The Tisha B’Av Story ExplainedBy Rabbi Jack Abramowitz
G-d gave Moshe instructions about animals for sacrifices. A korban olah (burnt offering) had to be male sheep, goats or cattle without any disqualifying blemishes. A blemished animal would not be accepted. A korban shlamim (peace offering) had to unblemished sheep or cattle. Examples of unacceptable sacrifices include animals that are blind, that have broken limbs, or cuts on the lips or eyelid. (There are other disqualifications; these are just a sampling. The cut lip – or, possibly, eyelid – was used as a form of sabotage by Bar Kamtza, leading to the destruction of the second Temple. See Talmud Gittin 56a.)
A castrated animal is also unacceptable. The Torah then mentions a general prohibition against castrating animals (so consult your rabbi before neutering your pets!). Non-Jews could also bring sacrifices to G-d in the Temple, but their offerings also had to follow these rules. (That’s why Bar Kamtza’s sabotage worked: an animal with a nicked lip or eyelid was a perfectly acceptable sacrifice to the Romans, so they were offended when it was rejected.)
A newborn animal cannot be used for a sacrifice until the eighth day. It must remain with its mother for a week in order to ensure that the offspring is viable, as well as to satisfy the mother’s instinct to suckle. A mother and its young may not be slaughtered on the same day, whether for sacrifices or for food. (This teaches us a certain sensitivity. While we may use animals, we shouldn’t become hardened to what it is we’re doing.)
G-d commands us to make a kiddush Hashem and not a chillul Hashem. That is, a sanctification rather than a desecration of His Name.