Tag Archives: Sacrifices

More Temple Laws and Kashrut (N#141-193)

Read the full text here.

Summary: The list of negative (“don’t do”) mitzvot continue with various prohibitions regarding consuming sacrificial offerings and tithes. These could not be consumed outside of Jerusalem, God’s designated holy city. Mitzvah #146 is not to consume the meat of the olah offering at all. This offering was brought to atone for the greatest of sins, and had to be completely burned. Mitzvah #153 is not to eat tevel, produce that has not yet been tithed. Mitzvah #157 is not to break one’s vows. The next three are for a kohen not to marry a zonah, chalalah, or a divorced woman, all three being women that have previously had relations with another man who is likely still alive. There is an additional mitzvah for a kohen gadol not to marry a widow. There are mitzvot for a kohen not to enter the Temple with unkempt hair (#163) or with torn clothing (#164), as well as for a kohen not to go AWOL and leave in the middle of services (#165). The next three mitzvot all deal with prohibitions for kohanim to become impure by proximity to a corpse. This is followed by two mitzvot for any members of the Tribe of Levi not to take possession of any portion of the Holy Land, or any spoils of war. Mitzvah #171 is not to tear out one’s hair in grief when mourning for the dead. The next 22 mitzvot all deal with kosher food, among them to not eat unkosher animals, fish, birds, insects, creeping things and worms, carrion, blood, a certain type of fat called chelev, the sciatic nerve (gid hanashe), meat and dairy mixed together, the fruit of a tree in its first three years (orlah), or hybrid species (kilayim) produced in Israel.

‘Pilgrimage to the Second Jerusalem Temple’ by Alex Levin

Insight: Why is Jerusalem so special? Why was it forbidden to build sacrificial altars anywhere outside Jerusalem, or to consume offerings elsewhere? The reason is that Jerusalem is the centre of the universe, the exact point of the Even HaShetiya, the “Foundation Stone” from which all of Creation began. It is a portal to the spiritual realms, and the place where Heaven and Earth meet. It is the place where Abraham brought Isaac during the Akedah, where Jacob saw the vision of the Heavenly Ladder, and where David established his eternal royal dynasty. Long before this, the city was founded by Shem, the son of Noah, following the Great Flood. Shem later went by the name Melchizedek, described in the Torah as God’s first priest (see Genesis 14). He named the city Shalem, a place of “wholeness” and “peace”, while Abraham later named it Yireh, where God can be seen. So as not to disrespect either tzadik, it was decided in the Heavens to combine these name and call the city Yerushalayim, “Jerusalem”. (For more on this, see ‘The Origins of Jerusalem and the Priesthood’ in Garments of Light, Volume One.)

More Mitzvot of Sacrifices (P#68-79)

The list of positive mitzvot continues with more procedures for sacrificial offerings.

Read the full text here.

Kohanim serving on the Temple Altar (Courtesy: Temple Institute)

Summary: The 68th mitzvah is for a sacrifice to be brought by the Sanhedrin, the highest court in the land, if it erred in one of its decisions. The 69th is for a person to bring a sacrifice if they inadvertently transgressed one of the big sins (that would result in a karet punishment – being “cut off” from the nation). The 70th mitzvah is the asham talui, a “conditional guilt offering” that a person would bring if they are not sure whether they committed a sin or not. The 71st is when a person commits a sin unknowingly, ie. they definitely sinned, but they were not aware at the time that it was a sin. This is an asham vadai, an “unconditional guilt offering”. The 72nd mitzvah deals with an “adjustable” offering, korban oleh v’yored, which depends on a person’s financial means. Whatever kind of offering a person brings, they must confess their sins when they do so, and this is the 73rd mitzvah. The next four mitzvot are for the following people to bring a sacrifice after they have healed and been purified: a man or woman who were afflicted with a certain disease affecting the reproductive organs, a woman who has given birth, and anyone who has recovered from tzara’at, loosely translated as “leprosy”. The 78th mitzvah is to tithe one’s cattle and livestock, meaning a tenth of one’s animals were donated to the Temple. Similarly, the firstborn of every animal was donated to the Temple as a sacrificial offering, which is the 79th mitzvah of the Torah.

