“The Lesson of the Mincha Offering–Giving With a Full Heart”

by Rabbi Ephraim Buchwald

This coming Shabbat, we begin to read the book of Leviticus, Vayikra, the third book of the Torah. The first parasha of Leviticus, parashat Vayikra, deals with the various offerings that were brought in ancient times in the Temple.

In Leviticus 2:1 we read a series of verses concerning the bringing of the Mincha, the meal offering. This offering was generally brought of fine white flour, mixed with oil and wine, and topped off with incense. The parasha tells us that there were actually five different types of Minachot. The first is composed of simply the uncooked ingredients. The four other Minachot may be prepared in an oven, a griddle, a pan or a deep pan, depending upon what the donor chooses to bring. Incense was placed on top of the offering just before it was brought to the altar.

Whenever a burnt offering (oh’lah) or peace offering (sh’lamim) was brought, it was accompanied by the Mincha, a meal offering. However, the Mincha offering may also be brought alone. This happened when a person wished to bring a tribute to G-d but could not afford to bring an expensive animal sacrifice. The Torah therefore allows an alternative to be brought, in the form of a less costly meal offering.

The Mincha is unique, being the only offering concerning which the Torah uses the term nefesh, soul. Leviticus 2:1 reads: “V’nefesh kee tah’kriv korban mincha lah’Hashem,” When a person (literally “soul”) presents a meal offering to the Lord, his offering shall be of choice flour. He shall pour oil on it and lay frankincense thereon. From here we learn that a voluntary Mincha, meal offering, was most likely to be the gift of a poor person who could not afford anything else. From the use of the term nefesh, soul, the Torah teaches us that we must all the more value the poor person’s gift since the poor person is offering it up with his entire soul. The Midrash tells us that a priest once expressed disdain for a small quantity of flour that a woman brought to the Temple. G-d rebuked the priest in a dream saying: “She offered her very soul!”

The Mincha offering teaches us many profound lessons. It teaches us that Judaism is not the religion of the wealthy. In fact Judaism provides venues of expression and of worship for all the people of Israel, rich and poor, young and old, male and female. The Mincha specifically teaches us that we must give from the heart. As the Talmudic dictum states (B’rachot 5b), “Echad ha’marbeh, v’echad ha’mam’it, u’bil’vad sheh’y’chah’vain et lee’bo la’shah’mahyim,” whether one gives more or gives less, what is essential is that one give with a full heart. It is intention, kavanah, the awareness that one has at the time that the offering is made, that makes a difference to G-d. So it was, when Cain brought an offering “of the fruit of the land” (Genesis 4:3), G-d did not heed his offering. But when Abel brought “of the firstlings of the flocks and of their fat,” Abel indicated that he was giving with a full heart. G-d says to Cain, “Why are you upset [that your offering has not been accepted]? You can repent. All you need to do is to offer it with a full heart.” But that was not Cain’s thing.

G-d does not judge us by our good looks. Nor does He evaluate us by our handsome form. G-d does not assess us by how articulate we are. The Talmud (Sanhedrin 106b) tells us: “Rachmana lee’bah bah’ay,” G-d wants our hearts, and when we give with a full heart the Al-mighty responds in kind.

May our offerings be bounteous, and may the Heavenly response to our offerings be full and complete.

May you be blessed.