Midrash מִדְרָשׁ

Midrashim are ideas or stories that explain the Torah. They often come from listening very carefully to what the Torah says and how it says it. Here, we will look for what clues this midrash sees in the Torah's words, and try to understand its messages.
(כז) שׁ֣וֹר אוֹ־כֶ֤שֶׂב אוֹ־עֵז֙ כִּ֣י יִוָּלֵ֔ד וְהָיָ֛ה שִׁבְעַ֥ת יָמִ֖ים תַּ֣חַת אִמּ֑וֹ וּמִיּ֤וֹם הַשְּׁמִינִי֙ וָהָ֔לְאָה יֵרָצֶ֕ה לְקׇרְבַּ֥ן אִשֶּׁ֖ה לַה'׃
When a bull or a sheep or a goat is born, it shall stay seven days with its mother, and from the eighth day on it shall be acceptable as a sacrifice to God.
What’s special about the types of animals that could be offered as קָרְבָּנוֹת (korbanot, sacrifices)?
Here’s a midrash that focuses on the significance of one of these animals: the שׁוֹר (shor, bull, a grown male cow). The midrash uses a pasuk from Sefer Tehillim, to explain what the shor represented:
What does a pasuk from Tehillim have to do with something in Vayikra!? This method of midrash is called a פְּתִיחְתָּא (petihta) in Aramaic, which means "opening." Here, we use a pasuk from Tehillim to “open up” our understanding of what’s happening in the pasuk in Vayikra.
וְעַתָּ֨ה יָר֪וּם רֹאשִׁ֡י עַ֤ל אֹיְבַ֬י סְֽבִיבוֹתַ֗י וְאֶזְבְּחָ֣ה בְ֭אׇהֳלוֹ זִבְחֵ֣י תְרוּעָ֑ה אָשִׁ֥ירָה וַ֝אֲזַמְּרָ֗ה לַֽיהוה׃
Now I hold my head high over my enemies around me;
I sacrifice in God’s tent with shouts of joy,
singing to God.
This midrash ties it all together:
כֵּיוָן שֶׁעָשׂוּ יִשְׂרָאֵל אוֹתוֹ מַעֲשֶׂה, הָיוּ אֻמּוֹת הָעוֹלָם אוֹמְרִין, אֵין לָהֶם תְּקוּמָה וְאֵינוֹ חוֹזֵר עֲלֵיהֶם לְעוֹלָם.
כֵּיוָן שֶׁשָּׁמְעוּ יִשְׂרָאֵל שֶׁיַּקְרִיבוּ קָרְבַּן שׁוֹר, רָמָה רֹאשָׁם, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: "וְעַתָּה יָרוּם רֹאשִׁי."
וְהָיוּ מְהַלְּכִין בַּהֲרָמַת רֹאשׁ וְאוֹמְרִין, עַכְשָׁו אָנוּ יוֹדְעִין שֶׁנִּתְרַצָּה לָנוּ הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: "וְאֶזְבְּחָה בְאׇהֳלוֹ זִבְחֵי תְרוּעָה…"
When Israel committed the sin of the golden calf, the nations of the world said, ‘There will be no recovery for them, and God will never return to them.’
When Israel learned that they could sacrifice a shor in the mishkan, they held their heads high, as it says (in Tehillim), “Now I hold my head high.”
They held their heads up and said, ‘Now we know that the Holy One has forgiven us,’ as it says (in Tehillim), “I will sacrifice in God’s tent with shouts of joy…"
  • According to this midrash, Benei Yisrael knew they had been forgiven for the sin of the golden calf when they learned they could sacrifice cows. How did they know?
  • What do you think this midrash is saying about forgiveness? After we make mistakes, how can we know that we have been forgiven? How do you let other people know that you have forgiven them?