“When you slaughter a peace offering to G-d, you shall slaughter it to find favor for yourselves. On the day of your slaughter it shall be eaten and on the next day, and whatever remains until the third day shall be burned in fire. But if it shall be eaten on the third day it is rejected.” (Lev. Ch.19 V.5-7)
This is teaching the law of piggul—rejection. During any of the steps of the priest’s sacrificial offering—from the time animal is being slaughtered, to the time blood of the animal is thrown on the altar—if the priest has in mind that the sacrifice will be eaten or burned outside of the permitted time, or eaten or burned in the wrong place, the sacrifice becomes piggul—rejected.
This commandment has very interesting and far reaching implications.
The general perception people have regarding the commandments are that they are ritualistic actions which a person either does (eats matzah, sits in a sukkah), or refrains from doing (not eating pig, not performing forbidden labor on Shabbos); and that by following these commandments, we bring ourselves closer to G-d. But the mitzvah of piggul adds a whole new dimension to our understanding of the commandments and how we relate to G-d. Piggul teaches us that it is not merely our actions which have ramifications but also our thoughts.
For example, a person desires to help someone out. But before he is able to do so, the opportunity is removed. Though the act is not accomplished, since the desire to perform the act was present, the person gets credit for having intended to perform it.
This element of thought goes even deeper. The Talmud (Tractate Rosh Hashanah 28b) queries: “while performing the commandments, does one require intent?” In other words, are the commandments mere rituals, or is there something more? As we know, there is much more to the commandments of the Torah than mere performance. There must also be intent, a why to the how.
This explains the law of piggul. A person offers a sacrifice in order to bring himself closer to G-d. If while it is being offered the person offering it has intent which goes against G-d’s will, this negates what he is trying to accomplish. Our thoughts are meant to complement the actions we perform, not contradict them.
If a person sees eating of Kosher food as something which makes them unique, and testifies to our relationship with G-d even in the most physical of actions, he will gain infinitely more than someone who eats kosher food only because it is more convenient (although a person does garner reward for keeping the commandments — for whatever reason).
May we merit to understand why we perform the commandments and to use this understanding as a springboard for growth.