Sacrificing Satisfactorily by Rabbi Jonathan Krimsky


Sefer Vayikra is referred to by the name Torat Kohanim because the Sefer consists mainly of korbanot and other rituals performed by the Kohanim.  There is a fundamental Machloket as to the reason Hashem commanded us to offer Korbanot.  Rambam (Morah Nevuchim 3:46) writes that since the Jews had lived amongst the nations of Mitzrayim and Kasdim, nations that were steeped in idolatry, the Jewish people became engrossed with the impurity of Avodah Zarah.  To sublimate this hideous desire, Hashem commands us to offer Korbanot to channel the Yetzer Hara to an acceptable form of worship.

Ramban is not very impressed with the approach of Rambam.  After all, he points out, Hevel offers a Korban to Hashem before the Egyptians and Kasdeans ever existed.  Even Noach, after he leaves the Tevah, offers a Korban to Hashem, and this too predates the Egyptians and Kasdeans.  Ramban suggests a different approach.  He feels that Korbanot are not merely preventative, but have inherent constructive meaning in and of themselves. A person, upon witnessing the blood of the animal being sprinkled and the body of the animal being burnt, should contemplate that it is his blood that deserves to get sprinkled and his body that deserves to get burnt.  Through this process, the one who offers the Korban is able to reconnect to Hakodosh Baruch Hu.

This seems to be a classic Machloket Rambam-Ramban, where the two opinions are mutually exclusive.  Yet, in his introduction to Sefer Vayikra, the Meshach Chachma suggests that both answers are correct and need not be mutually exclusive.  Korbanot were primarily instituted to distance us from Avoda Zarah.  This does not, however, apply to all Korbanot, just the ones that were offered outside of the Beit Hamikdash, i.e. Bamot.  Korbanot that were offered in the Beit Hamikdash were instituted to increase our relationship with Hakadosh Baruch Hu. 

Until the Beit Hamikdash was constructed, the Jews generally had the option to offer Bamot.  If that is the case, why are Bamot prohibited today, if we have not had the fortune of offering a Korban in the Beit Hamikdash for the last 2000 years?  This question is particularly problematic according to Rav Chaim Cohen, found in Tosafot Megillah 10a, who holds that Kedushah Rishonah Lo Kidshah Liatid Lavoh, and therefore the status of Har Habayit should be the same as it was before the Beit Hamikdash was constructed.  The Meshach Chachma answers based on a Gemara in Yuma that Anshei Kneset Hagedolah nullified the Yetzer Hara of Avodah Zarah forever.  If so, there would be no purpose of offering Bamot today, for we have no temptations for Avodah Zarah that we need to offset; the only form of Korbanot that would be appropriate today would be those that are offered in the Beit Hamikdash, for they have inherent value. 

Although we do not have the opportunity today to relate to God through Korbanot, the Gemara teaches us that Tefilah has its roots in the Korbanot.  The Gemara even considers each shul to have the status of a Mikdash Miat.  It therefore behooves us to take advantage of this opportunity of creating a relationship with Hashem.  This includes improving our Kavanah and our conduct as we beseech Hashem in our Batei Knasiyot. 

May it be the will of Hashem that we should merit to fulfill the saying of Chazal that Binisan Nigalu Uvinisan Atidin Lihegael.  Once we experience the Geulah, we will be able to approach Hashem through Korbanot that should truly be an authentic form of Reiach Nechuach to Hashem.

Making The Physical Spiritual by Avi Wollman

Full Participation by Ely Winkler