Rav Copperman in קדושת פשוטו של מקרא on our parsha brings a story from the מקור ברוך by Rabbi Nachum Baruch Ginzberg (1882-1941):
To understand what made the Meshech Chochma so happy, we have to look at some details in this week’s parsha: the קרבן חטאת, the sin offering.
Part of the ritual is described in next week’s parsha:
So the blood is sprinkled, the guts and fats (called אימורים in the gemara) are offered on the altar, and the meat is eaten (by the כהן). The eating is important:
For certain sins, the Torah offers a cheaper option:
The question here is, why the second bird? If the first is the sin offering (והקריב את אשר לחטאת ראשונה), why have another, ואת השני יעשה עלה?
But first, why does the text say יעשה עלה כמשפט? Isn’t כמשפט redundant? Rashi doesn’t help:
That’s true; this is an עולה like any עולה:
Note one detail: unlike mammal offerings, the אימורים are discarded.
But saying יעשה עלה would be enough. Why יעשה עלה כמשפט? The gemara uses that word for a halachic מדרש: this עולה should be done like a חטאת, כמשפט חטאת.
There are details about this offering that I would not have known if not for the Torah telling me to make this like a חטאת. The quoted beraita includes the rule that this bird has to be offered during the day, which should be obvious (all offerings are during the day; the Torah says בְּיוֹם in the summary of all the קרבנות). The gemara concludes כדי נסבה (Koren translates as “incidentally, for no reason”); it is not a חידוש, but was listed as part of the details of the process. An unsatisfying answer, and the Rashba had a different version of the gemara text, that actually gave a reason:
The Rashba, however, doesn’t understand the reason given, and says that this version must be a typo. Now we know what made the Meshech Chochma so happy: he figured out why the gemara might think (have a הוה אמינא) that the עולה part of a חאטת העוף might be different, might be brought at night:
A standard חטאת has אימורים offered and meat eaten. Birds don’t have אימורים offered (for the philosophical reason of שנזון מן הגזל), so we offer a second bird. But there is one halacha about אימורים:
And the Meshech Chochma connects the dots:
That is a nice bit of פילפול but I would ask, why? Why is there this emphasis that a חטאת needs both a literal sacrifice, an offering to הקב״ה, and part that is eaten. If it is not eaten, then there is no כפרה. הכהנים אוכלים ובעלים מתכפרין. Those two parts are so important that for a bird חטאת, the rules are such that I need two separate birds. Understanding קרבנות is hard for us nowadays, but I kind of get the sacrifice part (see Rabbi Forman on sacrifices).
But why the eating? I think it’s worth noting that a קרבן חטאת is brought specifically for a שוגג; a sin caused by negligence.
Negligence, not paying attention, is itself the חטא. It’s much harder to stop doing something if we didn’t do it intentionally in the first place. The lesson of the חטאת is that we need to always be paying attention, to be serving ה׳ even when we’re not serving ה׳. The Ramchal says that we do this by turning even our physical activities into עבודת ה׳. Now I, bringing a קרבן חטאת, am not going to eat it; I’m not going to be rewarded for sinning. I’m going to watch someone else eating it.
The עולה is a sacrifice; having done something wrong I have to give something up. The חטאת is the commitment for the future, to eat, as the gemara calls it (מנחות ו,א) משולחן גבוה. Everything we do should be mindful in our עבודת ה׳.