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Vayikra 5783 - The Minhah Offering: Run to Do a Mitzvah!

March 24, 2023 - 3 Nisan, 5783

Today, we explore Vayikra’s second category of offering, the minhah or meal-offering. While the minhah offering is prescribed for various purposes, some voluntary and some required, most forms of the minhah offering are based in unleavened, unprocessed flour. As Baruch J. Schwartz writes in The Jewish Study Bible:

This gift offering of grain, before it has fully matured and before flour can be produced from it, is prepared and offered in the same way as the uncooked offering, and provides a means for approaching God the moment one’s grain begins to ripen, when the natural impulse to make an offering is strongest (199). 

In the case of the voluntary minhah, the Israelites are encouraged to give as soon as they think of giving. As the minhah offering contains no meat, it is inexpensive enough that even the poorest Israelite can give. Right when the impulse hits, any Israelite of any financial means may bring a minhah offering in gratitude for the sustenance God provides for them. Even if they cannot afford the year’s various other offerings, every Israelite may give a minhah offering to acknowledge God’s hand in the changing seasons.

In Pirkei Avot, Ben Azzai teaches: 

Run to perform a minor mitzvah as in the case of a major one, and flee from transgression; for one mitzvah leads to another mitzvah, and one transgression leads to another transgression; for the reward for performing a commandment is another commandment, and the reward for committing a transgression is a transgression. (Avot 4:2)

Just as the minhah offering is performed right when the impulse hits, when one is inspired to perform a mitzvah, Ben Azzai prescribes speed. The sooner we perform even the seemingly smallest mitzvah, the more likely we are to follow through, and then, to perform more, greater mitzvot in time to come. 

In order to build a lifestyle conducive to practicing every mitzvah that comes our way, we can start by simply altering our surroundings. To tackle a bit more prayer each day, we can place a siddur on a bedside table, frame a decorated copy of the bathroom blessing in the hallway, or tape a printout of food blessings on our fridge. We can set alarms for candle lighting and service times to get us ready for celebrating Shabbat. We can place a tzedakah box in every room and keep a stash of water bottles and energy bars in the car to give to those we see in need. To set up our temporal space, we can put an hour break into our physical calendar to make sure we have the time to visit someone in the hospital or send in a donation to an organization that presents an ask. When we prepare our space and time for mitzvot, we clear the path to run when the opportunity presents itself. 

If we wait until the bread rises, if we wait to do that mitzvah, we may miss our opportunity. As our friend will heal soon, it may be too late to visit the hospital by the time we make the time. If we sleep in too late, we might miss the Torah service. If we wait to give to the man with the sign at the freeway entrance, he may not be there tomorrow. Every single one of us encounters infinite mitzvot - both ritual and more obviously ethical - within our reach multiple times a day. Regardless of our Jewish experience, our ability to move in certain ways, and the contents of our wallets, we are each able to give of ourselves if we only build the habit and atmosphere of giving.

Wed, June 19 2024 13 Sivan 5784