Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The role of korbanos, al pi Shadal

We all pray for the reestablishment of the Beis Hamikdash. But as we read through Vayikra, do we really get the sense that this order of karbanot is the optimal approach to our relationship to Hashem? Prayer, where we can muster up the kavanah and emotion, seems like a much more direct connection to Hashem, and an excellent replacement for korbanot. As Hosheah says, קְחוּ עִמָּכֶם דְּבָרִים, וְשׁוּבוּ אֶל-ה; אִמְרוּ אֵלָיו, כָּל-תִּשָּׂא עָו‍ֹן וְקַח-טוֹב, וּנְשַׁלְּמָה פָרִים, שְׂפָתֵינוּ. Not to mention, does Hashem have a stomach that He hungers for the flesh of sacrifices? And the whole ritual with killing animals, sprinkling their blood, and burning their fats seems somewhat violent and primitive. On the other hand, we all eat meat, which involves killing and eating animals, so who am I to talk. Even so, the form of worship inherent in tefillah seems more optimal.

Perhaps the answer lies in the pasuk in Devarim: כִּי לֹא-דָבָר רֵק הוּא, מִכֶּם--כִּי-הוּא, חַיֵּיכֶם. If we see it as rek, it is mikem, something which is our own fault. This criticism is certainly more than justified. Our modern attitudes are in many cases not in accord with the values held by people in years past, and possibly the ones put forth in the Torah, and perhaps it is arrogance to think that we should be able to judge the Torah by our own values. Yet many commentators and rabbis, including Rambam, have grappled with this idea of korbanot. And this comes to the fore when we start parshat Vayikra.

Shadal grapples with the idea, and in the beginning of his commentary on Vayikra, he presents his take on the purpose of korbanot. What follows is the text and my own rough summary:
וכאן ראיתי לחוות דעתי בקצרה על עניני הקרבנות . הקרבנות לא היתה תחילתם בצווי אלא רשיון אנושי , כי התנדבו בני אדם לתת תודה לקל על חסדיו עמהם או להביא לפניו מנחה לשכך חמתו ולרצותו למען ימלא שאלותם , כי לא ייתכן לאדם להתנהג עם אלקיו כי אם על דרך שהוא מתנהג עם מלך בשר ודם , והנה בבואם להביא מנחה לאלהים לא מצאו תחבולה אלא שישרפוה באש , כי בשרפתה היו מוציאים אותה מרשותם ומרשות שאר בני אדם , ומרשות הבהמות והחיות והעופות , וגם בהיותה נשרפת ועשנה עולה למרום , היה נראה להם כאילו עלה אל האלהים . והדבר הנשרף לכבוד האל קראו לו קֹדֶשׁ , מן יְקוֹד אֵשׁ , ואחר כך הושאל לשון קדושה לענינים אחרים .

The korbanot were originally not commanded but from man's initiative, to thank Hashem for his kindness, or to bring a present to try to make Him forget his anger and to appease Him so that He would fulfill their requests. For it is only appropriate for a person to relate to his God {at least} as he relates to a flesh-and-blood king. And their strategem in offering the korban was to burn it, and thus take it from their own domain and the domain of all other humans, animals and birds. And also, as it is burnt and its smoke ascends skyward, it appears to them as if it ascended to God. And the thing burnt to the honor of God was called to him "kodesh" from "yekod esh" {burnt on fire}, and afterward this language of kedusha was borrowed to other matters. {J: an interesting and creative etymology, though I am not convinced of it.}

