Parashat VaYikra deals with a very lengthy discussion of how to bring various Korbanot to Hashem. Through the various slaughterings, sprinklings, and rituals, members of Bnei Yisrael were able to please Hashem immensely, as the Pasuk states (VaYikra 1:9), “Ishei Reiach Nichoach LaHashem,” “a fire-offering, a satisfying aroma to Hashem.” However, why is Hashem satisfied when a person kills an animal, carries out certain processes, and then burns it on an altar? What does one accomplish by doing these actions?
The Alshich, quoting the Ramban, gives a powerful answer to this puzzling question. He remarks that the essence of bringing a Korban is not the actual offering of the animal, but rather how the sacrificing serves as a cleansing of the soul of the person who brings the Korban. When someone witnesses the various processes of the bringing of a Korban, including slaughtering the animal, removing and cleaning the various parts, catching and sprinkling its blood, and, lastly, burning the animal on the Mizbeach, he should think to himself that the animal is replacing him, as he really should have to undergo such experiences to somehow counteract all of his horrible sins. Such an idea is reinforced by the Pesukim’s addition of the seemingly superfluous word of “Mikem” (1:2), as it becomes clear that the Korban should actually be “Mikem,” from you, yourself, but Hashem, in His infinite kindness, allows Bnei Yisrael to sacrifice animals in their steads. Thus, through the bringing of a Korban and the accompanying introspection, he will become a holier person and prevent such acts from occurring in the future.
Nowadays, as we are without the Beit HaMikdash and the accompanying ability to bring Korbanot, Dibbur, speech, through Tefillah and Talmud Torah, is the optimal way to become closer to Hashem. Tefillot were established in the place of Korbanot, with the connection between the two being very simple: both are the best ways in their respective timeframes for one to bring himself closer to Hashem. As the Gemara in Menachot states, “anyone who busies himself with [the reading and studying of the Halachot and Pesukim of] a Korban Chatat, it is as if he himself offered a Chatat.” The reason why learning the seemingly unimportant laws of cutting, cleaning, sprinkling and offering parts of an animal are considered
on par with bringing the actual Korbanot is similar to what makes actual Korbanot so unique. The symbolism behind the Halachot and Pesukim of these Korbanot have deep meaning and are intended to have an impact on someone to the extent that such learning changes him internally, bringing him closer to Hashem.
With Pesach fast approaching, we must make every effort to bring ourselves closer to Hashem through Tefillah and Talmud Torah. When the Beit HaMikdash was in existence, during the Shalosh Regalim each and every Jew would travel to Yerushalayim to visit the Makom HaShechinah, Har HaBayit, and would offer various Korbanot, drawing each of them nearer to Hashem. In fact, Erev Pesach in Mitzrayim was the first time that Hashem commanded the Jews to bring a Korban and the first instance in which Hashem truly interacted with all of the Bnei Yisrael as a people, commanding them to perform an act which would establish a connection between them and Him. Furthermore, Hashem wanted the Jews to put blood on their doorposts as part of the process of offering the Korban Pesach, thereby demonstrating to the world through the blood of that Korban that, while Hashem will spare Am Yisrael, He will kill all of the Egyptian firstborns. When we daven during this month of Nissan, we should be careful to have a great deal of Kavanah, and we should remember that our Tefillot were established by the Chachamim in the place of Korbanot and are meant to bring us closer to Hashem. On Pesach itself, when we see the Zeroa, the shankbone, on the Seder plate, we should remember that the Zeroa is a reminder of the Korban Pesach and that, as we are not privileged to be able to bring Korbanot, we must instead bring ourselves closer to Hashem through great learning and intensified davening, especially on the holy days of Pesach.