Naomi felt badly for her little three year old brother, Motty. Motty was in his room sulking and sniffling because he was not allowed to come into the room where their mother was sewing. Motty liked to play with his Lego near their mother. He would follow her around the house, lugging his Lego case and sitting down to play near Mommy. But he had taken his mother's sewing scissors and cut his Shabbos
pants and now he would have to wait.
Soon Motty heard his mother finish her sewing and put the machine away. He peeked hesitantly out of his room and saw his mother looking at him kindly with forgiving eyes. At first Motty walked slowly, then he ran into his mother's arms and hugged her. After holding onto her tightly for a short while, Motty said softly, "I'm sorry Mommy. I won't do it again."
Naomi watched her brother, slightly surprised, "Motty should have first said he was sorry and then hugged Mommy," she thought to herself.
Perhaps we can help Naomi understand why Motty behaved the way he did by looking into this week's parshah. We have begun reading Chumash Vayikra, which teaches us about the main avodah in the Mishkan: offering the korbanos, the sacrifices.
There are many different types of korbanos. Some korbanos are brought by people who committed a sin by mistake and want to ask for forgiveness. Other korbanos are brought if the sin was done on purpose. Among the various types of sacrifices are korbanos nedavah. These are korbanos that a person brings not because he has to, but because he wants to. The word korban comes from the root 'karev', which means to come close. A Jew wants to come close to HaShem, so he brings a korban.
Korban Todah is the first type of korban mentioned in Parshas Vayikra. Doesn't that seem strange? After all, the Mishkan has just been built. It is finally ready for the avodah to be carried out in it. Now the Jewish people have an opportunity to bring korbanos and ask HaShem for forgiveness for their sins. Shouldn't we first learn about korban chatas, the sacrifice that a person brings when he commits a sin? No, the parshah teaches us about korban nedavah first.
This is because in a way all the korbanos are like nedavah - offering a sacrifice not because we have to, but because we want to.
As we explained, bringing a korban helps a Jew come closer to HaShem. When a Jew commits a sin and brings a korban for forgiveness, it shows that he is sorry that the sin has disconnected him a bit from HaShem. He wants to reconnect himself. So when he brings a korban chatas, he is really showing that he wants to be close to HaShem.
Just like Naomi's brother, Motty. Motty felt badly about not being able to be near his mother. He was sorry for what he did. Yet once he was able to be with his mother again, the first thing he did was to show how much he wanted to be with her. Then he said he was sorry.
Like Motty who likes to be close to his mother, the Jewish people want to feel connected to HaShem. That's why Chumash Vayikra begins with korban nedavah.
(Adapted from Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XVII, p. 9)