Animal Sacrifices

Joseph M. Vann ((a)HFNY%Herrick"
Wed, 09 Jul 1997 12:05:14 -0400 (EDT)

Lori Palatnik wrote:
>I have a few students who are disturbed about Temple sacrifices
>(animals, not grain). One claims it was to give expression to primitive
>practices that we picked up in Egypt (G-d getting it out of our system,
>so-to-speak). He gives evidence regarding the Golden Calf-- how quick
>the Jewish people were to build an animal idol. He also makes a point
>(which I see as valid) that if we were to have sacrifices today to atone
>for our mistakes, we would show up, give our animal, and it would mean
>nothing more than dropping a few coins in a box. If everyone was doing
>it, it would become routine. Others are overwhelmed and turned-off by
>the blood and gore of it all. Does anyone have ideas to offer to them?

I strongly recommend the introduction of the RAMBAN (Nachmonides) to the
first verse of Vayikra. There, the RAMBAN sets forth plausible
explanations for sacrifices. But, as the RAMBAN is careful to point out,
the first lesson is that all commandments are divine and we must accept
them before attempting to discern reasons or underlying rationale. This is
a lesson that unfortunately gets lost sometimes in elementary education.
Once that premise is accepted, it becomes a labor of love to rationalize,
justify and explain the practice that we have accepted as Hashem's(G-d)

In such a context, an explanation offered by the RAMBAN for sacrifices
makes much sense. G-D put us on this world to serve him. If we transgress
the least of HIS Commandments, arguably we should immediately lose our
privilege of life. A Sin-Offering is a measure of G-D's endless capacity
of mercy, to accept a sacrifice with concomitant repentance in lieu of loss
of one's life. It may be gory and unpleasant but it sure beats the
alternative. And, perhaps the "gore" is purposeful to snap the offerer's
attention back to the reality of Torah, sin-free living. Perhaps, much the
same as the Shofar pierces the Soul with sound to reawaken, the sight of a
sacrifice substituting for you on the Altar, will propel you towards better