This week we begin to read the book of Leviticus in which it teaches regarding animal offering. In the time of the Temple animal offerings was a big part of the Jewish observances. There were many different offerings brought from the community on a daily basis and on Shabbat and festivals. There were also many different sacrifices brought by the individual either as an obligation or as a voluntary gift. As an example, as we are nearing Passover, before, Passover every person had to join together with a group and bring a special Passover sacrifice which would be eaten by the group on the eve of Passover.
Many people find the idea that animal offerings play such an important role in Judaism puzzling. Why should offering animal parts on the altar, atone for our sins or be an important part of celebrating the holidays?
The answer to this can be found in the introduction to the laws of animal offerings. In this week’s Torah portion the verse states “When a man among you brings an offering to G-d”. The Hebrew word used for “Offering” ; Yakriv, also means becoming close. Thus, the verse is saying, “If a man wishes to become close to G-d, he should bring the various animal offerings.”
The reason that the animal offering brought the person closer to G-d is because when the person brought the offering, he was usually reminded that he is offering a total being to G-d and he should offer his total being as an offering to G-d as well. This is also the reason why animal offerings brought one closer to G-d than other commandments. All other commandments are specific in nature, each one connecting a different part of the individual to G-d. Karbanos (animal offerings), however, are all encompassing. The person bringing the offering intends to give of himself entirely and draw himself totally to G-d.