In Ezek 44.23 we learn that the priests had instruction to “teach my people the difference between the holy (kodesh) and the common (chol), and cause them to discern between the unclean (tamai) and the clean (tahor).” The priest was to mold the people and their daily life to satisfy the requirements and expectations of Yehovah, not the religious needs of the people.
Now, the concept of tamai and tahor (unclean and clean), or what most people understand as the Laws of Purity and Impurity, apply only in reference to the Mishkan and the Temple, and the holy objects connected with it. They do not apply in ordinary life, or to persons who do not intend to enter the Mishkan or the Temple (Hertz Pentateuch and Haftorahs, p.459). There is a future context to all these laws because a Temple is coming and described in Ezek 40-48 (See also Isa 2.2-3, 66.21; Micah 4.1-3; Zech 14.16-21). Now, let’s discuss some additional concepts concerning the korbanot.
There are many people who work as a volunteer to collect and distribute clothing to the poor. There are many organizations that do this. Experience teaches us that it would not simply do to hand out clothing, sadly, for many of the indigent such an arrangement would be too embarrassing. Instead, much of the clothing is “sold” for quite nominal sums, freeing the poor (or the buyer) of shame. The condition of the clothing was also critical. Many of the poor were far more sensitive to the way their clothing looked than a person in the average wage bracket. Often a respectable looking piece of clothing would be rejected by these people because it did not appear brand new. Some people would have had no such compunction wearing comparable items, but for many of the poor embarrassed by their status, such clothing was unacceptable.
A sensitivity to the feelings of the downtrodden is evidenced throughout the Torah in ways both bold and subtle. The Torah discusses the regimen of the korbanot brought to the Temple and it displays this concern for the disadvantaged. The Torah allowed different types of korbanot to be brought, permitting each person to bring a korban according to their means. Thus, a wealthy person could bring a bull while a poor person could bring a mincha, a flour or bread offering.
This in itself demands an explanation, for instead of allowing a wealthy person to bring an animal korban and the poor person to bring a korban mincha or flour offerings, one might have expected the Torah to simply suggest that everyone present a korban mincha. This arrangement, however, would have had a number of negative aspects associated with it. First, it would prevent the rich from providing what to them would be a more significant korban to Yehovah. More importantly, there was a tremendous psychological process associated with the korbanot. When a person brought an animal korban chata (sin offering), he would confess his sin (vidui) while placing his hands in the head or neck of the animal (semicha). Then, he would watch the animal being slaughtered (shochita). Thus, the highly distasteful experience of watching an animal die would be associated in the sinner’s mind with their sin, and hopefully, they would be deterred from sinning. It had to feel different than just slaughtering an animal for food.
So, the people were allowed to present different types of korbanot according to their financial situations. However, there was a problem that remained, which was, how to alleviate the embarrassment of the poor when they brought their korban mincha. To help lessen their embarrassment, the Torah goes out of its way to change its phraseology concerning the korbanot of the poor. While in other instances, when the Torah speaks of a person offering a korban, such an individual is termed a person. In the instance of the poor man bringing his korban mincha, such a person is called a “soul” (nefesh). Rashi explains that this change in terms was to remind people that in the view of Yehovah, it was not the korban itself but the dedication associated with the korban that mattered. Thus, it was quite possible that the simple korban mincha of the poor was greater than the bull by the rich. Yeshua confirms this concept in Mark 12.41-49.
But, if the poor might have a problem with their status, those who were bringing their korban chata might well have still a greater problem. The activities in the Temple were quite a public event, and to bring a korban chata was like telling everyone that they had sinned or transgressed. To minimize this embarrassment, the Torah insists that both the korban chata and the korban olah (burnt) be slaughtered in the same place in the azarah (courtyard). The korban olah was brought as a korban of devotion and total submission to Yehovah so it lacked negative connotations. When a spectator watched a person bring a korban chata to the slaughtering area (Beit Ha Mitbechaim=”house of/to life”) it would be unclear as to the true status of the korban, whether it was a korban chata or a korban olah. As a result, the worshiper was spared the embarrassment. We learn that the Torah emphasized in both bold and subtle ways the need to avoid causing the pain of embarrassment.
Lev 8.1-36 deals with the Consecration of the Kohanim. This is a seven day process and this procedure will be done again very soon because preparations for a coming Temple are being made right now and this will need to be done before any type of worship can begin there. This coming Temple will be used during the first half of the birth-pains, so this chapter is also very eschatological. Priests will need to be identified and there is a DNA test for that. However, there will be some of the same difficulties in identifying these priests that they had when the Jewish people returned to the land after the Babylonian Captivity.
In Part 11 we will examine some of the eschatological aspects to the consecration of the priests and Ezra 3.1-6, Isa 66.21 and other verses. We will see how all of this fits into the eschatological expectations related to the coming Third Temple, the Temple Mount, the priesthood, the consecrated vessels, the altar and the korbanot.