1) LEARNING TORAH IN PLACE OF OFFERING KORBANOS
OPINIONS: Reish Lakish discusses the meaning of the verse, "Zos ha'Torah la'Olah la'Minchah..." -- "This is the Law regarding the Olah, the Minchah, the Chatas, and the Asham" (Vayikra 7:37). RASHI (DH Mai di'Chesiv) explains that Reish Lakish is bothered with why the verse uses the word "ha'Torah" to refer to the laws of the Korbanos. The word "Chukah" ("law") would have been more appropriate. Reish Lakish understands, therefore, that the verse uses the word "ha'Torah" in order to teach that when one learns the laws of a Korban, he is considered as though he actually offered that Korban.
Rava asks that if this is the intent of the verse, then it should say, "Zos ha'Torah Olah u'Minchah," which, aside from its straightforward meaning, would also mean, "This is the Law [that is equivalent to bringing] an Olah, a Minchah, etc." However, the verse inserts the letter "Lamed" at the beginning of each word, which, Rava explains, means that one who learns Torah does not need an Olah, Minchah, Chatas, or Asham in order to gain atonement.
What exactly is the difference between the way Reish Lakish understands the verse and the way Rava understands it?
(a) RASHI (DH Ein Tzarich) explains Rava's opinion. He says that Rava learns that the letter "Lamed" at the beginning of each word teaches that learning Torah is done instead of bringing a Korban, and not that it is considered as though one brought the Korban. The Torah has the ability to atone for one's sins without being a form of Korban.
It seems that Rashi understands that Reish Lakish is saying that learning Torah atones for one's sins because one who learns Torah is considered as though he has brought a Korban.
(b) The MAHARSHA explains that Rava is saying that learning Torah has a stronger effect than Korbanos. Not only does learning Torah act like a Korban and attain atonement for those who have sinned, it also helps protect the person from sinning in the future, as the Gemara in Sotah (21a) states. According to the Maharsha, it is unlikely that Reish Lakish would disagree with Rava's statement. However, it is possible that Reish Lakish maintains that this element of learning Torah cannot be inferred from the verse.
(c) The YAD DAVID explains that Reish Lakish and Rava disagree about whether a person who learns Torah when the Beis ha'Mikdash is standing is considered to have brought a Korban. According to Reish Lakish, learning Torah achieves an atonement similar to that achieved by bringing a Korban only during a time when there is no Beis ha'Mikdash and one cannot bring a real Korban. According to Rava, even when the Beis ha'Mikdash is standing, learning Torah atones exactly as if one had brought a Korban.
A similar approach is given to explain the comments of RASHI on the Chumash. In the beginning of Parshas Tzav (Vayikra 6:2), Rashi asks why Hash-m told Moshe Rabeinu to "command" ("Tzav") Aharon and his sons about the Korban Olah. Rashi quotes Rebbi Shimon who says that Hash-m told Moshe to "command" Aharon because of the need to encourage the Kohanim about something which entails a monetary loss. However, it is not clear exactly what monetary loss to the Kohanim is involved with bringing a Korban Olah. Although the Kohanim do not receive any meat from a Korban Olah, the Kohanim still receive the hide of each Olah.
The GAN RAVEH (Parshas Tzav) quotes the BINYAN ARIEL who says that Hash-m was telling Moshe, "Tzav Es Aharon v'Es Banav Leimor Zos Toras ha'Olah" -- "Command Aharon and his sons to say that this is the Law of the Olah." These words, "to say that this is the Law of the Olah," mean that the Kohanim should make sure that they teach the people that whenever they learn the laws of the Korban, it is as if they have offered an Olah, even though telling this to the people will surely decrease the number of Korbanos brought to the Beis ha'Mikdash! This is the monetary loss that the Kohanim will suffer as a result of "Zos Toras ha'Olah."
The Binyan Ariel, like the Yad David, clearly understands that this merit of learning Torah applies even in the times of the Beis ha'Mikdash. (See another explanation in the Yad David in the name of the MAHARIT.)
(d) The ZEVACH TODAH understands Rava in the opposite manner. He explains that Rava agrees that when the Beis ha'Mikdash is standing, one must bring the Korbanos in the manner described by the Torah, and one cannot gain the same degree of atonement through learning Torah. However, this is not because learning Torah is a lower form of Mitzvah. On the contrary, learning Torah corrects the imperfections in one's soul more than the bringing of a Korban, and this is why one who learns Torah does not need to bring Korbanos when there is no Beis ha'Mikdash. (Y. MONTROSE)
2) THE KORBAN OF THE ANGEL MICHA'EL
OPINIONS: The Gemara quotes the verse, "l'Olam Zos Al Yisrael" -- "Forever this will be upon Yisrael" (Divrei ha'Yamim II 2:3). Rav Gidal says in the name of Rav that "this" refers to "the Mizbe'ach that is built [in Shamayim] on which Micha'el, the Sar ha'Gadol, offers a Korban." RASHI (DH l'Olam) explains that the verse refers to the offering of Korbanos in the Beis ha'Mikdash. The verse says that it will be "forever," implying that the Korbanos will be offered even when there is no Beis ha'Mikdash. From this Rav Gidal in the name of Rav learns that Korbanos are offered in Shamayim.
