The concept of sacrificial offerings may conjure up images of ancient, primitive cultures. Yet, when we read the Torah, the timeless guide for life, we are struck with the predominant emphasis it places on the role of sacrifices. Perhaps more than anything else, it is this prominence that brings the modern Jew to think that the Torah is antiquated.
Not only does the Torah abound with the philosophy and laws of the Mishkan (the pre-temple Tabernacle) and Beit HaMikdash (the Temple in Jerusalem) and the sacrificial offerings that functioned for over 1300 years until 70AD. Beyond this, Jewish prayers are replete with aspirations for the Messianic era when the Temple will be rebuilt, accompanied by the reinstitution of the sacrifices. Judaism’s focus on this form of worship challenges the modern sensibility that sees sacrifices as a relic of the past, a superstitious practice far below the dignity of modern man.
How are we to make sense of this pervasive passion for the Beit HaMikdash? Why does the longing for the Temple and sacrifices lie latent in the heart of Judaism?
In this class we will explore the meaning of the Temple and the sacrificial service prescribed by the Torah. As we delve into this religious rite that has been without practical significance for two thousand years, we will discover just how deeply pertinent the Temple and the Jewish concept of sacrifice are to our own modern lives. As such, we will be seeking to answer the following questions:
- Why is it that we have such a hard time relating to the sacrifices in the Torah?
- Why is the concept of the Temple and its sacrificial service so central to Judaism?
- What is the significance of offering sacrifices?
- Aren’t sacrifices just a relic of the pagan practices of the ancient world?
- Is there any contemporary relevance to the sacrificial service?