Kenneth Cohen

Subtleties of the Torah

The Keli Yakar makes an interesting observation related to specific details in Parshat Shemini.

He points out a subtle messages in connection with the sacrifices offered on the day that the Mishkan was dedicated on the first of Nissan.

The Torah points out that Aharon needed to offer a different sacrifice from the one offered on behalf of the nation. This dedication date was meant to be an atonement for the sin of the Golden Calf, eight months earlier.

The Korban for the nation was a burnt offering, known as “Olah.” Aharon’s sacrifice was a sin offering, or a “Chatat.” The message here is that the “Olah” is offered for improper thoughts. The sin offering was to atone for an actual sin. The role of the nation with the sin of the Golden Calf, included their thoughts. They actually believed in it, and worshipped it.

Aharon, on the other hand, did not believe for a moment that this graven image could be a deity. His thoughts were pure, but he was guilty of actually fashioning the calf. Despite his good intentions of stalling until Moshe arrived, he was in need of the sin offering.

Usually, when reading the weekly portion that discusses sacrifices, we would not be aware of the messages contained in them. But it does seem puzzling why there would be different sacrifices for Aharon and the nation.

It is possible to sin in deed even if there could be some kind of justifiable reason. A transgression is a transgression. Negative thoughts are also wrong, but only punishable in connection with idol worship.

And isn’t it amazing how so much can be learned from subtleties that are mentioned in the Parsha. The wisdom of the Torah is great, because it all comes from Hashem.

About the Author
Rabbi Cohen has been a Torah instructor at Machon Meir, Jerusalem, for over twenty years while also teaching a Talmud class in the Shtieblach of Old Katamon. Before coming to Israel, he was the founding rabbi of Young Israel of Century City, Los Angeles. He recently published a series of Hebrew language-learning apps, which are available at