Shabbat Parshat Vayikra - 5759
"Korbanot," Animal Sacrifices in the "Bayit Sh'lishi," the Third Temple?
In the second Mishnah of Pirkei Avot, Shimon HaTzaddik (Shimon, the Righteous), is quoted as teaching, "The existence of the world depends on three conditions: Torah study, Service of G-d, and the presence of kindness in human society."
As we begin the weekly public reading of the third Book of the Torah, "Sefer Vayikra," which is strongly centered on the topic of animal sacrifices, we should review this important aspect of the Torah. We should also examine their role in "Avodat Hashem," the Service of Hashem, so that, as the Bayit Sh'lishi goes from a dream to a hope to a dimly perceived reality, G-d Willing, we will need to know whether, at this point, the full Temple Service should be restored. Or whether, in fact, animal sacrifices have now been permanently replaced by "Tefilah," Prayer. If so, their restoration at this point would constitute a violation of "Tzaar Baalei Chayim," cruelty to animals, which is prohibited by the Torah, and would contribute to the diminution of the level of kindness in the world.
Our traditional sources seem to testify unanimously against the idea that animal sacrifices will be discarded. First of all, the Torah itself says that none of its commands will ever be taken away!
Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon, otherwise known as the "RAMBAM" or Maimonides, a great twelfth century Torah scholar, created a good deal of perplexity with a certain statement that he made in the "Guide for the Perplexed." He stated there that the purpose of animal sacrifices was educational; that is, they were "designed," so to speak, to wean the Jewish People away from pagan practices. However, this statement needs to be taken with a large grain of salt, for the reason that it was written for a certain favorite student of his who was struggling to defend Judaism against philosophical attack by Moslems, who were then deeply involved in the study of philosophy.
However, his real opinion can be found in the "Mishne Torah, Hilchot Melachim," where he states unequivocally that in the time of the Mashiach, all the Laws of the Torah will be restored, including animal sacrifices.
Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman, otherwise known as the "RAMBAN" or Nachmanides, also a great scholar of the thirteenth century, expresses the thought that animal sacrifices are fundamentally necessary for the atonement of the human being. Hashem, in His great mercy, accepts the blood and inward parts of the animal in place of those parts of the person, which should really be on the altar.
The "TANACH," or Bible, in many places, and our liturgy seem really to allow little doubt as to what our national dream should be. Four examples from the Siddur:
In the Daily Shemoneh Esray, in the "Retzay" Prayer, we say, "Restore the "Avodah," the Divine Service, to Your holy habitation, and may the burnt-offerings and the prayers of Israel be received by You in love and good will."
In the "Mussaf," Additional Prayer, of Rosh Chodesh, we say " May You establish a new altar in Yerushalayim, and we will bring the burnt offering of Rosh Chodesh upon it, and we will prepare sacrificial goats with favor "
In the Mussaf of the Three Festivals (Pesach, Sukkot and Shavuot), we pray, " And may You bring us to Your City, Tziyon, with joy, and to Yerushalayim, to the holy Temple, with eternal happiness. And there we will prepare for You our obligatory sacrifices, the Continual Sacrifices in their proper order, and the Additional Sacrifices, in accordance with their regulations "
In the Haggadah, which will be recited shortly, G-d Willing, we find - before the Second Cup is drunk, "Therefore, Hashem, our G-d and G-d of our fathers, may You bring us to other Festivals and Holidays, which are approaching, in Peace. And we will eat there from the Holiday Sacrifices and from the Pesach Sacrifices whose blood will be sprinkled on the wall of Your Altar, according to Your Will Blessed are You, Who Redeemed Israel."
May the merit of the Four Cups combine with the Four Expressions of Redemption and the Prayers of the Four "Imahot," Mothers of our People, to speed our Redemption to completion with the same "chipazon," haste, in which our ancestors, the People of Israel, left Egypt.
Rabbi Pinchas Frankel
Rabbi Frankel is an Educational Coordinator at the OU