Insight: Here, the Rambam enumerates many of the Torah’s mitzvot that deal with sacrifices. However, in his other monumental work, Moreh Nevukhim, “Guide for the Perplexed”, the Rambam explains the proper approach to sacrifices. He explains how God never intended for people to bring animal sacrifices at all. In fact, in the Garden of Eden – that perfect world God initially created – there was no death, slaughter, or meat consumption at all! Many of the later prophets repeat the statement that God does not want any animal sacrifices (see, for instance, Jeremiah 7:21-23, or Hoshea 14:3). If that’s the case, why did God command sacrifices to the Exodus generation? The Rambam (Moreh Nevukhim, Part III, Ch. 32) explains:

The Israelites were commanded to devote themselves to His service… But the custom which was in those days general among all men, and the general mode of worship in which the Israelites were brought up, consisted in sacrificing animals in those temples which contained certain images, to bow down to those images, and to burn incense before them; religious and ascetic persons were in those days the persons that were devoted to the service in the temples erected to the stars, as has been explained by us. It was in accordance with the wisdom and plan of God, as displayed in the whole of Creation, that He did not command us to give up and to discontinue all these manners of service; for to obey such a commandment it would have been contrary to the nature of man, who generally cleaves to that which he is used to; it would in those days have made the same impression as a prophet would make at present if he called us to the service of God and told us in His name, that we should not pray to Him, not fast, not seek His help in time of trouble; that we should serve Him in thought, and not by any action.

For this reason God allowed these kinds of service to continue; He transferred to His service that which had formerly served as a worship of created beings, and of things imaginary and unreal, and commanded us to serve Him in the same manner; namely, to build unto Him a temple; “And they shall make unto me a sanctuary” (Exodus 25:8); to have the altar erected to His name; “An altar of earth you shall make me” (Exodus 20:21); to offer the sacrifices to Him; “If any man of you bring an offering unto the Lord” (Leviticus 1:2), to bow down to Him and to burn incense before Him… By this Divine plan it was affected that the traces of idolatry were blotted out, and the truly great principle of our faith, the Existence and Unity of God, was firmly established. This result was thus obtained without deterring or confusing the minds of the people by the abolition of the service to which they were accustomed and which alone was familiar to them…

Temple Offerings (P#41-67)

The mitzvot continue with services that were performed in the Temple.

Read the full text here.

‘Pilgrimage to the Second Jerusalem Temple’ by Alex Levin

Summary: The 41st positive mitzvah is to offer an additional sacrifice on Shabbat, on top of the usual daily sacrifices. The 42nd, 43rd, 45th, 47th, 48th, 50th, and 51st mitzvahs are to similarly offer an additional sacrifice on Rosh Chodesh, Pesach, Shavuot, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, and Shemini Atzeret, respectively. The 44th mitzvah is to offer the omer grain offering from the day after Pesach, until Shavuot, while the 46th is the special offering of two loaves on Shavuot. The 49th mitzvah is the entire Yom Kippur atonement service (as outlined in parashat Acharei Mot in the Torah). The 52nd mitzvah is to celebrate the three regalim, pilgrimage festivals of Pesach, Shavuot, and Sukkot, while the 53rd is specifically to make the pilgrimage to Jerusalem on these holidays, and the 54th is to rejoice and be happy on these holidays. Mitzvahs #55-58 all relate to the preparation and consumption of the korban pesach, the “paschal lamb”, both on Passover itself and on Pesach Sheni, the second Passover one month later for those who were unable to observe the first Pesach. The 59th mitzvah is to blow the special Temple trumpets, the chatzotzrot. The next three are all general rules regarding sacrifices: an animal that is sacrificed must be at least 8 days old (#60), it must be completely unblemished (#61), and every sacrifice must be salted (#62). The next five are for individuals, when necessary, to bring various offerings to the Temple, such as the ‘olah (“burnt offering”, #63), the chatat (“sin offering”, #64), the asham (“guilt offering”, #65), the shlamim (“peace offering”, #66), and the minchah (“meal offering”, #67).

Insight: In our generation, it is hard to understand the offering of animal sacrifices. The root of the word korban (קורבן), “sacrifice”, means to draw near, karov (קרוב), for it was meant to draw a person closer to God. One would give something that was valuable to them up to Hashem and dedicate it for use in the Holy Temple, similar to how one today might give up a large sum of money to charity for a holy purpose. It is important to note that the animal was not wasted, but was consumed in most cases (except when the sacrifice was brought for the most grievous of sins). The priests serving in the Temple subsisted off of the offerings that were brought by the people. On a mystical level, the bringing of the animal as a sacrifice in the Temple served to elevate its soul, and to liberate any human souls that might have been reincarnated inside the animal, restoring it to Heaven. Today, we are still able to rectify reincarnated souls in this way through the recitation of blessings before and after consuming a food, along with the various mitzvot of the meal table (see, for instance, Sha’ar HaMitzvot on Ekev). The Ba’al HaTurim (Rabbi Yakov ben Asher, 1269-1343) states that the five main types of offerings correspond to the Five Books of the Torah, and one who diligently studies the Torah is considered as if they have brought all five offerings and fulfilled those mitzvot (see his commentary on Numbers 28:1-3).

Further Reading:Will There Be Sacrifices in the Third Temple?