Yesterday, we noted the question addressed by several Acharonim concerning two different situations where the Torah requires different kinds of sacrifices for people of different financial statuses. One case is that of a metzora undergoing his process of purification, who brings three sheep, unless he is destitute, in which case he brings two birds. The Mishna (Negaim 14:12) states that an impoverished metzora is allowed to offer the more expensive sacrifice is he so chooses. This halakha stands in contrast to the position of the Sefer Ha-chinukh (123) concerning the korban oleh ve-yored – an atonement sacrifice required by the Torah in cases of certain kinds of violations (Vayikra 5:1-13). There, too, the Torah designates different sacrifices for people of different financial statuses, but in this instance, the Chinukh maintains that a poor man does not fulfill his obligation by bringing the more expensive offering.
A clever explanation of the Chinukh’s position is offered by Rav Meir Dan Platzky, in his Keli Chemda (Parashat Vayikra). Among the distinctions between the sacrifices of the metzora and the korban oleh ve-yored, Rav Platzky observes, is that in the case of the korban oleh ve-yored, the Torah establishes three different levels, and not just two. Specifically, a person of means brings a sheep; a poor person brings two birds; and an indigent person, who cannot even afford two birds, brings some flour as his offering. This is in contrast to the metzora’s offering, regarding which the Torah delineates only two levels – a standard offering (three sheep) and a less expensive offering for the poor (one sheep and two birds). Rav Platzky contends that in the case of a severely destitute sinner who must offer an oleh ve-yored, and whom the Torah requires to bring the least expensive sacrifice (flour), it would be forbidden for him to choose the higher level, and to offer two birds. The reason relates to the unique method of killing a bird offered as a sacrifice. Whereas generally birds may be eaten only after undergoing proper shechita, just like animals, a bird offered as a sacrifice is killed through melika (severing the back of the neck with a fingernail – Vayikra 1:15, 5:8). An ordinary bird killed through melika would be considered a “neveila” and thus forbidden for consumption, yet in the case of a bird offered as chatat, the Torah requires the kohanim to partake of the bird’s meat, despite its not having undergone shechita. Rav Platzky thus writes that in the case of an oleh ve-yored, only one whom the Torah specifically requires to offer two birds – one as an ola and the other as a chatat – may bring such an offering, as only in such a case does the Torah permit the kohanim to eat the meat of the bird that was killed through melika. A direly poor sinner, whom the Torah commands to bring a flour offering, may not choose the option of bringing two birds, because in such a case, the Torah did not authorize the kohanim to eat a bird that had not undergone shechita. The Chinukh therefore reasoned that once a direly impoverished sinner may not offer a more expensive sacrifice than the one stipulated by the Torah, a moderately poor sinner, who is required to bring two birds, is likewise not permitted to bring the more expensive sacrifice. This clearly is not relevant in the case of metzora, regarding which the Torah assigns only two levels, and thus a poor metzora is allowed to bring the more expensive offering.