Letter and Spirit

For the week ending 16 March 2019 / 9 Adar II 5779

Parshat Vayikra

by Rabbi Yosef Hershman
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Mincha — Gift of a Gift

The second chapter of Vayikra discusses the mincha offerings, the offerings comprised of flour and oil. When the word mincha appears in other contexts it generally refers to a gift, by which the giver recognizes the recipient as the master of his fate. Through the mincha, the giver expresses his dependence on the recipient of the gift and submits to his authority. For example, when Jacob sends a peace offering to Eisav in advance of his encounter, it is referred to as a mincha.

The laws of the mincha offering open: “A nefesh who would bring near a mincha offering to G-d.” When an animal is brought as an offering, the nefesh itself is the offering — the nefesh of the animal is given up to the altar, representing the mission of the offerer. In the mincha, however, instead of the nefesh being the offering, it is the offerer: “A nefesh who would bring near a mincha offering…” This offering nefesh — the soul that would express its desire for G-d’s closeness (makriv) — brings the mincha, its possessions, as an homage offering.

The mincha contained flour and oil in particular measurements, along withfrankincense. Flour, the main ingredient, symbolizes sustenance. The meaning of flour offered at a mincha as a sign of homage is this: the condition for our existence is in the Hands of the One to Whom the mincha is offered.

The oil added to the flour created a rich oil bread. The pleasant and fragrant frankincense was added afterwards, as a separate ingredient to add an element of satisfaction. Just as satisfaction is its own blessing and does not necessarily follow from sustenance or even richness, the frankincense was an independent part of the offering.

The mincha is the single offering that could not be brought jointly — only one nefesh, a single soul, could offer a mincha. The animal offerings, which represent the task of man, could be brought jointly — many people can find joint expression in a single offering, in a common task. But the mincha, which represents sustenance, prosperity and satisfaction, is an individual offering.

In recognition of these gifts, we return a ‘gift’ and express that the possessions are really the property of the Receiver. From His Hand were they extended to us, and by His Will do they remain on loan. With this acknowledgement we are prepared to use these possessions in His service.

§ Sources: Commentary, Vayikra 2:1

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