Chapter thirteen-part two
The Korbanot Passages
4.The Korbanot Passages
We open the section of the Korbanot with the passage of the Akeidah, describing the sacrifice of Yitzchak. The readiness of Avraham Avinu to bring his only son as an offering is the ultimate sacrifice, and this is the foundation for all the commandments involving korbanot. Further, its recital awakens our hearts to the love of Hashem and to serve Him in total devotion. Moreover, in its recital we mention the merit of our forefathers - after the Akeidah passage, we request that Hashem, in the merit of the sacrifice of Yitzchak, have mercy on us and redeem us.
After that, it is customary to recite words of inspiration in preparation for prayer and for the service of Hashem, including the first section of "Shema Yisrael." According to the Yerushalmi, we end with the berachah, "Blessed are You Hashem, Who sanctifies Your Name among the multitudes," and that is true for Nusach Ashkenaz. However, since this berachah is not mentioned in the Talmud Bavli, those praying in Nusach Sephard recite the blessing, "Blessed is the Sanctifier of His Name among the multitudes," without saying Hashem’s Name. 3
Next, we arrive at the Korbanot passages themselves. According to the Ashkenazic minhag, we first recite the paragraph of the Kiyor (laver) and the passage regarding the Terumat HaDeshen (the removal of ashes), for the Kohanim would start the work in the Temple with them every morning. Furthermore, just as the Kohanim would become purified in preparation for their work by washing their hands and feet in the Kiyor, our recital of the passage of the Kiyor in the Shacharit service purifies us in preparation for prayer.
Afterwards, according to all minhagim, the Tamid passage is recited, and we request that its recital be considered as if we are bringing a Tamid offering. Subsequently, we recite the verses of the Ketoret and we say rabbinic explanations regarding its mixture.
We then add verses of praise and recite the paragraph, "Abayei listed the order of the altar service," which is a small summary of the work in the Temple. We then recite the poem, "Ana B’Cho’ach," which also alludes to the sacrificing of korbanot, and we conclude with a prayer requesting that our words be considered as if we actually offered the Korban Tamid.
The Korbanot passages must be recited after amud hashachar, for that is the time to bring the offerings (Shulchan Aruch 1:6; 47:13). There are those who say that it is good to recite them while standing, following the example of the Kohanim who would stand while the sacrificial offerings were being brought (based on the Magen Avraham and see Mishnah Berurah 48:1). Nevertheless, according to most poskim, one need not stand, and that is the Sephardic minhag (Kaf HaChaim 1:33).
After that, we say the chapter, "Eizehu mekoman shel zevachim" ("What is the location of the offerings?") (Mishnah, Zevachim chapter 5). There are two reasons for its recital. First, it explains the place of the sacrifice and the sprinkling of the blood of the korbanot, and its recital corresponds to the offering of those korbanot. Second, the Chachamim wanted every Jew to learn Scripture, Mishnah, and Talmud every day (see Kiddushin 30a). When one recites the Tamid passage, he fulfills the obligation to learn Scripture. When he recites this chapter, he fulfills the obligation of learning Mishnah. Subsequently, he recites a beraita attributed to Rabbi Yishmael concerning the thirteen methods through which the Torah is elucidated, thereby fulfilling the obligation to learn Talmud.
Although the Shulchan Aruch writes (Orach Chaim 1:5) that it is best to recite all the Korbanot passages, namely, the passage of the Olah (burnt offering), Minchah (meal offering), Shelamim (peace offering), Chatat (sin offering), and Asham (guilt offering) (from the Torah portions of Vayikra and Tzav), in actuality, it was not customary to recite them, and they were not even printed in siddurim. There are those who say that by reciting the chapter, "Eizehu mekoman," within which all the korbanot are mentioned, one fulfills to a certain extent the learning of those matters (Shulchan Aruch HaRav 1:9; Eshel Avraham). It is proper that every year when we arrive at the Torah-reading portions of Vayikra and Tzav we learn them well, for one who learns them is considered as if he sacrificed the offerings (Menachot 110a).
5.The Reason for the Tamid Offering
As we learned (in halachah 1), one should be meticulous in saying the verses of the Tamid offering and the Ketoret daily; therefore, we will somewhat clarify their subject matter.
The Tamid offering is the most important of the korbanot since it is the most constant; every day of the year it was brought, once in the morning and once in the afternoon. For that reason, it is the korban that represents the continuous connection between the nation of Israel and our Father in Heaven.