התורה האלהית , אשר אין מגמתה ללמד את העם חכמה ודאת אלא להדריכם במעגלי צדק , לא ביטלה מנהג הקרבנות , לא שלא היה זה בכוחה , אלא מפני שאין המנהג הזה רע מצד עצמו ולא מזיק לבני אדם ולתיקון מידותם , אבל הוא מועיל להם , שאם היתה התורה מודיעה את העם שאין חפץ לה ' בעולות וזבחים , מחר יאמרו : מה חפץ לה ' כי נצדק ומה בצע כי נתם דרכינו ? ולהיות אחד מיסודות התורה האמונה שהאל משגיח על מעשי בני אדם ואוהב עושי הטוב ושונא את הרעים , היה מן ההכרח שלא יצוייר האל בתכלית הרוממות כפי מדרגתו האמיתית , אלא כביכול תושפל מעלתו מעט ויצוייר במחשבת בני אדם כמלך גדול המבין אל כל מעשיהם ושומע צעקתם ומקבל מנחותם .
The Divine Torah, whose purpose is not to teach the nation wisdom and knowledge but rather to direct them in the path of righteousness, did not nullify the practice of the sacrifices, not that it was not in its power to do so, but rather that this custom was not bad from any aspect of itself, and was not harmful for people and for fixing their traits, but rather it helped them. For if the Torah informed the nation thast Hashem had no desire in burnt-offerings and peace-offerings, tomorrow they will say "what is the desire of Hashem that we act righteously, and what gain is there that we make our way straight? And since one of the foundations of the Torah is the faith that God supervises the actions of mankind and loves those who do good and hates the wicked, it is of necessity that God not be depicted in the absolute supremecy, according to His true level, but rather it is as if His greatness is lowered a bit and he is depicted in the conception of mankind like a great king who understands all their actions, hears their cries, and accepts their gifts.

וההכרח הזה לא היה בדור ההוא בלבד , אבל הוא בכל דור ודור בשוה . ואם במקום הקרבנות היה האל מצווה על התפילה והזמירות וקריאת התורה והשמעת דברי מוסר , ולא היה מצווה על הקרבנות , לא היתה גדולת האל ויראתו נרשמת בלב ההמון , כי היה נראה להם שאלתי העמים , שעובדיהם מקריבים לפניהם כמה זבחים , הם גדולים ונכבדים מאלהינו שאין עבודתו אלא בדברים בעלמא . כי כן היא מידת ההמון בכל דור ודור , ולא המון העם בלבד , אלא רוב בני אדם כך היא מידתם ; איזהו מכובד אצלם ? המכבד את עצמו ומגדיל מעלתו ; ואמנם מי שהוא מעביר על מידותיו ואינו מבקש גדולה לעצמו , איננו חשוב בעיניהם . ואלהי האמת אף על פי שאינו צריך לכבוד בשר ודם , הנה לתועלתינו ולטובתנו הוצרך להביא יראתו בלבנו לבלתי נחטא .
And this necessity was not only in that generation, but rather in every generation equally. And if in place of the korbanot God had commanded upon prayer, songs, reading of the Torah and saying words of ethics, and did not command korbanot, the greatness of God and the fear of Him would not be registered in the heart of the general populace, for it would appear that the requests of the other nations, whose worship involved sacrificing before them many peace-offerings, were greater and more honorable that our God whose service is only with words. For such are the traits of the general populace in every generation. And not only the general populace {the common folk}, but this is indeed the trait of most people. What is considered more honored to them? One who honors himself and makes his stature great. Yet he who is transcends his traits and does not seek glory for himself is not important in their eyes. And the God of Truth, even though He does not need honor of flesh-and-blood, behold for our sakes and our good, He needs to bring in His fear into our hearts so that we do not sin.

