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Shabbat Sukkot 5774

Parashat Hashavua: More Korbanot, More Korbanot Lessons

Rabbi Daniel Mann

Every day of Sukkot, we read a short (especially in Israel) Torah portion from Pinchas, which lists the special korbanot that are offered throughout the chag. In this Torah portion, nothing about Sukkot as a unique holiday is mentioned: not its name, not the mitzva of sukka, and not the mitzva of lulav and etrog. Abarbanel notices this and says simply that these were already mentioned in Parashat Emor. However, he does not mention that despite this idea, eating matza is mentioned for Pesach, bringing bikkurim is mentioned for Shavuot, shofar blowing is mentioned for Rosh Hashana, and fasting is mentioned for Yom Kippur – even though all of these ideas were mentioned in Emor. So why the difference?

We can suggest that the portion in Pinchas, which is certainly focused on the korbanot, wants to put extra stress on the centrality of the korbanot to Sukkot. One way of doing it is positive and straightforward – by listing the diverse set of animals offered each day. But the other way is by not mentioning anything else, which might have set our sights elsewhere. All the holidays have essentially the same korbanot, with one difference between one format and another. There are 7 kevasim (sheep), 1 ayil (ram), and either 1 or 2 parim (bulls). However, Sukkot is very different. There are, each day, 14 kevasim, 2 eilim and, perhaps most significantly, there is a decreasing number of parim, starting at 13 and ending at 7 on the seventh and last day of Sukkot (not including Shemini Atzeret, which goes back to the regular format of korbanot).

A well-known gemara (Sukka 55b) explains the significance of the number of parim. There are a total of seventy parim, corresponding to the seventy nations of the world (it is not clear to me how we are nowadays to relate the number of countries, nationalities, and ethnicities to the number seventy, but it does seem to be a constant number). On one hand, the korbanot relate to the nations and their welfare (ibid.), while, on the other hand, their number decreases over time, as their prominence will (Psikta Zutrata, Pinchas; Rashi to Bamidbar 29:18).

Rav Hirsch points out an insight regarding the numbers of korbanot. There are not only more korbanot, especially parim. Rather, the number of kevasim and eilim is doubled, which allows us to posit that there are actually two sets of korbanot. One set of 7 kevasim and and one ayil has a full complement of 7 parim, whereas the other set has from 6 going down to 0 parim. He develops the idea (see Vayikra 23:18) that the kevasim represent the idea that we are a nation that is lead by Hashem as a shepherd leads his flock. The eilim represent the idea of people showing the correct way for their peers to follow. The parim represent the idea of man serving Hashem through his actions. Thus, he explains (Bamidbar 29:13) that the nations of the world are lead by Hashem in a complete way (kevasim element) but as far as comparing the parim element, they are not as active in the service of Hashem. Paradoxically, on the last day of Sukkot, there are only 7 parim. This represents that the nations will no longer have their own separate set of parim, as they will ultimately be united with us in serving Hashem.  

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