All of Israel participated in the bringing of the Tamid offering, since it was bought with the money collected from the half-shekel that every Jew, rich and poor alike, donated each year to the Temple. It therefore symbolizes the unity of Israel.
Because Israel is the heart of the nations, Hashem’s unity is expressed through the bringing of the Tamid offering, for the entire world connects to the Source of Life via that single Tamid offering (see Maharal Netiv HaAvodah 1).
The course of life consists of birth, development, and eventually death. Every day, people die, some due to old age, others as a result of accidents or diseases. In the animal kingdom as well, myriads of living creatures die daily. The same holds true for plant life; every day millions of trees, bushes, and flowers wither and wilt. The big question is: what is the significance of this whole process? Is this an inconsequential cycle of life and death, lacking purpose and meaning? Or perhaps there is a general direction towards which all life aspires? An answer to this question lies in the Korban Tamid. The entire world strives towards elevation and perfection. Part of this elevation is accomplished through growth and development; another part is achieved through death. This cessation of physical life is not for naught. In actuality, it is a sacrificial offering, which expresses the endeavor towards perfection. Because it is impossible in this world to achieve perfection, after completing all the possible actions and feasible elevations, one’s spirit continues to yearn for ascent but his body ages, his vessel becomes worn out, and his spirit detaches from his body and rises, returning to its origin. That is why the Kohanim would bring the Tamid offering in the most sacred place in the world, once in the morning and once in the afternoon. This korban was representative of all physical life that had ceased to exist in this world on that day. The bringing of the Korban Tamid gave that life meaning, the significance being its return to its origin and its spiritual ascent as a pleasing fragrance to God (see Maharal Netiv HaAvodah 1).
6.The Reason for the Ketoret
Just as the Tamid offering was brought daily, the Ketoret (incense) was also brought every day, half in the morning and half in the afternoon. The Korban Tamid expresses Israel’s connection to Hashem, and the bond that all worldly creations have to their source of life. Therefore its organs were offered on the exterior altar, visible to all. However, the Ketoret gives expression to the deep inner connection between Israel and Hashem, and therefore it was offered on the interior altar inside the Temple. The Tamid offering connects all creations in their material and tangible components to Hashem. For that reason, the essence of the offering was the blood thrown on the altar and the organs offered upon it. The Korban HaKetoret, on the other hand, is the quintessential spiritual offering, epitomized by the incomparably pleasing scent that emanates from the spices of the incense.
Through the Ketoret, a sublime spiritual light appears in the world which illuminates the inner souls of all creations and connects everything to holiness. Therefore, it was made out of spices that exude a pleasant scent, for smell is the most refined and spiritual pleasure there is in the world. The scent extends in all directions, to hint that all creations are influenced by an inner spiritual illumination that elevates them and binds them to holiness (Olat Ra’ayah p. 135).
There were eleven spices in the Ketoret, all grounded thoroughly together so that they would be united completely, producing a favorable scent. Similarly, by unifying all powers completely for the sake of holiness, the world is uplifted and repaired.
One of the primary spices in the incense is the chelbenah (galbanum), which alludes to the sinners of Israel, who, in their roots, are equally connected to the sanctity of Israel. The chelbenah had a particularly foul aroma. However, blended with the special mixture of the Ketoret, its odor would transform to good; instead of ruining the fragrance of the Ketoret, the addition of the chelbenah would make the smell of the Ketoret even more praiseworthy. This comes to teach us that when all the forces of Israel unite for the sake of a sanctified goal, the inner merit of the sinners of Israel is revealed, and they too join to aid in the rectification of the Jewish nation and the world (see Olat Ra’ayah, part 1, pp. 136-138).
^ 3.The Tosafot in Pesachim 104b and Berachot 46a mention this berachah and explain that it does not begin with the word "Baruch" because it is a blessing of thanks. However, the Rambam writes it without Hashem’s Name. The Tur, Orach Chaim 46, calls it a berachah based on the Yerushalmi (although it does not appear in the wording of the Yerushalmi before us). Nusach Sephard, based on the Rambam and the Ari in Sha’ar HaKavanot, does not conclude it with Hashem’s Name. The wording of the entire prayer from the words "L’Olam Yeheh Adam" is brought in Tanna D’vei Eliyahu Rabbah chapter 21. According to Nusach Ashkenaz, it is clear that since it is a berachah, it is proper to be stringent about its recital every day.