Rabbi Yakov Haber
Rabbi Yakov Haber

N'sachim: Central Supplement of Korbanot

After the tragic episode of the m'rag'lim, the spies slanderous report about the Land of Israel and the subsequent decree that the entire generation of Jews would perish in the desert, Hashem commands the Jewish people concerning several seemingly unrelated mitzvot - the first being the commandment of n'sachim, the mitzva to offer a mincha and pour wine on the mizbei'ach after the bringing of various korbanot (Sh'lach 15). Elsewhere (The Cheit HaM'rag'lim and Three Mitzvot), we presented various approaches attempting to explain the connection of these mitzvot to each other and to the sin of the spies. Here, we focus on the commandment of n'sachim, elaborating on themes mentioned in the previous article.

Several questions emerge concerning the n'sachim. The fact that the Torah introduces the section with the phrase: "when you enter the Land of your settling" leads the Sifrei (see also Kiddushin 37) to conclude that the obligation only applies in Eretz Yisrael. Since some n'sachim were certainly offered in the desert as well (T'taveh 29:40-41), R. Yishmael maintains that only in the Land of Israel would they be instituted for korbanot yachid, individual offerings, as well but only after the 14 years of kibush v'chiluk. R. Akiva maintains that n'sachim were obligatory immediately upon entry even on a bamat yachid, a private altar. Why should this mitzva, not dependent per se on the Land, be dependent - at least partially - upon entry into Eretz Yisrael? Furthermore, why the distinction between the individual and the tzibur? Converts are specifically included in this mitzvah (15:15). Why is there a need to do so since they, by default, are obligated in all mitzvot? Furthermore, n'sachim only accompany a korban olah or sh'lamim. Why are they not also brought with a chatas or asham?

The Talmud (B'rachot 15b) teaches in the name of R. Yochanan that one who reads k'riyat sh'ma without t'fillin is as one who brings a korban without a mincha or n'sachim. Explaining this connection, Rav Avraham Yitchak HaKohen Kook zt"l (Ein Ayah ibid.) writes that a person is enjoined to serve G-d with his higher, human faculties (such as speech and thought) as well as with his lower, natural faculties which he shares in common with the rest of creation (such as eating, drinking, etc.). The animal korban represents service of G-d with the higher faculties. This, however, must be accompanied by offerings of both flour and wine , since they represent service of Hashem with the lower, natural faculties - flour and wine growing from the ground and representing a lower form of life than animals. One who would offer just the animal offering without the vegetable offering would indicate an unwillingness to serve Hashem with all of his faculties. Similarly, one who reads sh'ma - a mental and verbal commitment to service of G-d - without accompanying its recital with the donning of t'fillin on the head and hand - representing total Divine service with all of his faculties, indicates an incomplete commitment to Hashem.

This concept only applies to an olah and sh'lamim representing positive aspects of Divine service, mitzvot asei. Concerning chatas and asham offerings, representing distancing from sin, mitzvot lo ta'aseh, only the higher, human faculties are involved. The lower, natural faculties in man follow the decisions made by the higher intellect. For example, the stomach is satisfied with either kosher or non-kosher food. Consequently, only an animal, representing these higher faculties, is brought as an atonement for sin. (See Rav S. R. Hirsch zt"l for a similar approach to n'sachim.)

Perhaps we can humbly add to the piercing insight of Rav Kook. Whereas on a communal, K'lal Yisrael level, this concept applied in the desert as well - after all, K'lal Yisrael wholeheartedly accepted the totality of Torah with "Na'aseh v'nishma" including all of its components encompassing all aspects of human activity - however, the individual member of the Jewish people in the desert did not have too many opportunities to serve Hashem with the lower, natural faculties. The Jews were sustained through miraculous, spiritual food, drank water provided miraculously and heard Torah constantly from Moshe, the prophet of G-d. There were no fields to plant, businesses to tend to, or politics to engage in, or families to raise within the natural world. The true test of elevating all of creation through all the faculties of Man would only come in the Land of Israel where all the commandments would be placed into action (see aforementioned article). Consequently, n'sachim - representing this added dimension of Divine service, sanctification of all aspects of life - only applied to the individual upon entry into the Land. This commandment, representing so central a concept, was specifically made incumbent upon the convert, especially since he did not have a formal portion in the Land (see Rav Hirsch).

May Hashem grant us the assistance and will to merit elevating ourselves to fully serve our Creator with all of our faculties.

Copyright © 2010 by The TorahWeb Foundation. All rights reserved.