(c) 2000 Dr Hendel; 1st appeared in Torah Forum (c) Project Genesis

Date: Sun, 18 Jul 1999 19:28:34 -0400 (EDT)
From: Russell Hendel <  rhendel@mcs.drexel.edu>
Subject: Re: Why Animal Sacrifices?

El Davidson asks how Judaism can advocate animal sacrifice. This has
actually been discussed several times on Torah forum. Here is a brief answer.

First, the question "How can we SLAUGHTER ANIMALS" has two wrong
assumptions indicated by the CAPPED words: For sacrifices involve not only
animals but also e.g. sacrifices of flour-oil or the incense sacrifices.

Secondly the major part of the sacrifice is not the SLAUGHTERING. Let me
put it this way. Suppose all you knew about sacrifices is that they take an
animal and kill it. Then it would be barbaric. For it would appear that we
are symbolizing that to get close to God we must slaughter=negate ourselves.

But the slaughtering is not done by priests. Furthermore many sacrifices
are eaten (Shlamim, Psachim, the priests get the skins of the Olah). Even
the word sacrifice is a misnomer: The Hebrew word KORBAN means to come NEAR
so the best translation would be NEARING (Coming near to God).

Here is a very brief review of the main NEARING components. After slaughter
the BLOOD OF THE ANIMAL (symbolizing the PERSONALITY of the offerer) is
RECEIVED BY A TEMPLE VESSEL (symbolizing dedicating ones
WALKED to the altar (sybmolizing training oneself to WALK in Gods path).
Finally the blood is placed on the altar and the animal organs are OFFERED.
This symbolizes the dedication of each of our PERSONALITY COMPONENTS (=each
ANIMAL ORGAN) to God. So the HEAD is offered on the fire first
(corresponding to the 1st blessing in our prayers that we should have
INTELLIGENCE). Then the other organs are offered (the STOMACH is offered
last corresponding to the prayer for WORK (to get food)).

The above synopsis is from the writings of Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch. His
commentary on the first 6 chapters of Leviticus is about 200 pages the size
of a novel. I don't ask anyone to believe the above account but I do ask
that YOU NOT PAST JUDGEMENT till you know ALL the laws of NEARINGS (Again I
agree that if all you knew was that an animal was slaughtered I would
consider it barbaric. In passing, Rav Hirsch explains that the ANIMAL was
slaughtered on the North Side of the temple where the temple TABLE was,
symbolizing MATERIALISM--thus to approach God we must SLAUGHTER (=CURTAIL)

Finally in conclusion I mention a technique I noted in Volume 3 of Torah
Forum. Let students write down the main NEARING components (BLOOD, ORGANS,
ANIMALS, RECEIVING, WALKING, OFFERING). Then let them research the Bible to
find their SYMBOLISM. Finally let the students suggest their own symbolic
interpretation to the sacrifices. This will make them more meaningful.

I conclude with the opening statements in my article on Korbanoth
(Tradition 1973-4) "About 20% of the Bible and over 16% of the Talmud deals
with sacrifices. ... Just by looking at the statistics we must conclude
that we are dealing with something very important"

Russell Jay Hendel; Phd ASA; RJHendel @ Juno Com
Moderator Rashi Is Simple; http://www.shamash.org/rashi/