured the work of the poor so much that when His presence descended onto the Temple, it descended upon the Western Wall, made by the poor. A heavenly voice went out that said, “I shall never depart from this wall and never shall it be destroyed.” And indeed, it is the only remaining wall today – the wall where people from around the world flock to in order to worship and pray to God with a sense of being especially close to Him there.

The message to us is simple: It’s not how much you give; it’s how you give it. Even the smallest contribution to God’s purposes is hugely significant to Him. And sometimes – often times – it’s the minor contributions that make a major difference!

With prayers for shalom, peace,

Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President

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