אדם כי יקריב מכם קרבן לה' מן הבהמה מן הבקר ומן הצאן תקריבו את קרבנכם
“A man that will bring an offering from among you for G-d; from the livestock, from the cattle and from the sheep you shall offer your offerings.” (Vayikra 1:2)
In the first part of the verse, the offering is considered to be “for G-d,” but in the second part of the verse it is called “your offerings.” Why does the Torah say “your offerings” regarding the sacrifice that a person brings for Hashem, as if the person is really bringing it for himself? Also, why does the Torah repeat that “you shall offer your offerings”? These words seem to be superfluous, because the beginning of the verse already specifies that we are discussing offerings.
The Arvei Nachal comments on this verse that a person must never think that when he fulfills Hashem’s commands he is in any way benefiting Hashem. Hashem is all-powerful and owns the entire world; it is impossible for a human being to give Him something that He doesn’t yet have. Even the mitzvos we perform are not in any way for Hashem’s benefit, but for our own advantage. We are the ones who gain from the mitzvos we perform, and we should never think that we are doing Hashem a favor by fulfilling His commands.
Although all this is certainly true, there is one way in which we can bring benefit to Hashem, so to speak, and that is when we repent out of love of Hashem. When a person sins, he brings destruction upon the world and does great damage to creation. When he repents, he clears his personal record, but he doesn’t necessarily correct all of the damage he caused. However, when a person is inspired to repent out of love towards Hashem, his sins are turned into mitzvos, and in result all of the damage that came about through his sins are corrected. This brings great pleasure to Hashem, because He rejoices when the world is corrected.
This special pleasure can only come about when a person repents out of love, as opposed to out of fear. Only then is it considered an “offering for G-d” from which Hashem derives great pleasure, so to speak. However, if the offering is not “from among you” - out of the person’s own personal love, but comes “from the livestock, cattle and sheep,” meaning that the person repents due to lesser forms of inspiration, such as fear of retribution or personal hardships, then it is “your offering.” The person himself is the one who benefits from his sacrifice, and it cannot be considered as an “offering for G-d.”
This is why the verse concludes with a separate mention of the offerings, to indicate that we are discussing two different types of offerings. The first one is decidedly greater and more elevated, because it is offered with love, “for G-d.”
Where do we see in this verse a reference to repentance out of love of Hashem? There is an interesting discussion in the Gemara (Nedarim 10b) where it says that when a person wishes to declare something as an offering for Hashem he shall say: “Korban l’Hashem” (an offering for G-d), and he shall not say, “l’Hashem Korban” (to Hashem it shall be an offering). This is because a person must be extremely careful not to say Hashem’s name in vain. If he will first say Hashem’s name and then be unable to complete his vow, he will have said Hashem’s name in vain. To avoid this from happening, the person should first declare his vow and then say Hashem’s name.
A similar concept applies to our greeting of shalom aleichem. The person who greets his friend first says “shalom aleichem,” but the friend responds in reverse order by saying “aleichem shalom.” The word “Shalom” is one of the names of Hashem, and therefore it should not be said in vain. The person who greets his friend in return responds by first saying the word aleichem, so that if something happens to him, G-d forbid, before he can complete his greeting, he will not have said the word Shalom in vain. On the other hand, the person who greets his friend first may begin with the word Shalom and not fear that something will happen to him before finishing his greeting, because he benefits from the blessing of our sages that “one who precedes to greet his friend will have his days and years lengthened.” Due to this special blessing, he can begin his greeting with the word Shalom without any concern.
The verse says “korban l’Hashem – an offering for G-d.” This reminds us of the above-mentioned Gemara, which shows us how transient and fragile our physical existence is. Our lives depend on Hashem’s kindness, and only through His great mercy are we able to exist. When a person thinks about this, he realizes how grateful he must be for this constant kindness and he is inspired to repent out of love.
In result, when a person thinks into the words “an offering for G-d,” he will repent out of love, and then he will indeed be offering his sacrifice for Hashem, and not just for his own personal benefit. This is the ultimate level of serving Hashem.
The month of Tishrei is the month of repentance, but during that time we repent out of awe. On the other hand, the present month of Nissan is the month in which we repent out of love, because we recall the great miracles that Hashem performed for us, His beloved children. May Hashem give us the ability to repent out of true ahavas Hashem, and may we thus merit bringing Him great pleasure and nachas.