NOT JUST LIP SERVICE
In this week's Torah portion we are introduced to the concept of korbanot, the offerings given in the Mishkan (Tabernacle) and later in the Temple.
In this week's Torah portion we are introduced to the concept of korbanot, the offerings given in the Mishkan (Tabernacle) and later in the Temple. The commentators offer various reasons for this mitzvah. It is important for us to know these reasons, for although we do not bring sacrifices today, we do have a replacement for the Temple's sacrifices.
Our sages teach us in Pirkei Avot (Ethics of Our Fathers 1:2) that the world continues to exist on the merits of Torah study, avodah, and acts of kindness. Avodah means the offerings of the Temple, but nowadays it is substituted by our daily prayers. The reasons behind the korbanot will grant us a perspective into the underlying reasons for why we pray, and the potential that our prayers have.
The Rambam, the great codifier of Jewish law, explains that the Jewish people had a desire to worship animals, since that is what they saw the nations surrounding them do. For example, the Egyptians worshipped sheep. Therefore, Hashem commanded us to offer animals to Him, for He is the One to be served and not animals. According to the Rambam, the power of our prayers produces the same effect as the korbanot once did. Just as the korbanot removed evil desires from our hearts and helped us remember to serve only Hashem, prayer can accomplish the same. When we pray for health, the rebuilding of the Temple, or when we recite the praises of Hashem, we are reminded that these items are "real." The outside world, the workplace, the news, etc. while a real and necessary part of our lives are only a means to be able to do the "real thing" that we were placed on earth to do, to serve Hashem. Thus, prayer, like korbanot, aids us in keeping our lives in proper perspective, and removes from us some of the negative influences that we inevitably pick up from living in a physical world.
The Ramban, one of the leading Torah scholars of the Middle Ages, takes issue with the Rambam, since korbanot were brought before idol worship was introduced to the world. Adam and his sons brought korbanot. Noah, who lived after idol worship was introduced to society, brought an offering upon leaving the ark, when there were no idol worshippers alive anymore. The Ramban explains that the power of korbanot was to unite us with Hashem. The Torah constantly emphasizes the "pleasant aroma" of an offering that ascended to Hashem. In response to this aroma, Hashem would send His blessings down to us on earth. Such is the same with our prayers. We take time each day from our busy, noisy world to talk to Hashem and connect for a little while. We praise Him and ask for His bountiful blessings. This is our "pleasant aroma" that we send heavenward. In response to this, Hashem showers us with blessings and prosperity. The korbanot remind us to pause before we pray, and realize the importance of what we are about to do.
Levi Graiser, who hails from Atlanta, is studying at the Ner Israel Rabbinical College in Baltimore.
You are invited to read more Parshat Vayikra articles.
Would you recommend this article to a friend? Let us know by sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org