This is largely based on Rabbi Michael Taubes’s chaper on צו, from Mitokh Ha-Ohel.
The first half of our parasha deals with the procedures for the various sacrifices. It ends with a summary:
The Gemara picks up on the term תורה to make these parshiot relevant to our time, when we cannot bring sacrifices:
However, רבי יצחק in the same Gemara makes this point from other psukim in our parasha:
What is רבי יצחק coming to add? Is his opinion different from ריש לקיש?
Rashi (and most others) say it is different. ריש לקיש claims that any learning, כל העוסק בתורה, is equivalent to offering sacrifices. רבי יצחק requires learning the laws of the sacrifices themselves, כל העוסק בתורת חטאת:
But then, why mention specifically the חטאת and אשם? The phrase זאת תורת appears multiple times earlier in the parasha, once for each sacrifice:
So the Maharsha says that רבי יצחק is specifically talking about sin offerings:
What does כאילו חטא ודאי והקריב חטאת ואשם? You might want to read it as “if one needs to bring a sin offering, then studying the laws is considered as though they brought it”. But that’s not what the Maharsha says. Studying the laws of sin offerings is like sinning, then bringing the offering. Is that a good thing?
Rabbi Taubes says that, yes, it could be a good thing. He brings the famous Gemaras about בעלי תשובה:
Why is being a בעל תשובה so good? Here’s how Rav Dessler puts it:
Then Rav Dessler adds a parenthetical note:
He needs to say this because, like most things that are “obvious”, this isn’t obvious at all. This is really a very dangerous idea. If תשובה is so wonderful, shouldn’t we all try to experience it? Doing a sin seems like a small price to pay to be able to stand where צדיקים גמורים אינם עומדין. This was an essential point of the Shabtai Tzvi’s heresy:
תשובה is a uniquely Jewish idea, and the Sabbatean heresy is a uniquely Jewish heresy. Its reasonableness is what makes it so dangerous.
Rabbi Taubes proposes that this is what the Maharsha means:
So רבי יצחק is saying, in this interpretation, that there is no reason to be jealous of the בעל תשובה. To be able to stand שבעלי תשובה עומדין, you can’t intentionally do an עבירה just to do תשובה, but you can be part of כל העוסק בתורת חטאת כאילו הקריב חטאת, and that is כאילו חטא ודאי והקריב חטאת.
And ריש לקיש? Rabbi Taubes suggests that he is not disagreeing with this idea, but would extend it further. Any Torah learning can bring one to the same elevated state as the בעל תשובה; as he says, כל העוסק בתורה כאילו הקריב עולה מנחה חטאת ואשם. The cure for the יצר הרע (at least the sophisticated יצר הרע that leads to מתיר איסורים) is the בית המדרש:
And Rabbi Taubes adds that ריש לקיש is the archetype of the בעל תשובה who is cured by Torah: