"I’m looking for a Korban..."
March 15, 2019
Beis Moshiach in #1158, Parsha of the Future, VaYikra

By Rabbi Nissim Lagziel

    Moshe Levy returns home after an exhausting day at work. He parks his car in front of his house, turns off the lights and a moment before he turns off the engine, and takes out the keys, he hears a thundering noise. His car window shatters into pieces and a basketball hits him in the head.

Ouch!” shouts Moshe furiously as he gets out of the car and starts looking around…

Excuse me, sir, can I help you? Who are you looking for?” A passerby asks him.

Yes,” he answers, roaring. “I’m looking for a korban!!!”


This week we read Parshas Vayikra, which deals with a wide range of Korbanos (sacrifices) and thus opens Chumash Vayikra, known as Toras Kohanim or the Book of Sacrifices.

As its name implies, much of this sefer deals with the sacrificial service performed by the kohanim in the Mishkan and later in the Beis Hamikdash. In fact, the Korbanos took center-stage in the Temple’s service and were what brought down the Shechina (the Divine Presence) in the form of a lion of fire that consumed the korban completely, symbolizing it’s acceptance by Hashem.

Not only was the Beis Hamikdash centered around the Korbanos, but the entire world depends on it. The words of the Mishna (Avos 1: 2) say it all:

On three things stands the world — on the Torah, on the Avoda, the service, and on acts of loving-kindness.”

Service of what, exactly?! In his commentary on this Mishnah, Rabbi Ovadia of Bartenura explains that it means ”The service of the sacrifices, as Chazal (Taanis 27b) have taught us, “if not for our involvement in Avodas HaKorbanos, the heavens and the earth would not have endured.”

A substantial portion of our daily prayers talks all about korbanos. Every Shabbos, Rosh Chodesh, and festival, we add a whole Teffilah to commemorate the Korban-Mussaf, and one of the reasons we so want Moshiach to come now is to be able to offer korbanos once more!

But let’s stop and think for a moment: killing animals, sprinkling blood and burning meat on an altar appears to be a very barbaric, let alone, pagan-looking custom, more appropriate for African tribes than for the people of Israel.

We, “G-d’s chosen people” were given a deep and intellectual Torah. Judaism has so much spirituality to it. What in the world do we have to do with the unnecessary killing of animals and birds? Is the rebuilding of the Beis HaMikdash just so we can see a state-of-the-art slaughterhouse?

This is an age-old question.

The Rambam, in his philosophical work, the Moreh Nevuchim (“A Guide For the Perplexed” part 3, 32:32) explains that Hashem allowed the Jews to offer Korbanos because it was the general mode of worship which they were used to. “He did not command us to give up and discontinue …for to obey such a commandment would have been contrary to the nature of man.” Therefore, Hashem permitted us to continue this way of service, but allowing it exclusively for His sake, to eradicate any trace of idolatry from our minds and to fix into our hearts faith in the One and only G-d.

The Ramban and many others, on the other hand, strongly disagree with the Rambam. First of all, Adam Harishon, Kayin and Hevel already brought Korbanos before anyone even thought of idolatry! Secondly, is it possible to say that so many mitzvos are only educational “tricks” to make Bnei Yisroel remain faithful to Him, while the Torah explicitly says that a korban is in fact “a pleasing odor to Hashem” which Chazal explain to mean that bringing korbanos “causes satisfaction to Me, for my Will has been fulfilled?!” No other mitzvah has been given such “importance” by Hashem, if we may use the term, like Korbanos were!

According to the Ramban, (on Vayikra 1:9) the purpose of a Korban is entirely different. It is meant to show us the kindness of Hashem to every Jew, even a sinner! A sinner deserves to have his blood spilled, and his flesh burned! Hashem, with his great mercy, allowed us to substitute this grim fate we may deserve by spilling the blood and burning the flesh of an animal instead.

Chassidus, as always, sheds an all-new light on this topic.

Chassidus translates the service of Korbanos as a spiritual service too. A person gets close to Hashem (“korban” in Hebrew means coming close) by taking his Nefesh Habehamis (his “animal” soul), “slaughtering” it figuratively by terminating his animalistic desires and directing the energy (“blood”) and pleasure (“fats”) to the service of Hashem.

But is this enough?

A well-known concept in Chassidic philosophy is that the purpose of creation was to “make a dwelling place for Hashem here below”, to cause Hashem to so-called “feel comfortable” in this world — in everywhere and everything!

It is true that through davening, You are able to feel a closeness to Hashem . It is true that spiritually you can “slaughter” your animal soul, and bring yourself to have a true love of Hashem (the “fire”), which will translate itself to enthusiasm, excitement, and pleasure in Avodas Hashem — learning Torah and keeping Mitzvos.

But did you bring Hashem that way into anything but yourself? What about the rest of the world — its less spiritual sides?

Chassidus teaches that everything in the world belongs to one of four categories. Domem (inanimate objects), tzomeach (vegetation), chai (living creatures) and medaber (the human being).

In galus, we are limited to just one of the four — ourselves and our own nefesh habehamis.

The goal is that all materialism be sanctified and uplifted, and this precisely is what transpires when Korbanos are being offered! All forms of material existence found in our world became a part of the Divine fire.

It wasn’t just animals and birds…

The meal offerings, the oil, and wine of the nesachim (libations) represent the elevation of all types of vegetation to Kedusha. The salt sprinkled on every Korban, represents the inanimate. Avodas Hakorbanos elevated every single creature in the world!

Without it, many parts of the world cannot be elevated… That’s why Jews and Judaism are so “obsessed” with Korbanos.

Hashem wants everything to be for Him!

To conclude with a story:

In 5741 (1981) Reb Rachamim (“Rami”) Antian organized a day camp for children in Tzfat under the slogan of “Ani ma’min bevias haMoshiach” — “I believe with complete faith in the coming of Moshiach.”

When the camp ended, and Moshiach still did not come, one of the children was so eager to see Moshiach, that he did not stop talking about it. So much so that he would go up to the roof at night to look for Moshiach… The parents of the child who were not frum thought he lost his mind.

Ten years later, in the year 5751 (1991), after the Rebbe’s famous sicha on the 28th of Nissan, Rami recalled this anecdote and wrote it up in a letter to the Rebbe. He ended in pain: “I ask, Ribbono Shel Olam, do we not deserve Moshiach if not only for this one Jewish child who, after two thousand years, still expects Moshiach so simply?”

The Rebbe answered on Ramis letter thus. “This is my ta’ana in the (well-known) sicha!”

A Take-a-way:

Let’s go “looking for a korban” just like that child on a roof in Tzfat!

Gut Shabbos! ■

Based on: לקו”ש חלק א’ ויקרא, מאמר ד”ה צו את בנ”י תשי”א, והנסמן שם

Article originally appeared on Beis Moshiach Magazine (http://beismoshiachmagazine.org/).
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