What exactly is the Korban that Micha'el offers in Shamayim?
(a) TOSFOS (DH u'Micha'el) mentions that the Midrash records different opinions about what Korban is brought. One opinion says that this Korban refers to the souls of Tzadikim.
The ARUCH HA'SHULCHAN (OC 120:1) explains the significance of the Korban offered by Micha'el. Micha'el was appointed as the "Kohen Gadol l'Ma'alah" when Aharon was appointed as the "Kohen Gadol l'Matah." The verse which describes the inaugural Korbanos of the Mishkan alludes to this when it says, "Ki ha'Yom Hash-m Nir'ah Aleichem" -- "for today Hash-m will be seen upon you" (Vayikra 9:4). Just as the letters of the word "Nir'ah" may be rearranged to form the name "Aharon," the word "Aleichem" may be rearranged to form the name "Micha'el."
The Aruch ha'Shulchan writes that according to this explanation, when the Midrash says that the Neshamos of Tzadikim are offered before Hash-m, it does not mean that they are sacrificed in the same way that one would sacrifice a Korban. Rather, it means that they are brought close to Hash-m. (The word "Korban" comes from the root "Karov," which means "close" or "near.") The souls of the Tzadikim are brought close to Hash-m so that they will enjoy the infinite pleasure of basking in the light of Hash-m (see Berachos 17a; see also SHULCHAN ARUCH HA'RAV OC 120:1).
(b) Tosfos quotes a second opinion in the Midrash which says that Micha'el offers "sheep of fire" on the Mizbe'ach.
The TUR (OC 120) quotes this Midrash further as saying that because of these Korbanos offered in Shamayim, the Anshei Keneses ha'Gedolah instituted in the Berachah of "Retzeh" the phrase, "v'Ishei Yisrael." There are different interpretations for these words in the Shemoneh Esreh:
1. The BEIS YOSEF explains that when one says these words, he should have in mind that "v'Ishei Yisrael" means the "great people (Tzadikim) of Yisrael," whose souls are offered as Korbanos in Shamayim (as the first opinion in the Midrash says).
2. Alternatively, the Beis Yosef says that one should have in mind that the words "Ishei" means "offerings," as in the verse, "Ishei Re'ach Nicho'ach" -- "a fire-offering of a satisfying aroma" (Vayikra 1:9).
3. According to the second opinion in the Midrash, when one recites the words "v'Ishei Yisrael" in Shemoneh Esreh, he should have in mind that Hash-m should accept the sheep of fire brought by Micha'el on behalf of the Jewish people.
4. Tosfos quotes another opinion which says that "v'Ishei Yisrael" refers to the Korbanos which we no longer bring, and which we yearn to bring again when the Beis ha'Mikdash is rebuilt. According to this opinion, "v'Ishei Yisrael" is connected to the previous statement, "And may you return the Avodah to the Beis ha'Mikdash and the Korbanos of Yisrael."
The TAZ (OC 120:1) questions this explanation. If the phrase "v'Ishei Yisrael" refers to the Korbanos, then the blessing should read, "And may you return the Avodah and the Korbanos of Yisrael to the Beis ha'Mikdash," and not, "And may you return the Avodah to the Beis ha'Mikdash and the Korbanos of Yisrael."
5. The Tur (OC 120) records another explanation for the words, "v'Ishei Yisrael." When there is no Beis ha'Mikdash, our Tefilos take the place of Korbanos. We therefore pray that our Tefilos, which are now the "Ishei Yisrael," the fire-offerings of Yisrael, should be accepted.
The Taz (OC 120:1) asks that this seems redundant. If "Ishei Yisrael" refers to our Tefilos, then why do we ask that the "Tefilos of Yisrael (Ishei Yisrael) and their Tefilos" be accepted? The Taz suggests that one might answer that in this blessing we are defining "Ishei Yisrael" as "Tefilasam." That is, we are saying, "And may you accept Ishei Yisrael, which are their Tefilos." However, the Taz rejects this answer, because according to this explanation the wording of the blessing should be, "v'Ishei Yisrael Tefilasam," without the word "and" ("u'Sefilasam") between "Ishei Yisrael" and "Tefilasam." The Taz concludes that according to this explanation, the words "Ishei Yisrael" refer the prayers instituted to correspond to the Korbanos (as described in Berachos 26b), while "Tefilasam" includes all other Tefilos, such as personal prayers and those that are not said as part of the instituted prayers in the prescribed time for Tefilah.
The Tur records all of these explanations, except for the second one. The Taz, due to his difficulties with the last two explanations, says that the explanation which the Tur quotes that "Ishei Yisrael" means the souls of Tzadikim is the proper intention that one should have while praying. However, the BI'UR HA'GRA writes that the proper intention is that "Ishei Yisrael" is part of the previous statement in which we entreat Hash-m that the service of the Beis ha'Mikdash be restored speedily in our days. (Y. MONTROSE)