Of Qorbanos and Flowers

I’m curious to know how many of us who believe we’re supposed to want a restoration of the sacrifices actually anticipate it. I must confess that I’m too 21st cent for that, and generally during Mussaf or Qorbanos (or parts of the liturgy that discuss sacrifices) my thought is asking G-d to help me learn how to want them, to realize what I’m missing on an emotional level.

On an intellectual level, I think of it in terms of a parallel to buying my wife flowers. She doesn’t need the flowers. Most of the time, she never even looks at the flowers, and doesn’t even notice them at the Shabbos table except when they get in the way of seeing someone. (Of course, other wives could well appreciate their beauty more, but I think the next point still stands.)

Giving my wife flowers isn’t about the flowers, but about the giving. Human beings in a relationship have a need to give. And we feel more appreciated and loved when we see someone make the effort to give. While we all like our toys, and it’s not only the thought that counts (in real, non-idealized people), the thought is much of the gift.

We also like to share meals with those we love. There is something very primal about “breaking bread together”.

Look how the Torah describes sacrifices. They aren’t first commanded. Qayin and Hevel naturally come up with them. Noach is overcome by gratitude (and perhaps a hefty load of survivor guilt, which would explain his desire to lose himself in wine) and makes an offering, etc… The laws of qorbanos don’t come with a claim that they are the invention the notion of offering something to G-d. Rather, they channel and embellish a natural inclination.

If we were feeling an equally deep emotional attachment to G-d, we would also feel this need to give. Not only meaningful gifts, but also gestures as gestures. It is only when the gesture is used instead of the meaningful gift, when we offered sacrifices in an attempt to keep G-d happy while we took advantage of the poor, the widow and the orphan, that G-d put an end to them. A bunch of roses won’t wallpaper over having an affair. Instead it would increase a wife’s anger at her husband’s transparent attempt to manipulate her. Is this not the metaphor of Hoshea who is told to marry a prostitute (either in reality or within the prophetic vision)  “‘כִּי-זָנֹה תִזְנֶה הָאָרֶץ, מֵאַחֲרֵי ה — because the land is prostituting itself from after G-d.” (Hoshea 1:2)  As Hashem tells Yeshaiah, “לֹא תוֹסִיפוּ, הָבִיא מִנְחַת-שָׁוְא–קְטֹרֶת תּוֹעֵבָה הִיא, לִי; חֹדֶשׁ וְשַׁבָּת קְרֹא מִקְרָא, לֹא-אוּכַל אָוֶן וַעֲצָרָה. — Do not conitnue to bring me empty bread-offerings, incense of disgust it is do Me, the new month, Shabbos and the calling of the holidays — I can no longer stand it alongside the sin and iniquity!” (Yeshaiah 1:13)

For the Torah to tell us to curtail that need to make gestures of affection, to give gifts just for the sake of giving and to share a meal (as much as possible) would be to force an artificiality and lack of authenticity on the notion of loving G-d. Instead, Vayiqra layers more meaning atop the basic primal notion.

As I said at the top, standing here after two millenia of exile, I no longer feel driven by a need to give to Him. There is something incomplete in my ahavas Hashem, love of G-d. I thank him though that He brought me to the point that I at least feel sad over that incompletion.

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  1. Jon Baker says:

    I was going to respond here, but it got too long, so see here.

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