This week’s entire Torah portion consists of the laws of the various sacrifices that were offered in the Temple.
The first blood taken from an animal or a bird sacrifice was dashed in a certain way on the Altar and certain fats of the animal were offered on the Altar. The Torah forbids us to consume both blood and these types of fats.
Salt was applied to every offering.
The Torah also restricts anything leavened or honey to be placed on the Altar of the Temple.
In fact, all the flour and meal offerings and the 12 showbreads which were always present on the Table in the Temple had no leavening and were Chometz free.
On the holiday of Shavuos the Torah instructs the Kohain to present two wheat Chometz breads. These breads were waved by the Kohain but were not offered upon the Altar.
When one offered a Todah/thanksgiving offering, it was accompanied by 40 breads. Ten of the breads were chometz. They too, were not offered on the Altar, rather the bulk was distributed to the owner of the sacrifice and the Kohain took his portion.
So what is it about Chometz and honey that makes them restricted from the Altar?
Rabainu Bachaya teaches us that both leavening in bread, and honey represent the Yeitzer Harah – the evil inclination.
He explains that leavening represents the desire to worship idols or ideologies that are the antithesis to the Torah. The Torah forbids us to have any ownership or involvement with Chometz while the Pesach offering is offered and throughout the holiday because the Pesach offering was there to repair any idolatry that the Jews had been involved with in Egypt, where the sheep and lamb were sacred to the Egyptians.
Thus, specifically throughout the holiday of Pesach we become similar to the Altar, when we are forbidden to have any intake or ownership of Chometz. This abstention of Chometz during Pesach essentially immunizes us from the adverse effects of Chometz that we consume during the rest of the year.
Chometz was never presented upon the Altar – since it represents the sin of idolatry. In addition, the remainder of the flour or meal offerings that were distributed to the Kohain to eat, were also prohibited to eat as Chometz.
Rabbainu Bechaya also addresses the evil inclination that is represented by honey. He explains that the sweetness of honey represents the desire toward licentious behavior. This too, had no place on the Altar.
But there is a difference between honey and Chometz. Although honey was never placed on the Altar, a Kohain is permitted to mix his distributed portion of the flour or meal offering with honey.
The question is why?
Rabbi Zalman Sorotzkin o.b.m. explains as follows: The Talmud relates that the Rabbis of the Great Assembly in the times of the Temple prayed to G-d for mercy to abolish the desire to worship idolatry. They were successful and the desire for idolatrous behavior which was prevalent at the time came to an end.
The Talmud tells us the same Rabbis wished to expel the desire for licentious behavior as well. They were successful and a few days later there were no fresh laid eggs, indicating that the desire to procreate disappeared.
The Sages saw that their total abolishment of desire for intimate relations would affect the continuation of the world, people and animals. They therefore prayed to have it restored but they were able to abolish the desire for incest.
Says Reb Zalman, we see that the abolishment of idolatry remained across the board. Meaning that such ideologies – represented by leavening – were restricted from the Temple’s Altar and from anything associated with the altar service.
However, although the desire for licentious behavior which is represented by the sweetness of honey, has no place on the Altar, when that desire is used in the process of procreation in the format of a marriage bond, following the laws of the Torah, it is permitted.
Since the ‘honey’ has a necessary and kosher component to it, for the desire represented by honey is necessary for the continuation of the world and not always forbidden, it can be mixed with the Kohain’s personal distribution of the flour and meal offering!