ואחר שבימים ההם לא היה אפשר שתבוא יראתו בלב העם בזולת קרבנות , ציוה עליהם . והנה פרי הקרבנות שהיה הציבור מקריב במקדש היה זה , שהיה מתרשם בלב ההמון כי אלוה ומלך גדול שוכן בקרבם ושהם חביבים עליו , וציוה להם עבודות הרצויות לפניו .ושהם , בעשותם העבודות ההן במצוותו , הם מתרצים אליו יום יום וממשיכים עליהם תמיד אהבתו . וציותה התורה שלא יהיה כל אחד בונה במה לעצמו , אך כל העדה יקריבו את קרבנותיהם במקום מיוחד אשר יבחר בו ה '; ולא יהיה זה חלילה כדי למעט מעשה הקרבנות (כדעת הרמב " ם במורה חלק ג ' פ ' ל " ב ), אך היה לטובת האומה והצלחתה ולתיקון המידות ולשמירת הדת , כי בהיות לכל העם מקדש אחד יתקבצו כולם למקום אחד ויתקשרו לבותם בקשר האחווה ויהיו תמיד לאגודה אחת , ולא יהיה כל שבט וכל משפחה לעם בפני עצמו .ואם היה כל אחד בונה במה לעצמו , היה מספיק לכל אחד שיהיה האל מרוצה לו ומקבל זבחיו , ולא היה לבו דואג כלל לשאר בני אומתו ,תחת שרצון התורה הוא שיהיה הגמול כללי לאומה , וכל ישראל ערבים זה לזה .

And once in those days it was not possible to bring His fear into the heart of the nation without korbanot, he commanded upon them. And behold, the product of the sacrifices which the community offered in the Mikdash was this, that it registered in the heart of the general populace that God and a Great King dwelled in their midst, and that they were beloved to Him, and that He commanded them services which were desired before Him. And that they, when they performed these services at His command, were desired to Him day by day, and drew towards themselves, always, His love. And the Torah commanded that no individual should build a private altar for himself, but rather that the entire congregation should bring their korbanot in a designated place which Hashem had chosen for Himself. And this was not, forfend, in order to reduce the act of korbanot (as is the opinion of the Rambam in Moreh Nevuchim, cheleck 3, perek 32), but rather to the benefit of the nation and its success, and to improve the traits and the keeping of the religion. For when the entire nation has a single Temple, they will all gather to one place and their hearts with be tied with a bond of brotherhood, such that they will always be a single group, and it will not be that each tribe and every family will be a nation of its own. And if every one built a private altar for himself, it would be sufficient to each person that God desired him and accepted his korbanot, and his heart would not be aggreived at all for the other members of his nation; in place of the desire of the Torah that the recompense {?} is general to the nation, and all Israel are guarantors for one another.

גם היה אפשר שתתקלקל העבודה אצל משפחה או שבט וימירו את חוקותיה , ומעט מעט ילכו בחוקות הגויים ויקבעו להם מנהגים נתעבים לפניו ית ' וגם את בניהם ואת בנותיהם יזבחו ; ובהיות העבודה רק במקום אחד - הקילקול יותר רחוק , כי תצטרך לזה הסכמת האומה כולה ( ועיין מה שכתבתי במדבר ט"ו ט"ו ). והנה קרבנות הציבור הם כדי שיהיה לישראל משכן ומקדש לעבודת האל , כדי שיתרשם בלבם כי ה ' בקרבם והוא מלכם ומנהיגם המשגיח על מעשיהם והגומל אותם כדרכם וכעלילותם , ולא יתרשם זה בלב ההמון בלי ענין מוחש שירמוז אליו . ולפיכך הוצרך שיהיה המקדש כתבנית היכל מלך והוצרך שיהיה בו שולחן ומנורה ועל השולחן מערכת לחם והכלים השייכים לשולחן , קערותיו וכפותיו .
And it was also possible that the service would be corrupted by a family of tribe, and that they would exchange its laws, and little by little they would go in the laws of the gentiles and establish for themselves customs which were detested before Him, and also their sons and their daughters they would sacrifice. And since the service was only in a single place, the possibility of getting corrupted is more farfetched, for this would require the agreement of the entire nation. (And see what I have written on Bemidbar 15:15.) And behold, the korbanot of the community are in order that there be to Israel a Mishkan and Mikdash for worship of God, so that it be registered in their hearts that Hashem is in their midst, and that he is their King and director, who looks after their actions and who repays them in kind according to their ways and action. And this would not be registered in the hearts of the general populace without some tangible thing which hints to it. And therefore, it was necessary that the Mikdash was in the pattern of the palace of a king, and it was necessary that there be in it a Table and a candelabrum, and that there be upon the table an arrangement of bread and the vessels pertaining to a table, its plates and spoons.

