April 9, 2024
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Don’t Just Act, Connect

The mitzvah of korbanot, sacrifices, has many specific instructions. Throughout Tanach, especially in this week’s parsha, Vayikra, the mitzvah of korbanot appears. A korban is an animal sacrifice that is given to Hashem. The root of the word korban is ק-ר-ב which means close. Through the process of korbanot one is supposed to get closer to Hashem. Through giving a korban we are saying: Hashem, this was supposed to be me but since you love me and want me unharmed I am giving you this animal. That being said, nowadays we don’t have korbanot because we do not have the Beit Hamikdash and it is our tefillah that is supposed to bring us closer to God. However, there are places throughout Tanach that say it may be better not to bring a korban. How could Tanach say this when Vayikra describes for us the korbanot we should give? Isn’t a person’s connection and relationship to Hashem important?

In Hoshea perek 6, pasuk 6, Hoshea says “כי חסד חפצתי ולא זבח” which means that Hashem is desiring good/kindness and not a korban. Hoshea is telling Bnei Yisrael that Hashem does not care if they don’t give korbanot and that he just wants them to be kind. Why doesn’t Hashem care about it?

To understand this, we have to ask why do we have korbanot? It is not like Hashem actually eats so why are we giving God something He isn’t going to use? Rambam, in Moreh Nevuchim, explains that the korbanot are really for us. He quotes a midrash that says that the Jews asked Hashem to give korbanot and Hashem said that he didn’t need it. Bnei Yisrael asked Hashem, how can we not serve You like the other nations? Only after this dialogue does the Rambam say that Hashem allowed it, but with restrictions,like the one in Vayikra (17:3-5) that a korban can only be given in the Beit Hamikdash because then it is clear that it is only for Hashem.

With that we can understand that while korbanot are good, we should focus on other ways of coming close to Hashem, like speaking to Him and kindness, before just doing rituals by rote. The book of Tehillim, written mostly by David Hamelech, is a book of prayer to Hashem. David Hamelech may have given korbanot but he also prayed and emphasized that it is the prayer Hashem wants. In Tehillim 40:7, it says זבח ומנחה לא חפצת, אזנים כרית לי;עולה וחטאה לא שאלת, Hashem did not ask him to give all these types of korbanot… This is also portrayed in Tehillim 51:18, כי לא תחפץ זבח ואתנה, עולה לא תרצה, where David says to Hashem, You don’t want an offering. Hashem just wants to be close to us, and whether David Hamelech was happy or sad he spoke to Hashem. These two instances show that Hashem desires prayer over korbanot.

Sometimes Hashem doesn’t want a korban even when there is a substitute. In Yirmiyahu perek 7, it says that unless Bnei Yisrael fix their ways, Hashem will destroy the Beit Hamikdash. According to the Radak, however, Bnei Yisrael don’t believe Hashem will destroy His home, especially when people actively give korbanot. Why is Hashem trying to destroy the place when Bnei Yisrael gives korbanot? Malbim emphasizes that keeping the Beit Hamikdash depends on the actions of Bnei Yisrael. He compares the Beit Hamikdash to a den of robbers, as a place where Bnei Yisrael hides. They go in to pray and give korbanot and make themselves look like tzadikim, righteous people, but that is not really true. Bnei Yisrael feel they can bring an offering and be forgiven—but still go back and commit the same sin again. They’ll just bring another korban to redeem themselves.

Bnei Yisrael did not understand that giving a korban required intent and kavana. They did not understand that unless you had the right intention of getting closer to Hashem, all your sins wouldn’t magically disappear. When we pray, do a mitzvah or any act to connect to Hashem, we must really stop, think and connect. Hashem wants us to do it properly because if we aren’t paying attention to Him while davening, why are we even taking the time to stop and just read?

By Shira Sedek

 

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