As mentioned, there are several kinds of Korbanos, each with its own special purpose, and HaShem chose to begin our Parsha with the Korban Olah. Unlike other Korbanos that are shared, where part of it goes up to HaShem and the other parts are eaten by the Kohanim, a Korban Olah is a very holy sacrifice that is completely burned on the altar. Olah means to “go up,” because the entire animal “goes up” to HaShem and nothing is left over for the owners or for the Kohanim.
During the times of the Mishkan and Beis HaMikdash, a person would voluntarily choose to offer a Korban Olah.
Get ready for a Shazak Scenario:
Mr. Gavriel Goldbucks, the richest man in town, woke up one day with a great idea, “Goldie, my dear wife, remember last Pesach at the Seder? Remember what I messed up?”
“Oh yes, but it wasn’t your fault,” answered Goldie. “You simply didn’t know.”
“Correct. I didn’t know, but still, I messed up and I would like to bring this special Korban Oleh – it’s a special Korban that will be entirely for HaShem!”
Goldie was excited about the idea, “I am sooooo excited!”
And before long, Reb Gavriel journeyed to Jerusalem where he purchased an expensive bull in the market. Reb Gavriel was aided by the Kohanim experts who made sure that the bull was perfect – it did not have a Mum, a blemish or defect, which would make it unfit for a Korban.
Now Mr. Goldbucks is met by the Kohen on duty in the yard of the Beis HaMikdash. Although his Korban is brought of his own free will, it also atones for certain sins transgressed by mistake, specifically, for neglecting to perform one of the 248 positive Mitzvos.
So the Kohen says to Mr. Goldbucks, “Reb Gavriel, it is time for you to say Viduy – confess your sins. Listen carefully. During Viduy, I need you to do Semicha – lean both your hands on the bull’s head.”
“Of course,” answers Mr. Goldbucks. “Here is my Viduy: Last Pesach, at the Seder, I ate a small, tiny bite of Matzah. I only learned afterwards that I was supposed to eat a lot more in order to fulfill the Mitzvah. I learned my lesson and it will never happen again.”
At this point the Kohen slaughters the bull with a super sharp knife with a smooth blade, and it is brought to the altar where the animal is completely burned – straight UP TO HASHEM.
Nowadays, people throughout the world eat meat from animals. It’s simple enough. No need to hunt for meat. Just walk into a supermarket and purchase a beautifully wrapped piece of meat, pay for it and “voila”! Your choice… Cook it, bake it, or barbeque the meat.
But most people have no idea what goes on behind the scenes. How was this animal killed?
The sad truth is; more often than not, animals are slaughtered in the most cruel and painful ways. Not so the Jewish way. The Torah teaches us how to slaughter meat in a way that causes the least amount of pain to the animal. According to the Jewish law, a ritual slaughterer, called a Shochet, must use a knife that is incredibly sharp and without even the slightest nick, and quickly cut through the animal’s throat in a single motion.
Consider this: Have you ever cut yourself and didn’t realize it until you noticed some bleeding? How about a paper cut? You probably didn’t feel a thing because the edge of the paper is so smooth. Similarly, the Shochet’s knife has to be super smooth in order to minimize the animal’s suffering. Within the shortest amount of time, the animal dies.
Kosher slaughter is also known in Hebrew as Shechita, and this is how the Kohen was instructed to kill the animal for a Korban.