The Kohen’s Minchah, the Rambam and the Ibn Ezra

וְכָל מִנְחַת כֹּהֵן כָּלִיל תִּהְיֶה לֹא תֵאָכֵל

Every meal-offering of a Kohen is to be entirely offered up, it shall not be eaten. (6:16)

Our verse states that, unlike the minchah (meal-offering) of a non-Kohen where a kemitzah[1] is offered on the mizbeyach and the rest is consumed by the Kohen, the minchah of a Kohen is offered on the mizbeyach in its entirety. The Rambam in the Moreh Nevuchim[2] suggests that the reason for this law is that if the Kohen’s minchah was treated like a regular minchah – with just a small amount being offered on the mizbeyach and the rest being eaten by the Kohen – it would appear as if he hadn’t offered a korban at all! Hence, the Torah says that the entire minchah must be offered on the mizbeyach.

The Tur, who cites this explanation of the Rambam in his commentary on the Chumash, raises a question from the laws of a bird that is brought as a chatas (sin-offering). Unlike an animal that is brought as an offering, where certain parts of the animal are offered on the mizbeyach, when it comes to a bird chatas-offering, only the blood is sprinkled on the mizbeyach while the rest of the bird is consumed by the Kohen! According to the Rambam, why is there no parallel concern when a Kohen brings a bird as a chatas, i.e., that it appears as if the bird has not been offered as a korban. After all, only its blood has been offered on the mizbeyach, something which is forbidden for the Kohen to consume anyway!

In response to the Tur’s question, the Meshech Chochmah[3] refers us to the explanation of the Ibn Ezra regarding a curious phenomenon within korbanos. When it comes to animals, an olah (burnt offering) and chatas can be offered independently of each other. However, when a person brings a bird as a chatas-offering, it is always accompanied by a second bird as an olah-offering. The Ibn Ezra explains that since no part of the bird chatas is offered on the mizbeyach, another bird is brought as an olah, which serves the function of the sacrificial parts of the chatas. In other words, according to the Ibn Ezra, the two birds together form one complete korban, with one bird being consumed by the mizbeyach and the other by the Kohen.

Understandably, if the Rambam subscribes to this approach, then the question of the Tur presents no difficulty. It is only with regards to a minchah, where just a kemitzah is offered on the mizbeyach, that there is a concern that it looks as if the Kohen has not actually brought a korban. However, when it comes to a bird chatas, there is no such concern, as he has also offered up a second bird in its entirety on the mizbeyach as part of this korban!


Inner and Outer Korbanos

 וְכָל חַטָּאת אֲשֶׁר יוּבָא מִדָּמָהּ אֶל אֹהֶל מוֹעֵד... לֹא תֵאָכֵל בָּאֵשׁ תִּשָּׂרֵף

Any sin-offering from which blood has been brought to the Tent of Meeting… shall not be eaten, it shall be burned in fire. (6:23)

The Gemara relates that according to R’ Yose Haglili, this pasuk is expressing the halachah regarding all “inner” chatas (sin) offerings, i.e., those whose blood is sprinkled inside the Mishkan itself. This is in contrast to the “outer” chatas offerings, whose blood is sprinkled on the mizbeyach in the courtyard. The pasuk states that all such inner chatas offerings are forbidden for consumption, rather, they must be entirely burned.[4]

Two Types of Sin

The Meshech Chochmah explains that the division of the place where the blood is sprinkled depends on the nature of the wrongdoing, and is based on the correspondence between the aspects of the Mishkan and the make-up of a human being: 

·      The inside of the Mishkan corresponds to the inner faculties of the person, e.g. his mental faculties.

·      The outer parts of the Mishkan correspond to the person’s physical drives and activities.


·      A regular chatas, which is brought to atone for an unintentional sin, where the wrongdoing is in the domain of a physical act, has its blood sprinkled on the outer mizbeyach, in the Courtyard.

·      A chatas which atones for either a willful transgression or an erroneous judgment on the part of the Sanhedrin, where the wrongdoing is in the domain of the intellect, has its blood sprinkled inside the Mishkan.

Consumed by Man or by Fire?

Awareness of this distinction brings us to the question of what happens with the remainder of the chatas offering. The outer chatas is consumed by the kohanim, since the physical forces it represents are not meant to be rejected completely, but rather, to be enlisted in the service of Hashem. As the Gemara[5] comments on the pasuk in Mishlei,[6]בְּכָל דְּרָכֶיךָ דָעֵהוּ – In all your ways know Him” – even in matters of sin; i.e., even with the physical tendencies that can potentially lead a person to sin, one should “know Hashem” and enlist them toward elevated purposes. 

By contrast, objectionable intellectual tendencies have no place whatsoever in Torah living, hence, the inner chatas which comes to atone for such wrongdoings is not consumed, but rather is burned outside the camp.

The Meshech Chochmah concludes that the basis for his comments in this matter comes from the presentation of this halachah by R’ Shlomo Ibn Gabirol in his work known as “The Azharos.” He writes:

ולא יאכל פנימיות בזדון ובתרמית

And one shall not eat of the inner (chatas offerings, which come through) intentional sin and deceit.

In mentioning the types of sin which obligate an inner chatas as part of the prohibition against consuming it, Ibn Gabirol is indicating that that it is the nature of these sins which is responsible for the prohibition to partake of them – even as part of the mitzvah of consuming meat of korbanos.

[1] The volume of flour enclosed by the three middle fingers.

[2] Sec. 3 Chap. 46.

[3] In his glosses to the sefer Minchas Chinuch, mitzvah 137. See also Ohr Sameach, Hilchos Maaser Sheni 7:3.

[4] See Zevachim 82a.

[5] Berachos 63a.

[6] 3:6.