Yet we have the capability of sincere tefillah in place of korbanot today — so why do we need actual korbanot?
And why, despite their current absence in our lives, are korbanot still such an important aspect of Torah today?
The Hidden Imprint of Korbanot
This elevation causes Hashem to tell you:
“My beautiful child, I’m so happy with you, I love you.”
Avraham Avinu set the stage for all future korbanos.
He loved his son Yitzchak more than his own life. But when he thought Hashem wanted him to offer up Yitzchak Avinu as a korban, Avraham Avinu was willing to sacrifice his precious son — and in a sense, sacrifice his own self and his future — out of his great love for Hashem.
Fortunately, Hashem stopped the Akeidah of Yitzchak just in time. Yet Avraham still wanted to make a sacrifice and offer up something to Hashem.
So he took another ram — ayil acher — in place of Yitzchak. Yitzchak was the original “ram” for the korban, so the Torah makes sure to say that Avraham Avinu took another ram instead.
This engraved within the Jewish people a passionate devotion for Hashem, which overrode all else — including their own lives.
This is why you have a history of Jews of all backgrounds and levels willingly sacrifice themselves to the sword rather than accept upon themselves the emptiness of Christianity.
It’s with THAT devotion that Jews brought korbanot to the Beis HaMikdash.
The Meaning of Life
The word adam, a man, isn’t used in this way with any other mitzvah.
So why here?
Rav Miller explains:
“The word adam signifies the source from where Mankind first came, adamah, the earth. And it intimates, it hints, to the place where all of Mankind will one day return.”
How vital is hakaras hatov for being a good, frum Yid? Rav Miller states:
“If you’ve never once turned to Hashem and said ‘Thank You Hashem for bringing me into this world and keeping me alive,’ then you haven’t even taken the first step in serving Hashem. Don’t be ashamed. You should say it.”
“Of course, when you come to the Next World, you’ll see that even that tiny little step, talking to Hashem, thanking Him for life, is really a tremendous step, but it’s still only the beginning. Because gratitude to Hashem for being alive is what you’re alive for.”
How Did the Korbanos Work?
So instead, Jews offered up a korban to Hashem out of gratitude.
That’s why the owner needed to lean his hands on the animal prior to shechitah; this leaning woke the owner to the fact that this korban was a literal representation of him! And everything the Kohen did to the animal in front of the owner further ingrained within the owner how this korban should actually be him.
So the whole process essentially says, “Out of my tremendous love and gratitude for You, Hashem, I wish I could offer You my very self. So here’s a korban instead.”
Yes, tefillah has always been very, very important. You can change yourself through tefillah. You can change fate. You can change world events. You can even save lives — all through tefillah.
But as powerful as tefillah is, offering a korban with the right kavanah is even more powerful.
How to Achieve Greatness without Korbanot
Rav Miller recommends focusing on the following:
There are so many things — so many processes, so many organs, so many bones and limbs that are functioning just as they should right now in your body.
You’re not strewn out on the floor waiting for an ambulance to come…
Did you ever stop to think about how many millions of things have to function perfectly for you to be a basically healthy person? Your chromosomes, your DNA molecules, your enzymes… You don’t have cerebral palsy, right? You don’t have multiple sclerosis, or muscular dystrophy. You don’t need dialysis on kidney machines. You don’t have a tumor on the brain?
There are tens of thousands of disorders and you have been exonerated, you have been exempt from all of them.”
Parshas Vayikra — Animal Sacrifice: The Pillar of the World
(All quotes used with permission from Toras Avigdor)