Parshas Vayikra 2018: Relating To Animal Sacrifices
The book of Vayikra (Leviticus) deals primarily with the parameters for the relationship between Hashem and His nation as well as each individual. Much of this third sefer (book) is devoted to explaining the korbanos (animal sacrifices).
The korbanos (offerings) consisted of four broad categories; Olah (elevation offering), Chatos (sin offering), Shlamim (peace offering) andAsham (guilt offering).
Each korban (sacrifice) serves a different purpose throughout the year. Some were brought with the high holidays and others with YomimTovim or Shabbos. All this was an active and integral part of Jewish life.
If a man sinned, his atonement was realized when he offered a korban and did proper teshuva (repentance). The atonement came through experiencing the animals’ demise at his feet while visualizing himself in its place. Recognizing he was truly deserving of such a fate for his sins. This would set him straight and inspire him to depart from his negative ways.
Another explanation is the animal actually personifies our own animalistic behaviors which led us to sin. It stirs up the spiritual neshama(soul) within, to take control of our animalistic guf (body) to refrain from sinning further.
If you think about it, the korbanos are quite odd. In fact, the whole concept seems to run contrary to Judaism. As we know, bringing sacrifices and offering livestock were a known act of idolatry. How can an animal sacrifice which on the surface seems like such a barbaric ritual, be given to us as a commandment from a loving G-d??
Furthermore, the Torah refers to the korbanos as a “Rayach Nechoach L’Hashem” (pleasant aroma for Hashem). If Hashem has no bodily needs how is it so pleasing and satisfying to Him?
When discussing the korbanos we typically associate them with atonement for sin. Yet the word “korban” actually comes from the root word “karov” (to get close). Hashem doesn’t want or need our sacrifices as sustenance. All Hashem wants is for us to be close to Him.
Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh clearly spells out the purpose for man in life; to build a devaikus (attachment) to the Almighty. Bringing korbanos was the ultimate route for us to connect with Hashem.
Some are of the opinion Hashem instituted the korbanos because it was the way of idolaters. Meaning, He wanted to make our new religion more relatable. Having come from a world that knew only of idol worship, ritual sacrifices made the bridge easier to cross.
When we lost our temples, we lost our opportunity to reach this degree of closeness with Hashem. Although we do have our tefillos (prayers) as a replacement, nothing can compare to the relationship built by offering the korbanos. Similar to when we have a “close call” with another vehicle avoiding an accident at the last possible second, bringing the korbanos would help us recognize how close we were to disaster and then propel us toward strengthening the relationship between us and our Creator.
As foreign as it may seem, the korbanos was a very important part of our nation. May we all merit to achieve the maximum level of closeness with our Creator. -Amen!
Have a wonderful Shabbos and weekend!
Maverick V. Peters