Parshat Vayikra: Tough Questions About the Future of Korbanot

The prophet Jeremiah 7:21 wrote:

So says the Lord of Hosts, the God of Israel; add your burnt offerings upon your sacrifices and eat flesh.

For neither did I speak with your forefathers nor did I command them on the day I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning a burnt offering or a sacrifice.

But this thing did I command them, saying: Obey Me so that I am your God and you are My people, and you walk in all the ways that I command you, so that it may be well with you.”

G-d did not command us to bring offerings and sacrifices?! So what will we be reading in this week’s portion if not G-d’s commandments about sacrifices? Not only this week, but nearly for the whole of Sefer Vayikra (and half of Sefer Shmot; building the Mishkan for this purpose)?

Will We Need to Bring Animal Sacrifices in the Future?

To begin to answer these questions, let us study the teachings of the Rebbe of Husiatin, Rav Yaakov Friedman, z”l, a special Zionististic Rebbe who made Aliya and lived in Tel Aviv. His writings are amazing with their infusion of religious Zionism, though he does not mention Rav Kook or Rav Soloveitchik even once. His sources are all from classical Chassidic sources, mainly from the Rebbes of the house of Rizin.

On Parshat Vayikra he writes:

In the future, we will not need sacrifices. The whole purpose of offerings in the Temple, are a medium for a person to improve and amend himself. This is what the Ramban elaborates about the intentions of the person who brings the offering: When he does Semicha: he needs to think of his deeds. When he says Viduy: he amends his words. When he burns the internal organs, he is amending his thoughts and his lusts. When he throws the blood on the altar, he should think that that what was supposed to be done to himself.”

High priestSo will we need these actions also in the future? The Midrash says that in the future, all the sacrifices will be cancelled with the exception of the Korban Todah (Thanksgiving). Why is this? Because the future redemption will appear in the form of: “And the Lord, your God, will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, [so that you may] love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, for the sake of your life” (Devarim 30:6).

That is to say: in the future, the Nation of Israel will be on a spiritual level of worshiping G-d by means of prayer and love, without the need to offer sacrifices. That is why the Talmud states that praying and learning Torah are on a higher level than bringing sacrifices to the altar (B’rachot 32, Rosh Hashana 18).

So what are we looking for in the future? We are looking at a kind of prayer that we will actually feel is if we have taken our soul and laid it out bare in front of G-d, as if we sacrificed ourselves and received our soul back, cleaned, refreshed and prepared for all the challenges that life presents to us.

The beautiful idea formulated by the Rebbe of Husiatin notwithstanding, I personally feel uncomfortable with the conclusion. Apparently I am more conservative than I thought. Are we really not going to bring sacrifices to the future Beit Hamikdash? Are we morally superior to the Avot, who brought sacrifices? What will the High Priest do for the whole day of Yom Kippur and why do we read it every year, if it will never return? Isn’t Sefer Vayikra eternally relevant just like the rest of the holy Torah?

I’m not sure that I have a good answer for these questions. Rav Amital, z”l, taught us not to be afraid of questions, and not to offer inauthentic answers. Our belief in the Torah and Hashem does not, nor should not, change in any way due to our miscomprehension. Rav Amital had several, more difficult, questions to ask Hashem, due the events that occurred in the course of his life, above and beyond the questions have I posed above.

Rav Rafi Otroff
Rav Rafi Otroff, a member of Beit Hillel, is Chairman of the Religious Council of Gush Etzion and co-founder of the Yahel Center for Education and Guidance of Jewish Sexuality. He lives in Alon Shvut with his wife, Lali, and six children.

 

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