In this week’s Parashah, the Torah describes the unique characteristics and processes of bringing various Korbanot. Regarding the Korban Chatat, sin-offering, the Pasuk states, “Zot Torat HaChatat BiMkom Asher Tishacheit HaOlah Tishacheit HaChatat Lifnei Hashem,” “This is the law of the sin-offering; in the place where the Olah (entirely consumed by Hashem)-offering is slaughtered shall the sin-offering be slaughtered, before Hashem” (VaYikra 6:18). What causes the Torah to equate, at least on some level, the Korban Chatat and the Korban Olah?
Ramban answers this question with a simple explanation. He writes that the Torah divides all of the Korbanot into two sections: the first section discusses Korbanot which we offer voluntarily and for our own benefit, and the second section describes Korbanot which we are obligated to give in certain situations. Included in this second category of Korbanot which we are obligated to give are both the Korban Chatat and Korban Olah. Rabeinu Bachya elaborates on Ramban’s point, noting that both of these Korbanot are in a category of Korbanot known as the Kodshei Kodashim, holiest of holies. Other Korbanot in this category include the Korban Minchah and Asham. Based on the explanations of both Ramban and Rabeinu Bachya, the Korban Olah and the Korban Chatat are equated in the Pasuk for the simple reason that both of them are in the same general categories. Because of this, the Torah has us perform both sacrifices in the same place in the Mishkan.
Rav Yisrael Salanter offers another explanation of this Pasuk. He explains that the Korban Olah and the Korban Chatat are offered in the same place because they are both used as a form of Kaparah for the Jewish people. A person brings a Korban Chatat when he or she unintentionally commits a sin which would, if committed intentionally, warrant the punishment of Kareit. Thus, one offers a Korban Chatat if he commits a physical sin, such as desecrating Shabbat or eating bread products on Pesach. The Korban Olah offers Kaparah for a completely different type of sin. When the Korban Olah is given every day as the Korban Tamid, it serves a dual purpose. It serves not only as our daily sacrifice to Hashem but also as a form of Kaparah for any improper thoughts we might think. This means that the Korban Olah gives Kaparah for thinking of doing a sin and not necessarily physically doing the action. Since both the Korban Chatat and the Korban Olah are forms of Kaparah for the Jewish people, the Torah equates the two by having us perform both sacrifices in the same place.
There is a major lesson to be learned from Rav Salanter’s explanation. Although one does not receive a full punishment for thinking about doing a sin, one is still accountable for his thoughts. The Torah expects from Bnei Yisrael that we always have a pure mind and only have good thoughts. If we cannot live up to the Torah’s expectations, we require a certain amount of Kaparah. We should always strive to achieve a level at which we no longer need the Korban Olah as a form of Kaparah.