In honor of Israel’s 75th birthday, Israel365 is excited to launch a new series of essays that will unlock the secrets of the Hebrew Bible!
Excerpted from Rabbi Akiva Gersh’s forthcoming book, 75 Hebrew Words You Need to Understand the Bible (available soon!) these essays illuminate the connection between related Hebrew words, revealing Biblical secrets only accessible through Hebrew. Enjoy the series – and happy 75th birthday to the State of Israel!
“Speak to the people of Israel and say to them: When any of you presents a sacrifice of cattle to God, you shall choose your offering from the herd or from the flock.” (Leviticus 1:2)
דבר אל בני ישראל ואמרת אלהם אדם כי יקריב מכם קרבן ליהוה מן הבהמה מן הבקר ומן הצאן תקריבו את קרבנכם.
“‘What need have I of all your sacrifices?’ says Hashem. ‘I am sated with burnt offerings of rams, and suet of fatlings, and blood of bulls; and I have no delight in lambs and he-goats.’” (Isaiah 1:11)
למה לי רב זבחיכם יאמר יהוה שבעתי עלות אילים וחלב מריאים ודם פרים וכבשים ועתודים לא חפצתי.
Korban, or “sacrifice” in Hebrew, usually refers to the animal sacrifices described at length in the Book of Leviticus and which were a central aspect of the Temple service.
In modern times, many people struggle to understand why God commanded us to bring animal sacrifices, but considering the linguistic root of the word korban can help. The word korban derives from the Hebrew word karov, meaning “close.” The purpose of the korbanot is to help us grow closer to God.
In the ancient Tabernacle , and later in the Temple that stood in Jerusalem, the Israelites brought many different kinds of sacrifices, including sin offerings, thanksgiving offerings, and communal offerings and more. Some were burned completely on the altar, some were partially eaten by the priests and others were also eaten by the people who brought them. Regardless of the type of sacrifice, tThe main goal of all the sacrifices was to help people feel closer to God.
Sacrifices were a tool to inspire us to experience various emotions, such as regret for wrongdoing or gratitude for the miracles and blessings in our lives. Ultimately, God desires our hearts and our obedience. Sacrificing something of value and bringing it as an offering to God is a powerful way to facilitate that experience.
The prophet Isaiah rebuked the Israelites for carrying out the sacrificial rituals in the Temple but not adhering to the Biblical values that create a just society. After crying out, “What need have I of all your sacrifices?” he adds, “Wash yourselves clean; put your evil doings away from My sight, cease to do evil” (Isaiah 1:16). Though sacrifices play an important role in our worship of God, they are ultimately a means to a more important end.