My husband and I ate lunch with a dear friend the other day. Our friend is an avid hunter so we conversed some about hunting. He has two sons and a daughter. He told them that he didn’t expect them to want to hunt just because he did, but if they ever wanted to learn, he would be happen to teach them. Long story short, his daughter did indeed desire to learn to hunt, so they found themselves in a deer blind, deer in her rifle scope, and her finger on the trigger. The moment she pulled the trigger, even before the bullet hit the dear, she started sobbing. Not from regret, but from the seriousness of the moment. She had pulled the trigger with the intent of taking a life. Granted it was an animal’s life, but a life nonetheless. Our friend ended the story by saying, “It was a very important life lesson. Although the act of hunting is serious and can even be disturbing, it is not wrong.”
Bells started going off in my head when he said those words. “He just described the act of offering a sacrifice at the Holy Temple!” I thought to myself. Killing an animal, even at the Temple, is serious and is most likely disturbing to the participants, but it is not wrong. Never was wrong. And it will not be wrong when resumed in the near future. In fact, what is wrong is that the entire world has gone haywire without the animal sacrifices of the Divine service and the world is desperate for their resumption.
I don’t pretend to scratch the surface of knowledge regarding the Temple sacrifices. But what little knowledge I do have has led me to believe that the world is in desperate need of them. Most people believe otherwise.
Archaic. Barbaric. Cruel. Unnecessary. Done away with. Replaced. These are just a few reasons people believe that the Temple sacrifices are not needed, especially in the 21st century. But let me counter those reasons with a few questions: Did you read or hear the news today? How many people were murdered in a 24-hour period? How many people were abused? How many terrorists’ attacked civilians? How many acts of political injustices occurred? How many lonely, numb people relied on drugs to make it through another day of misery? And yet someone would argue that the Temple sacrifices are unnecessary? Anyone who argues against the need of Temple sacrifices has a gross misunderstanding of the sacrifices and has forgotten, or perhaps never knew, that the main intent of the sacrifices, the “korban,” were to draw near to G-d. And to remind man, “You are not an animal. So stop acting like one.”
But before I further try to justify or show the need for the sacrifices, let me remind us all of the biggest reason the Temple sacrifices are needed: because G-d said so. And borrowing from the Book of Job, “G-d is unique, and who can contradict Him?” Job 23:13. Job called G-d, “The One of Perfect Knowledge.” Yet because we don’t fully understand why He desires sacrifices, or why He enlisted such a system, we dare to call the system wrong or outdated?
Perhaps we need to pause, and be reminded of some of the questions G-d asked Job:
Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell, if you know understanding! Who set its dimensions or stretched a surveyor’s line over it? Did you ever in your life command the morning, or teach the dawn its place? Were the gates of death revealed to you? Did you tie up the bond of Pleiades, or unbind the cords of Orion? Do you know the laws of heaven, did you place its rule upon the land? Did you dispatch lightening bolts? Do you know who imbued the heart with understanding? Did you give the horse its strength? . . . and so on and so on. Job 38 & 39 are a little reminder that there is only One Source of wisdom, and it’s not me or you. In other words, if we’ve never pulled a bolt of lightening out of our pocket, we really shouldn’t tell G-d or anyone else that animal sacrifices are wrong. To do so would be quite audacious.
The One of Perfect Knowledge designed and implemented animal sacrifices as part of the Divine Temple Service. The sacrifices were pleasing to Him on one condition - that man’s heart was fully part of the service. Because that is what the One of Perfect Knowledge has always and still wants – our hearts. And knowing us better than we know ourselves, the One of Perfect Knowledge knew that one way man’s heart could draw nearer to Him was via an animal sacrifice. And remember, unless you can pull out a bolt of lightening, you really shouldn’t argue against that. You may not understand it. Fine. Few do. But lack of understanding the Divine service shouldn’t lead to being against animal sacrifices.
Man learns visually. What is more visual than watching an animal be killed? Not much. It must have been a very serious moment. It must have been disturbing. But as I said above, it was not wrong. What it was though, to borrow a phrase from my rabbi, was a psycho-drama. A vivid reminder of man’s role in the universal scheme of things, and how everything gets off kilter, to say the least, if he doesn’t fulfill his role.
I have never heard anyone describe with such clarity the psycho-drama of the Divine Service and its role of realigning man with his purpose, as Rabbi Chaim Richman. The following is his description of the Divine Service from a broadcast of Temple Talk. Open your hearts in the deepest way as you read his words:
“The Divine Service is a psycho-drama. The offerings involved every level of man identifying with various aspects of his own personality and life force and rectifying them. The service had a profound effect on the mentality of the people involved. You can try to smooth talk over it. You can try to be genteel and delicate about it. But the fact of the matter is, that these are animals being offered on the altar of the Holy Temple.
There is blood, there is slaughtering because Hashem said to do it this way, and therefore, for man to go through a deeper understanding of his own life force and where he has gone astray. And to ultimately make sure his Divine image is elevated. And this experience draws a person closer to Hashem. The korban literally means to “draw close.”
But the fact is today, we are no so close to Hashem. But the korban does it. And what it’s really all about, without apologizing, is a psycho-drama; it is extremely traumatic, it is extremely jarring and unnerving. And that’s okay, because it is real.
We are spoiled rotten in our generation. We don’t know what it means to realign ourselves, to figuratively receive a “kick in the head” as it were. To see with a certain kind of bold clarity that our lives are quickly running out like sands through an hourglass. And with the Divine Service we are given an opportunity when Hashem says, ‘I’m going to shake you up and make you realize that life is precious. Stop being an animal! And start living the life of a man.’ That’s what happens in the Divine Service.
Do you have a problem with the One G-d of Heaven and earth running the show? If you’ve got a problem with that, maybe you should step back and take a long, hard look at the universe and where you fit into it. Because it’s about you fitting into the universe, not Hashem fitting into your little universe that you carry around like an app.”
Wow. Strong, bold words. The Divine Service is part of the One of Perfect Knowledge’s design for our world. And look where we are without it. Did you read the details of what the Muslim terrorists did to the women and children in the Nairobia mall? Man is not living like an animal. Man has gone to an even lower level.
The world is desperate for the Divine Service of the Temple because the world is desperate for a real reminder of how to live like a man in G-d’s Divine image and how to draw near to the One True G-d.
I once read that one of the many miracles of the Divine Service is that all the animals being led to slaughter would go with perfect compliance. There was no balking, no hesitation; the animal did not try to get away. Because the animal knew, it knew what we as humans have forgotten. It knew that it had no higher calling, that there was no greater role for an animal than to be part of the Divine Service. To be part of reminding man, “This whole grand thing called life . . . it only works if you act like a man and don’t act like me.” Or worse, act lower.
Sacrificing animals at the Temple was not a cruel act. Not sacrificing them, however, that is what is cruel. Most people long for the day when swords will be beaten into plowshares. Yet most people don’t connect the dots to what precedes the advent of world peace. The prophets Isaiah and Haggai state simply and clearly where peace will be begin. The Temple. And Ezekiel explains very clearly and extensively what will be happening at that Temple. Animal sacrifices. Isn’t it time we admit that our plans are not working and instead accept the One of Perfect Knowledge’s plan? It’s time to rebuild the Temple and let the animal sacrifices begin.