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Rabbi Jonathan Ginsburg explains the concept of sacrifice in Judaism from ancient times till today.
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Shalom, I am Rabbi Jonathan Ginsburg of Ezra-Habonim Niles Township Jewish Congregation. Skokie, Illinois. This video will be about Sacrifices (Korbanote).
We are now reading in the Torah in Leviticus the ancient way in which the Jewish people worshiped. And there is a lot of discussion about this. The Torah has a lot of rules and details about the way in which we offered animals up as a gift to God. And the basic orientation is this, the Torah does not say you must bring sacrifice, I command you to do that. The Torah says when a person brings a sacrifice and that gave rise to the explanation by our great medieval ages foremost among – that God did not really want animal sacrifices. It was a concession to humans. Human beings at the beginning before the Bible sacrifice their children. There was something called Mallach worship. They believe the God Mallach wanted you to kill your children. Now, it was crazy and abhor as we think that is.
Just this week in the newspaper we saw a story in a rock about a family that was driving with their children got through a checkpoint because they had kids in the car then abandoned the car with the kids still inside and then blew up the car to try and kill people. These people thought are horribly as it is, impossible to imagine that God wanted them to offer up their children. The same way, that suicide bombers are encouraged by their parents as heroes in killing innocent people. But the Torah want to put a stop to that, And hence, the Torah reading on the second day of Russia shown in Genesis 22, where it really would not be surprising the ancient at this for God to command Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac. What is really surprising is at the end of that story, the Angel says, “No, Abraham do not do it.” And hence, it was born the substitute sacrifice that of animals. And so until the year ’70, when the second temple was destroyed, one of the primary means that Jewish people had of atoning for sin and of trying to come to grips with their own transgressions and to offer thanksgiving and communal sacrifice and communal wellbeing was through sacrificing animals and grain and slowly the people evolved out of that. Now, in the prophetic period you have both kinds of attitude expressed by Isaiah and others, as to Isaiah wanting sacrifice is to be offered but all of the prophets saying they should not be offered of people are going to offer them and continue to act unethically.
Now at the same time, hundreds of years before sacrifice ended, we already have the beginnings of fair say Judaism that of Jews praying and studying and worshipping God in traditional ways. The most dramatic movement occurred in the year ’70 when the temple was burned on the Ninth of Ab, two months and one day before Yom Kippur. Now our ancestors felt of the faith did not offer the Yom Kippur sacrifice they were in huge trouble. And they expressed these ages of Rabbi Yokan Bansaka expressed their deep concern that they would never be able to rebuild the temple in time and get permission to go back to offer that Yom Kippur sacrifice. So Yokan Bansaka, the great sage transformed Judaism by saying to his disciples, “Do we have a means to this justice of efficacious as good as sacrifice?” And that is the kind of Judaism we practice today. The Judaism of studying our texts and of praying and of doing good deeds.
Now, there are other religions that still believe that the primary means of affecting atonement is through the sacrifice of a third party. In fact, as you know Christianity believes that their God died for the sins of all humanity. But Judaism evolved in a different way 2000 years ago saying no longer do we believe in cathartic atonement like that. Every individual must atone for ourselves and must pray and worship and study and to achieve God’s relationship in that way. And that is the primary way we look at sacrifice.
There are some Jews today and still believed the temple should be rebuilt or will be rebuilt and sacrifices will be resumed, but we do not pray for the resumption of the sacrifices any more. We believe that there was a purity of Jewish History and today we are in a new era for the last 2000 years of repentance, prayer and doing good deeds. That is our take on the sacrifices. The most important part to remember those, that sacrifice itself is not a Jewish word, that is an English word. The Hebrew is korban from the root karab which means to draw up close, the whole goal is to draw up close to God. Now, we do that today is not by sacrificing animals, but by praying and studying.
And finally, for those who think that it is so primitive I have interesting story for an old rabbi of mine, when we were making fun of sacrifices of, he has had a lesson, he said, “How many of you are vegetarians?” Well none of us were. He said, “Okay, so you barbecue for the greater glory of you whereas our ancestors barbecued for the greater glory of God which is superior,” something to think about. Shalom.