Usually, the division of the aliyot in a parashah, while driven by a number of factors, is decided by where it ends. There is a fairly iron-clad principle to end an Aliyah on a positive note, and not on a negative note. This week’s parashah gives us plenty of opportunities to do so, since many of the sub-sections end on a positive note.
That being the case, one would think that the fifth aliyah would encompass all of the sin-offerings (Chatat), covered in Vaykra, chapter 4, while the sixth aliyah would open with the beginning chapter 5, which deals with the guilt-offerings (Asham). But, instead, the fifth aliyah ends with 4:26, leaving two last Chattat offerings to be read with the Asham offerings. Why?
Here’s an idea: all the animals offered in the fifth aliyah as it stands are males, and all the animals offered in the sixth aliyah are females.
On the fifth and sixth days of creation, animals and humans - male and female - were created. When they sinned so egregiously that a flood was brought to cleanse the earth of the stain of their sins, both (some) humans and animals rode out the atoning, purifying procedure in the ark, separated by gender. As Rashi explains: when they entered the ark, men and women were listed separately, indicating that they refrained from relations; when they left, they left as couples, indicating the resumption of relations.
Sacrificial offerings may seem to us as mere rituals, but to our forebears, they were highly charged moments of drama, filled with life and death, punishment and its expiation both hovering above the heads of the trembling, anticipating people. Sin was palpable, and it was not a time for even the suggestion of something which might arouse the incessant depredations and suave persuasions of the Yetzer HaRa.
Therefore, I suggest, we recreate a bit of this drama by breaking the Torah reading where we do. May this reenactment have the desired effect of bringing us ever closer to Hashem such that we truly need neither Chattat nor Asham but rather the offerings of joy and exultation of Oneness emerging from the altar in the inner chambers of our hearts.