Who is Holier a Reformed Bandit or a Tzadik?

Parshat Tzav describes the Korban Mincha, The Meal Offering that Aharon’s sons were to bring before God.


In Vayikra 6:9-10 we read: “Aharon and his sons shall eat what is left of it (the Korban Mincha); it shall be eaten with Matzah (unleavened) in a holy place (Kadosh), in the courtyard of Ohel Moed (The Tent of Meeting) they shall eat it. It shall not be baked with Chametz (leaven)…it is Kodesh Kodashim, most holy like the Chatat (Sin Offering) and like the Asham (Guilt Offering).


The Kli Yakar teaches that the Sin Offering and the Guilt Offering bring atonement and therefore they are called “Kodesh Kodashim”, “Most Holy”. We learn in Masechet Sanhedrin 95a: Where Ba’alei Tshuvah (penitents) stand, Tzadikim (the righteous) do not stand.


Reish Lakish (himself an anomaly among the giants of Torah study, as he was in his early youth a bandit and gladiator and was later regarded as one of the most prominent Amoraim of the second generation) taught in Masechet Yoma 86b: Great is repentance (motivated by love), for because of it willful transgressions are accounted for the penitent as inadvertent errors. This is a step that a complete Tzadik will never reach.


The Netziv explains that the Mincha was brought to atone for a deterioration of character. In the Tanach, David suggested that King Saul bring a Korban Mincha, for he was suffering from depression and anger.


The Korban Mincha is to be eaten with Matzah and is considered “Kodesh Kodashim”, must be kept separate. If the Matzah becomes leavened, it is ruined and becomes Chametz. So too we must be careful to stay away from behaviors that can jepordise our holiness.


Today, we don’t have the Korban Mincha (or any of the Korbanot). However, one must never discount the power of prayer which since the destruction of the Beit HaMikdash has replaced the Korbanot and can help transform the bandits and gladiators into true Ba’alei Tshuva.