The evil inclination likes to tempt us to indulge in material delights. It is important to know that these delights may have another purpose, too: kedushah (holiness).
As Rabbi Avigdor Miller, zt”l, explains, the fact that kohanim were commanded to consume the korbanos offered in the Temple reveals that eating itself has a highly spiritual function. When done in the right measure and with the right intentions, eating is very much an act of holiness and service of Hashem.
“In a holy place it shall be eaten, in the court of the Ohel Moed” (6:19).
Kadshe kadashim, the more sacred offerings, such as the chattas (and the asham – 7:6) are eaten only by kohanim and only in the Court of the Sanctuary.
Thus the Torah states, “It is holy of holies” here (6:18) and regarding the asham (7:6). The minchah also, as stated in 6:10-11, is holy of holies and is eaten by kohanim in the Court (6:9) of the Sanctuary. A very great principle is derived from this procedure: “The kohanim eat and (thereby) the owner gains atonement” (Pesachim 59b).
Actually, the atonement is completed at the sprinkling of the blood on the mizbeach; even the offering of the korban on the fire is an additional mitzvah, which if not fulfilled does not invalidate the korban. Yet the offering of the parts on the fire is indeed a very important part of the service, which has many details of laws and procedure.
Now we also learn that the eating on the part of the kohanim is one of the forms of offering the korban; and like the offerings on the fire, that which is eaten also enhances the quality of the atonement. When the kohen eats in the sacred precincts, he becomes an altar; and the physical pleasure of ingesting the sacred offering is compared to the fire on the mizbeach. Certainly, he should eat with holy intention. But he may not swallow pieces that are not chewed because achilah gasah (an abnormal manner of eating) is against Torah law. He must chew and enjoy the sacred food, and despite the unavoidable pleasure he adds the intention of the service of the offering to Hashem.
Let us not underestimate the value of Hashem’s teachings. The fact that we, “the nation of kohanim” (Shemos 1 9:6) eat matzah on Pesach night with appetite is not a blemish on our mitzvah; on the contrary, we are admonished to refrain from much food during the day in order to eat the matzah with more appetite (Pesachim 99b) “because it is an honor for the mitzvah” (RSHI). The body of the kohen is sacred enough to consume kadshei kadashim but the body of every Israelite is also endowed with such holiness that it may consume kadashim kalim such as shlamim and todah and similar sacrifices.
The Sages derived even more from this principle: “He that desires to pour wine-offerings on the altar, let him fill the throats of talmidei chachamim with wine” (Yoma 71a). We learn the extremely valuable principle that eating with proper intention is a service to Hashem, and may even be considered as a form of kedushah (Mesillas Yesharim Ch. 26). In this are two elements: 1) the holy Intention, 2) and the holiness of the body of the eater.
The karbanos of lesser degree (shlamim, todah, and maaser b’hemah), which all Israelites could eat, were however permissible to eat only in Jerusalem: “And you shall bring there your olos and your z’vachirn and your maasros…and you shall eat there before Hashem your G-d” (Devarim 12:5). Thus even when the Israelite eats of the korban he is performing a holy service and therefore it must be done before Hashem.
Compiled for The Jewish Press by the Rabbi Avigdor Miller Simchas Hachaim Foundation, a project of Yeshiva Gedolah Bais Yisroel, which Rabbi Miller, zt”l, founded and authorized to disseminate his work. Subscribe to the Foundation’s free e-mail newsletters on marriage, personal growth, and more at www.SimchasHachaim.com.
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