Monday, April 6, 2009

Learning Torah in Place of Bringing Korban Pesach

In Parshas Tzav, the Chasam Sofer has Torah for Shabbos Hagadol. One of the pieces he writes is as follows.

Zos Hatorah la'olah lamincha velachatas....
אמר ריש לקיש מאי דכתיב (ויקרא ז) זאת התורה לעולה למנחה ולחטאת ולאשם כל העוסק בתורה כאילו הקריב עולה מנחה חטאת ואשם אמר רבא האי לעולה למנחה עולה ומנחה מיבעי ליה אלא אמר רבא כל העוסק בתורה אינו צריך לא עולה ולא חטאת ולא מנחה ולא אשם
The Gemara in the end of Menachos brings that Rava learns from this passuk that "one who learns Torah does not need the korbanos." Rava bases this on the word "La'olah," seeing the introductory article "la'" as a negative, as it is interpreted in the context of Nedarim-- 'la' as 'lo', meaning 'not.' Reish Lakish, on the other hand, learns it to mean that "one who learns Torah, it is as if he brought these korbanos." To explain the difference between these shittos, the Chasam Sofer notes that in the beginning of Tzav, each Korban is introduced with the words "zos toras ha...(whatever korban is being discussed)." Here, it does not say "la" anything. He explains that if one learns the parsha of the korban in order to understand how to bring it, then the learning, while meritorious, cannot be better than the actual bringing. This is what Reish Lakish is referring to. If, on the other hand, one learns because he loves the Torah and wants to see what God intended, such a learning elevates him above korbanos and he does need korbanos at all. Mamzer talmid chacham is greater than Kohen Gadol am ha'aretz.

Then he talks about the people who were tamei at the time the second Korban Pesach was brought, in the year after they left Mitzrayim. He says that when the people came to Moshe, and complained "We are tamei. Why should we be excluded from this great mitzvah of the Korban Pesach?" Moshe answered "Wait and I will see what God answers." He explains that Moshe's immediate response to the questioners was to apply the Gemara in Menachos: Don't worry about not being able to bring the Korban Pesach-- just sit and learn the parsha of the korban, and it will be as if you brought it. But they answered that this is not good enough, because the Korban Pesach is brought en masse, it is brought, as the Gemara says, Bich'nufya. This Kenufya cannot, they said, be achieved by learning the parsha of the Korban. Moshe Rabbeinu saw the justice of their argument, and asked Hashem what the answer was.

So we had two big problems with this Chasam Sofer.

Problem 1. If, as Moshe Rabbeinu said, 'learning' is like 'bringing', what kind of problem did they have that they would not be bichnuf'ya. Just as Reuven bringing his private korban at the same time as Shimon does creates knufya, so, too, Levi the Tamei learning the parsha while Klal Yisrael was bringing actual korbanos should join them together and give the temei'im the ma'ala of kenufya! I bring, you learn, we're all bringing the korbanos together!

So, you will answer that learning the parsha of a korban only creates a "virtual korban" insofar as intrinsic aspects of the korban are concerned, and kenufya is extrinsic. (Or, one is a din in the cheftza, and one is a din in the gavra.) In other words, kenufya is not a din in the korban itself, it is a circumstantial din, and learning only replicates dinim in the Cheftza of the korban, not in circumstances of the gavra who is bringing it. But that is not a good answer. It is a no good answer. Because eating the korban pesach is also essential to being mekayeim the halacha of Korban Pesach; or at least, it is essential that at the time of shechita, you are fit to eat the Korban. If learning counts for "ability to eat," then learning should count for rubbing elbows also.

Problem 2. So what did Hashem answer? No problem: you can bring a Pesach Sheini. What good is that answer according to the Chasam Sofer? The whole problem was that they were missing the knufya aspect, and the Pesach Sheini is certainly not bich'nufya! As far as a Pesach "not bichnuf'ya", they could have been mekayem that at the time of the first Pesach!

My middle Brisker answered this question by saying the kenufya is only a din in the first Pesach, and one who brings it without kenuf'ya is bringing an imperfect Korban Pesach. But there is no din of Kenufya by the Pesach Sheini. That, then, would be a perfect Korban Pesach even without Kenufya.

This is a fine answer. It is simple, straigthforward, and directly resolves the question. But I still think the Chasam Sofer is tzarich iyun. The Brisker Mehalach to answer the Chasam Sofer makes Pesach Sheini like winning the gold at the Senior Olympics; you got a perfect score, but only because the bar was lowered.


  1. Thank you, Pesach.

    SJ, I'm sorry you're so confused. I, however, am not having a crisis of identity or faith, and have no interest in your apologetics. Apologetics??? What does he mean by Apologetics??? I mean that it is clear to me that you made up your mind only as a post facto rationalization of your dislike of Jewish ritual. If you enjoyed Pesach, you would believe in it; but you find it so burdensome that you convinced yourself that it is a lie. You are not the first. We read about your problem in the Hagada every year, when we talk of the Ben Rasha who asks "mah ha'avoda hazos lachem."