In this week’s Sedra we learn about the ‘’korbonos.’’
There is so much that can be said regarding the ‘’korbonos’’.
The English word used for ‘’korbonos’’ is sacrifice. This is not really what the‘’korbonos’’ are all about. You are not really sacrificing anything. Rather the word ‘’korbonos’’ comes from the word ‘’Korev’’ which means draw close. The idea of offering a ‘’Korbon’’ is to draw close to G-d.
The Sedra starts off by saying;-
‘’When a man brings from himself an offering’’. Our Rabbis learn from this strange phrase ‘’from himself’’ that when one brings an offering one must imagine he is offering himself to Hashem. It just so happens that we use an animal instead. That is why one must lean ones full body weight on the animal and confesses ones sins prior to slaughtering.
Whenever the ‘’korbonos’’ are mentioned in the Torah the name ‘’Hashem’’ is used and never the name ‘’Elo-kim’’ The name ‘’Hashem’’ always means G-d of mercy and the name ‘’Elo-kim’’ means G-D of justice and harsh judgement. Our Rabbis infer from this that the ‘’korbonos’’ are nothing to do with appeasing a harsh blood thirsty vengeful G-D, rather a merciful way of atoning for our sins and coming closer to him.
The first offering discussed is the ‘’Olah’’ which is loosely translated as a ‘’burnt offering’’, because it is totally consumed on the altar, but actually the word means to ‘’elevate’’ by totally dedicating an animal to Hashem we’re elevating ourselves in the process.
It is interesting that the ‘’Olah,, only comes from male animals, a ‘’Chattos ‘’(sin offering) only female animals and ‘’Shlomim’’ (peace offering) male or female animals.
There are many ideas behind this.
The Kli Yakar explains that since an ’Olah’’ symbolises dedication we want it to be perfect. That is symbolised by the stronger more powerful male animal, without trying to be too sexist.
A ‘’Chattos ‘’ is offered when one commits a sin. We want to show our power and might have been weakened by the act of sinning. . This is symbolised by offering a weaker female animal.
A ‘’Shlomim’’ which is a thanksgiving offering or an outpouring of gratitude to Hashem.. Anyone, no matter how rich, poor, strong or weak can be equal in the eyes of Hashem. This is symbolised by offering either a male or female animal.
When the kohen Gadol (high priest) sins he brings a bull and when all the Jews sin they also bring a bull but when a private person sins or indeed the King they bring a ram.
This is to symbolise that when the Kohen Gadol or all the Jews sin, it causes great embarrassment and uproar and needs a big bull to atone for it.
However, when individuals or the king sin they don’t make such a huge negative impression with their sin and therefore only need a smaller ram to atone.
There is also a lot of symbolism in the various limbs of the sacrifices that were offered on the altar
An ‘olah’ is totally burnt on the altar and not eaten even by the priests by way of saying we want to totally elevate ourselves to G-d and not let any of our human faults, as symbolised by eating, hold us back or draw us to sin.
Of the animals that can be eaten, the kidneys, fats around the stomach, a portion of the liver, the diaphragm, and the juicy body fats were to be burnt on the altar.
The kidneys symbolise the thought making process. The juicy fats around the stomach, the good fats of the body and a small section of the liver represent the heightened passions of a person that caused him to sin. These need to be burnt and offered to Hashem by way of saying these are the organs that brought us to commit sins and we are making up for it by offering them up to Hashem.
Blood represents the very essence of a human being. Without blood circulating around the body, one cannot live. Therefore, we sprinkle the blood on the holy altar by way of saying we wish we could totally dedicate our whole life essence to Hashem.
Also if a person has committed murder and the family are running after him to kill him, he may hold on to the altar and spare himself from death. It is like a so called ‘den’ when playing hide and seek when nobody can tag you. Therefore by spraying the blood, our life force, on the altar we are saying we want to be attached to the altar. We are attaching our whole lives to the altar; therefore, our lives cannot be taken in recompense for our sins.
For common sins it is sufficient to sprinkle the blood on the outer altar.
However when the high priests sins or all the majority of the Jewish nation or indeed on Yom Kippur we must seek a higher form of dedication to Hashem and sprinkle the blood inside the temple on the inner altar and actual curtain to the holy of holies.
This is just a small look at the rationale behind the Korbonot. Rabbio Samson Rafael Hirch in his book ‘Horeb’ has a in- depth look at the subject Korbonot.