This week's parsha includes the laws of several kinds
of sacrifices which fall into two categories: the
shlomim offerings that are eaten by the
kohanim and the donor who brings it, and the burnt
offerings which are completely burnt on the Altar.
Beis Shammai and Beis Hillel differ with regard to the
preference of those sacrifices that are brought for a
festival. These include korbon chagiga and korbon
re'iya. The former is a korbon shlomim eaten by
the kohanim and the donor, whereas the korbon
re'iya is a burnt offering which is completely consumed
upon the Altar.
Beis Shammai say: The korbon re'iya is valued at two
silver coins and the chagiga at one. Beis Hillel say:
the chagiga is one silver coin and the re'iya
The gemora explains the reasons behind the different
schools of thought. Beis Shammai value the re'iya at
two because it is totally consumed at the altar, which is
not the case with the chagiga. Beis Hillel maintain
the very opposite: If you argue that the sacrifice which is
totally consumed by the altar is superior, this is not so.
Superior is the chagiga, from which there are two
`eatings' -- that of the kohanim and that of the person who
Rabbeinu Meir Simcha zt'l expands on the idea in his
work, Meshech Chochmoh, Parshas Yisro:
There are two approaches in divine service. One way is to
totally abandon the aspects of this world and to cleave to
spiritual things only. The second way is to live a this-
worldly life, imbued completely with Torah while constantly
contending with the enticements of this world.
There seems to be an advantage to living in the material,
physical world and adapting it to the Torah, as opposed to
shunning all mundane attractions. Through the first way, one
can attain a greater degree of perfection even though he is
disturbed and distracted by the need to earn a livelihood
and he is not free to devote himself solely to Torah
There is another qualitative difference besides. Whoever
cleaves to the choice of pursuing wisdom will strive to
purify his soul to the degree that it becomes separated and
abstracted from the physical, but only his soul will
benefit, whereas one who serves Hashem by uplifting the
mundane to a higher level, will benefit his body as well and
elevate it to a degree of eternal life. His body will also
be able to glow and illuminate with spirituality and enjoy
Before the giving of the Torah, Moshe Rabbenu was commanded,
"Remove your shoes from your feet," for he required a
distancing of the material essence and its corporal powers
from holiness. Physical matter had no place on holy soil.
But after the receiving of the Torah, Moshe Rabbenu was able
to ascend Mt. Sinai together with his corporal body, his
physicality. This is what caused the angels to ask: What is
a [creature] born-of-woman doing here? What place does a
material body have in our midst? Moshe replied to them: Do
you engage in business dealings amongst one another? Is
there envy between you? He was referring to the commandments
of practical application that only involve human beings
since they purify the physical elements within them and
refine them so that they can glow with divine light. This is
how Moshe gained the special aura that radiated from his
face in divine beams, like the rays of the sun, for his very
body had become a vessel of spirituality.
This is the reason why the tanoim are divided in
their opinion whether the festivals are purely "unto
Hashem," only for elevation through Torah and prayer, or if
they are also meant for `creature comfort' enjoyment? Is
there place for eating and drinking in a division of "half
for Hashem, half for you"?
With regard to Shavuos, all the sages are of undivided
opinion that it is a festival to be enjoyed on the physical
level, "half for you." For this is the purpose of the Torah -
- to uplift the matter and its powers, to sublimate it
through Torah, which will pave a person's footsteps in the
right direction in this world of physical action.
Now we are equipped to understand the significance of the
shlomim sacrifices which are eaten by the
kohanim and the donors. They are called thus because
they bring peace to the world. How? Through the physical act
of eating. Abstinence from this world does not purify the
body and its physicality; it only elevates the soul and
separates it further from the body. Only actual indulgence,
that is, involvement, in the physical aspects of this world
can elevate the matter and its powers to a spiritual level.
This is why the shlomim which are eaten have the
power to sanctify and elevate the physical aspects of life,
whereas the olah is altogether holy and completely
consumed on the altar unto Hashem.
Herein lies the controversy between Beis Hillel and Beis
Shammai as to which sacrifice is preferable. The question
highlights the different approaches of each school to the
desired mode of avodas Hashem. Hillel was of the
inclination of Aharon Hakohen: he loved peace and pursued
peace, loved his fellow men and brought them close to Torah.
Shammai and his colleagues were so removed and elevated from
the masses that common folk could not relate to him enough
to emulate him.
Beis Shammai resembled the korbon olah. Hillel, on
the other hand, sought to uplift everything that was mundane
and utilize everything for avodas Hashem. In
Maseches Beitza, the gemara says: Hillel
Hazokein had a different approach: all of his acts were for
the sake of Heaven. Everything was a peace offering, so to
speak, everything could be uplifted for divine service.
But Shammai was exalted, removed from worldly things, above
them. He was on a solitary plane, a rarefied atmosphere
which few could attain. His conduct was difficult to
emulate. According to their different attitudes, we can now
understand why Beis Hillel valued the korbon re'iya
at only one silver coin and the chagiga, of which the
donors partook, as well as the kohanim, at a double
value. They attributed a preference to a sacrifice which
uplifted the donor through the act of eating, while Beis
Shammai relegated double importance to a sacrifice that was
wholly consumed upon the altar, which was purely unto
As for us -- "These and those are teachings of the living G-d."