Sacrifices – NOT!!
At some point a wordsmith better than I, will coin a more appropriate word to translate the Hebrew term Korban. The main focus of the entire book of Vayikra is purity and our personal relationship with the Divine, expressed in the minutiae of the Temple Service which of course revolved around the Korbanot.
The English word used is ‘sacrifice’.
This connotes giving something up and in the context of the Temple service, seems to imply that we are giving up the animal’s life!
I’ve sinned – time to slit an animals throat and move on with my life with clean hands!
I’ve been cured from a life-threatening illness – time to sprinkle some blood on the altar as thanks!
I brought a new life into this world – time to take an animal’s life in appreciation!
It’s Shabbat, it’s Rosh Chodesh, it’s Yom Tov – let’s bring an extra sacrifice.
Not exactly a moral or ethical act.
Can the Nation that gave us the very first moral code, the revolutionary Mitzvah of ‘Tzaar Ba’alei Chaim (not hurting our animals), that forbade hunting for pleasure, that insists on feeding our pets before our children etc etc etc, can that Nation and Divine Code really insist on sacrificing an animal’s life on the Altar of repentance, remembrance and thanks?
But is it truly about sacrificing?
For that matter, is anything within Judaism about sacrificing?
Do we sacrifice our taste-buds and appetite by adhering to Kashrut?
Do we sacrifice our sartorial desires and fashion sense by adhering to a dress-code?
Do we sacrifice our sexuality by adhering to family purity?
Do we sacrifice our free time by going to Shul?
The list goes one. In fact it is essentially 613 lines long!
A Korban is not a sacrifice. The Hebrew word Korban has its roots in k-r-v, to come close.
The whole point of Judaism, every positive Mitzvah and each negative Aveirah are about bridging the gap between the infinite Divine and the finite human being.
It’s not for nothing that the instruction to build the Tabernacle was prefaced by the Mitzvah of Shabbat, which more than any other Mitzvah reminds us that there is a Divine Creator to this world and that our every action must be in sync with His and aim to bring us both closer to each other.
The mechanics of how it works is the study of a lifetime, but the main point is that we were not put on this world to sacrifice ourselves, our happiness or our animals for G-d. We are put here to get closer and to be involved with the Cosmic plan of creation. If you think that you can just slit an animal’s throat and be atoned, sprinkle its blood and be done with expressing your thanks, then you have done nothing more than take an animal’s life – which is basically murder! You’ve not sacrificed an animal – you’ve sacrificed your moral code, your sacrificed your very essence of what it means to be a human being!