With korbanos, the sacrifices, there is a concept within certain categories of korban called olah v’yored – where the animal offered will vary, dependent on the person’s status. For example, Parshas Tazria deals with a woman who gives birth – olah v’yored applies, and as such, a woman from a wealthy family offers a חטאת and עולה of sheep, and a woman from a poor family offers a חטאת and עולה of doves.
But what if a poor person decides to save up, and instead of bringing the doves, he chooses to offer a wealthy man’s offering of sheep/cows? In other words; are people confined to their social status?
The halacha according to all is that if a wealthy man were to bring a poor man’s offering of doves, he has definitely not fulfilled his obligation. So the, olah v’yored applies to the animals, and it applies to the supplicant if he attempts to downgrade his responsibility. So the question becomes: can a person upgrade their responsibility?
The Sefer Hachinuch says that a poor person who upgrades his sacrifice from the birds to the cows has not fulfilled his obligation. The Rambam disputes this, and says that he has.
What is the basis of the dispute?
There is a story told about R’ Meir Schapira, at a gathering of all the pre-war Gedolim. He presented this very question, and asked how the Sefer HaChinuch could suggest he hadn’t fulfilled his obligation, possibly contradicting various Gemaras.
Present at the gathering, was the Imrei Emes, the Gerrer Rebbe. He simply muttered, “there is a missing korban”. Those gathered were puzzled what the Rebbe had meant. Among his attending disciples was R’ Menachem Zemba of Warsaw, a renowned genius, who took the floor. “Let us analyse where the Sefer HaChinuch says his halacha. There are 6 applications of the concept of olah v’yored:”
1. A ritually impure person who enters the area of the Beis haMikdash
2. A ritually impure person who eats kodshim (produce set aside for kohanim)
4. A person who falsely swears he did not witness an event, thereby avoiding needing to testify
5. A woman who gives birth
6. A person stricken with tzara’as (a metzora)
“5+6 are different. The wealthy person brings one animal, as does the poor person. Not so in 1-4, delineated in Parshas Vayikra, wherein the wealthy person only bring the חטאת , and no עולה , thereby only needing one animal. The Gemara that the Sefer HaChinuch seemed to go against, that a poor person who brings a rich mans offering has indeed fulfilled his obligation, was regarding 5+6, where there were two animals, brought by both the rich and poor.”
“However, in Parshas Vayikra, where the pasuk discusses cases 1-4, it is insufficient for a poor person to bring a wealthy man’s offering – he’s missing an animal!”
“The Ibn Ezra discusses the possible causes for the discrepancy in how many animals a person would bring, based on his social standing.”
“1. A poor man would by definition be unhappy with his standing in life, and he would bear a grudge against Heaven for his misfortune. This necessitates an additional animal.”
“2. A wealthy person’s offering has a large enough portion to burn on the Mizbeach by itself, a cow is a very large animal. Not so with a bird, with a woefully small portion to burn. It is disrespectful to offer such a miniscule portion, and this necessitates a whole new animal to satisfice the demands of the Mizbeach.”
The genius continued; “So the Sefer HaChinuch would agree with the first possibility. It doesn’t help for a poor person, who must bring the second to atone for his grudge against Heaven, to bring one animal. He has not addressed this feeling within, and as the Rebbe said, there is a korban missing.”
However, the Rambam would hold with the second option, that the second animal is not brought because of the person, but rather, by the nature of the animal being offered. If he were to bring a cow, there would be no need for a second animal, and he would indeed have fulfilled his responsibility!