Why the Kohen Gadol brings a Daily Meal Offering

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Parashat Tzav 5772

It’s important to develop sound habits.

But why would God insist that the Kohen Gadol develop the habit of bringing a meal offering every day?

Here are the verses that discuss the meal offering of the Kohen Gadol (translation by Judaica Press).

Vayikra Chapter 6

12 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying,

13 This is the offering of Aaron and his sons, which they shall offer to the Lord, on the day when [one of them] is anointed: One tenth of an ephah of fine flour for a perpetual meal offering, half of it in the morning and half of it in the evening.

14 It shall be made with oil on a shallow pan, after bringing it scalded and repeatedly baked; you shall offer a meal offering of broken pieces, [with] a pleasing fragrance to the Lord.

15 And the kohen who is anointed instead of him from among his sons, shall prepare it; [this is] an eternal statute; it shall be completely burnt to the Lord.

16 Every meal offering of a kohen shall be completely burnt; it shall not be eaten.

Some Answers

Vayikra 6:13

This verse is contradictory. When is this offering brought: on the day of anointing or every day? The verse first mentions one particular day, but then talks about a daily offering.

The Gemara Menachot explains that this verse is talking about the Kohen Gadol and a regular kohen.

A regular kohen would bring a meal offering on the first day that he performed the service as a kohen. This was part of his initiation into the priestly service and was brought only once.

However, the “perpetual offering” was brought by the Kohen Gadol every morning and evening.

In addition, from verse 15 it is derived that on the day that a regular kohen is promoted to be Kohen Gadol he brings a meal offering. His higher level of service requires a new initiation.

Putting this all together, if the first time a kohen serves in the Beit HaMikdash is as Kohen Gadol, he will bring three meal offerings:

  1. his dedication meal offering to serve as a kohen;
  2. his dedication meal offering to become Kohen Gadol;
  3. the regular daily offering of the Kohen Gadol.

Why is part of the meal offering brought in the morning and the second part brought in the evening?

Abarbanel offers ten reasons why the Kohen Gadol brings a daily meal offering.

The first reason he suggests is because all of the Jewish people are relying on the Kohen Gadol to perform the daily service and atone for the people. But as the verse in Kohelet 7:20 says, “There is no man on earth who does good and does not sin.” If the Kohen Gadol is not free of sin, then how can he atone for everyone else?

Therefore, the Kohen Gadol brings his meal offering each morning and evening to atone for his sins.

Thus we see that Abarbanel understands that this meal offering is actually a sin offering.

We read in Vayikra 5:11-13 that a meal offering may be brought as a sin offering by a poor person.

11 But if he cannot afford two turtle doves or two young doves, then he shall bring as his sacrifice for his sin one tenth of an ephah of fine flour for a sin offering. He shall not put oil over it, nor shall he place frankincense upon it, for it is a sin offering.

12 He shall bring it to the kohen, and the kohen shall scoop out a fistful as its reminder, and cause it to [go up in] smoke on the altar, upon the fires of the Lord. It is a sin offering.

13 Thus the kohen shall make atonement for his sin that he committed in any one of these [cases], and he shall be forgiven. And it shall belong to the kohen like the meal offering.

When a meal offering is brought as a sin offering, the person bringing it does not put oil or frankincense on it. The daily offering of the Kohen Gadol was prepared with oil, but no oil or frankincense was placed on it. So it makes sense to consider it as a sin offering.

Another reason the Abarbanel offers is that when a person who sinned sees the Kohen Gadol bring his meal offering in the morning and evening, they will not be embarrassed or ashamed to bring their proper sin offering.

Vayikra 6:15 and 16

Why are we told twice that this meal offering is completely consumed by fire?

According to Rashi, the repetition is to teach that every meal offering brought by a kohen, whether voluntary or for a sin, was to be totally burnt.

Only the frankincense and a handful of flour of a regular meal offering were burned on the altar. The kohen who performed the service was given the remainder to eat.

If this was done with the meal offering of a kohen, then only a small portion would be fully dedicated to God. Thus the commentators explain that the kohen’s meal offering is completely burnt on the altar.

Your Turn

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