Libations, Challah and Atonement

Jun 7, 2015

וַיְדַבֵּר יְהֹוָה אֶל־מֹשֶׁה לֵּאמֹר׃

Hashem spoke to Moshe, saying:

Numbers 15:1

כִּי דְבַר־יְהֹוָה בָּזָה וְאֶת־מִצְוָתוֹ הֵפַר הִכָּרֵת תִּכָּרֵת הַנֶּפֶשׁ הַהִוא עֲוׂנָה בָהּ׃

Because he has spurned the word of Hashem and violated His commandment, that person shall be cut off—he bears his guilt.

Numbers 15:31

The Torah describes the accompanying offerings that must be brought alongside sacrifices. Depending on the animal brought, the Torah lists the amount of flour, oil and wine that is to accompany the offering. This applies regardless of who brings the offering.


The Torah also sets out the requirement of separating Challah, a portion of anything kneaded for the sustenance of the priests. This applies once the people arrive in the land.


The Israel Bible explains the purpose of separating Challah. Since the priests are not given a portion of the land, but instead are expected to instruct the people in the ways of God, Challah is meant to provide for their physical needs. In exchange, the priests’ teachings provide for the people’s spiritual needs.


Next, the Torah relates how to atone for sins. The text differentiates between the community and the individual accidentally engaging in a sin, as well as intentionally sinning.


The community can atone by bringing a young bull as an elevation offering, with its meal-offering and libation, and a he-goat as a sin-offering. If it is an individual who sins, he brings a she-goat as a sin offering. If, however, the individual sinned intentionally, there is no atonement — that person shall be cut off from the people for scorning God.


Virtual Classroom Discussion

Why do you think these laws, prefaced with the statement “When you enter the land”, appear immediately after the story of the Sin of the Spies and the Ma’apilim?

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