Literally, this chapter tells the priests how to receive the olah, minchah, and chatat. Who will keep sacrificing, if they don’t trust the disposition of what they intend to offer up, or bring close, or make holy? Keep the home fires burning, dispose of the ashes of the perpetual fire. At least look credible!
The meal offerings propose that the chatat and asham were only to be eaten by priests, onsite. The shelamin, of lesser sanctity, could be shared with women, more widely. Keep it holy, and it is contagious, by touch and association – mess it up, and trust evaporates. Graham Greene’s “The Power and the Glory” about a ‘whiskey priest’ in Latin America fleeing persecution pushed my teenaged buttons about the non-rational power of the ‘holy’.
From v.17, you’ll find what happens to the parts of the sacrifice that are not burned according to c.4 after the most holy portions of the animal are consumed by the priests. If there is blood on the clothes of the priests, or blood or juice soaked into the clay jars – sacrifice them too! This is in our language a concern for the trusteeship of gifts, of bias or conflicting interests. Keep the deal clean – don’t let the software siphon off a fraction of ‘rounding’ repeatedly!
In our world, these are accounting best practices of dual custody, and minimizing transaction costs. If you don’t have enough precautions, you can’t build trust in the charitable trustees. If you have too elaborate a mechanism, people challenge the level of administrative costs. What are our regular routines for receipt in church? When Canadian paper money all had a queen’s head on one end of one side, a carnival worker taught me to ‘keep your heads straight’ when making fast change. If you don’t keep your fistful of bills in order, you will make errors, and be challenged to defend the change you give.
Distinguish the donor perspective from the trusteeship concerns. I give for a variety of reasons, only marginally influenced by the incremental risks and costs of how my gifts are handled. Restricted trusts, or directed gifts, add another layer to these issues of building and maintaining donor confidence. This is more like the rhetoric claiming that ‘100%’ of donations are delivered to the ‘truly needy’, without any ‘administrative costs’ or ‘overhead’ or ‘waste’. How do you ensure efficient effective delivery without some commitment to administration?
Does it matter to you how your gifts are processed? Rules like this are made to correct a recognized pattern of problems, perhaps not the big scandals like the ones ending this week’s reading, but petty sloppiness that creeps into any routine, even airline pilot cockpits or nuclear power plan control rooms.
The LORD spoke to Moses, saying:
2 When any of you sin and commit a trespass against the LORD by deceiving a neighbour
in a matter of a deposit or a pledge, or by robbery, or if you have defrauded a neighbour,
3 or have found something lost and lied about it —if you swear falsely regarding any of the various things that one may do and sin thereby—
4 when you have sinned and realize your guilt, and would restore what you took by robbery or by fraud or the deposit that was committed to you, or the lost thing that you found,
5 or anything else about which you have sworn falsely, you shall repay the principal amount
and shall add one-fifth to it. You shall pay it to its owner when you realize your guilt.
6 And you shall bring to the priest, as your guilt-offering to the LORD, a ram without blemish
from the flock, or its equivalent, for a guilt-offering.
7 The priest shall make atonement on your behalf before the LORD, and you shall be forgiven
for any of the things that one may do and incur guilt thereby.
8 The LORD spoke to Moses, saying:
9 Command Aaron and his sons, saying: This is the ritual of the burnt-offering. The burnt-offering itself shall remain on the hearth upon the altar all night until the morning, while the fire on the altar shall be kept burning.
10 The priest shall put on his linen vestments after putting on his linen undergarments next to his body; and he shall take up the ashes to which the fire has reduced the burnt-offering on the altar, and place them beside the altar.
11 Then he shall take off his vestments and put on other garments, and carry the ashes out to a clean place outside the camp.
12 The fire on the altar shall be kept burning; it shall not go out. Every morning the priest shall add wood to it, lay out the burnt-offering on it, and turn into smoke the fat pieces of the offerings of well-being.
13 A perpetual fire shall be kept burning on the altar; it shall not go out.
14 This is the ritual of the grain-offering: The sons of Aaron shall offer it before the LORD, in front of the altar.
15 They shall take from it a handful of the choice flour and oil of the grain-offering, with all the frankincense that is on the offering, and they shall turn its memorial portion into smoke on the altar as a pleasing odour to the LORD.
16 Aaron and his sons shall eat what is left of it; it shall be eaten as unleavened cakes in a holy place; in the court of the tent of meeting they shall eat it.
17 It shall not be baked with leaven. I have given it as their portion of my offerings by fire; it is most holy, like the sin-offering and the guilt-offering.
18 Every male among the descendants of Aaron shall eat of it, as their perpetual due throughout your generations, from the LORD’s offerings by fire; anything that touches them shall become holy.
19 The LORD spoke to Moses, saying:
20 This is the offering that Aaron and his sons shall offer to the LORD on the day when he is anointed: one-tenth of an ephah of choice flour as a regular offering, half of it in the morning and half in the evening.
21 It shall be made with oil on a griddle; you shall bring it well soaked, as a grain-offering of baked pieces, and you shall present it as a pleasing odour to the LORD.
22 And so the priest, anointed from among Aaron’s descendants as a successor, shall prepare it; it is the LORD’s —a perpetual due—to be turned entirely into smoke.
23 Every grain-offering of a priest shall be wholly burned; it shall not be eaten.
24 The LORD spoke to Moses, saying:
25 Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying: This is the ritual of the sin-offering. The sin-offering shall be slaughtered before the LORD at the spot where the burnt-offering is slaughtered; it is most holy.
26 The priest who offers it as a sin-offering shall eat of it; it shall be eaten in a holy place, in the court of the tent of meeting.
27 Whatever touches its flesh shall become holy; and when any of its blood is spattered on a garment, you shall wash the bespattered part in a holy place.
28 An earthen vessel in which it was boiled shall be broken; but if it is boiled in a bronze vessel, that shall be scoured and rinsed in water.
29 Every male among the priests shall eat of it; it is most holy.
30 But no sin-offering shall be eaten from which any blood is brought into the tent of meeting for atonement in the holy place; it shall be burned with fire.