Friday, August 12, 2011

The Reason for Sacrifices

As is fairly well known, the Rambam and the Ramban argue about the meaning behind korabnos. The Ramabam maintains that since the Jews lived among non-Jews who worshiped animals it was necessary to sacrifice animals on the altar to eradicate their influence.
The Ramban argues that if the Rambam was correct, why did Adam and his sons bring sacrifices? Surely not to remove some insidious influence, since at that time no one worshiped animals!
The Ibn Ezra explains that sacrifices come to help the sinner visualize that his sacrifice is being slaughtered in his own stead. After bringing this Ibn Ezra, the Ramban concludes that the korbanos are brought for hidden esoteric reasons.
The Meshech Chochmah, zt”l, explains the Ramban and attempts to reconcile both opinions. “The Ramban means that sacrifices can be likened to generating electricity in the upper worlds. Through sacrifices, the kohein joins the heavenly spheres together—he ‘closes a circuit’—and achieves great things on high.
“As far as the questions on the Rambam, these can be reconciled by explaining that the Rambam in Moreh Nevuchim was only discussing the reason behind sacrificing on private altars. But the Rambam never meant to explain sacrifices brought in the Mishkan or the Beis Hamikdash.”
It seems clear from the Rambam himself in Hilchos Me’ilah that sacrifices accomplish much more than merely removing the influence of non-Jewish idolaters. “All sacrifices are included in the chukim. Our sages taught that the world rests on the merit of sacrifices. It is by doing the chukim and mishpatim that the righteous merit a portion of the next world.”

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