ואחר שהיה המנהג להקריב לאלהים מנחה מן הדברים הנאכלים , היה מן הראוי שנביא לפני מלכנו מיני אכילה ושתייה , והנה הזבחים כנגד האכילה והנסכים כנגד השתייה . והוצרך שיהיו למלך משרתים העובדים בביתו ועומדים לפניו , והם הכהנים ; ואחד מהם רואה פני המלך היושב ראשונה במלכות , והוא הכהן הגדול . והוצרך שיהיו המקדש וכליו והכהנים ובגדיהם מפוארים בהוד והדר לכבוד , למען תתרשם בלב העם גדולת המלך השוכן בבית ותהיה יראתו על פניהם לבלתי יחטאו . ואם בתחילה כשהיה כל אחד בונה במה לעצמו היתה העבודה מסורה לכל אדם או לבכורות , עכשיו שאין מקריבים רק במקום אחד , הוצרך שתהיה העבודה ביד משפחה אחת המשרתת בשם האומה כולה . והמשפחה הזאת המקודשת לעבודת האל ראוי שתהיה פנויה משאר מלאכות ועבודות ; ולהיות עבודתה בבית ה ' בשם האומה כולה- ראוי שתהיה פרנסתה מזומנת לה מאת העם .
And once it is the custom to offer to God a Mincha {present} from the things which are consumed, it is fitting that we bring before our King types of food and drink. And behold the sacrifices correspond to the food and the libations correspond to the drink. And it is necessary that the king have ministers who serve in his house and stand before him, and these are the kohanim. And one of them sees the face of the king first in kingship, and he is the kohen gadol. And it is necessary that the Mikdash and its vessels, and the kohanim and their clothing, are magnificent in splendor and glory, in order to register in the heart of the nation the greatness of the King who dwells in the house, and such that fear of Him will be on their faces, such that they not sin. And if initially, when any individual builds an alter for himself, the service is given over to each person or to the firstborns, now that we only sacrifice in a single place, it is necessary that the service be in the hands of a single family which ministers in the name of the entire nation. And this family which was consecrated to the service of God, it is fitting that they be unencumbered by other labors and services, and also so that the service in the house of Hashem be in the name of the entire nation, it is fitting that its support be designated to it from the nation.

ואמנם לא היה ראוי שיהיה כל כהן וכל לוי מקבל פרנסה קבועה
, והיה כצדיק כרשע ; אבל הניחה התורה ברשות כל איש ואיש מישראל לתת מתנותיו לכל כהן ולכל לוי שירצה , ומתוך כך ישתדלו הכהנים והלויים להיות מרוצים לקהל בכשרון דרכיהם וביושר מעלליהם . ואמנם קרבנות היחיד כולם לתועלת היחיד בכל העתים אשר יעברו עליו . אם תבואהו טובה ,יתן תודה לה ' ויקריב קרבנו , ובזה יתרשם בלבו כי מאת ה ' היתה לו הטובה ויבטח בו ויתקן מעשיו כדי להמשיך עליו תמיד אהבתו וחמלתו ; ואם יהיה בצרה , יתפלל לאל וידור נדר , שאם יחלצהו יקריב לפניו קרבן , וכאשר רווח והצלה יעמוד לו ישלם נדרו ויתרשם בלבו כי ה ' הצילו . ואם חטא בשגגה , יביא קרבן ויתרשם בלבו כי אלהיו סלח לו והוא רצוי לפניו כבתחילה .
And yet, it is not fitting that every kohen and every Levi accept a fixed support, for both the tzaddik and the rasha, but rather the Torah leaves it in the domain of each and every man of Israel to give his presents to any kohen and any Levi he wants, and from this, the kohanim and Leviim will strive to be desirous to the congregation by the validity of their ways and the straightforwardness of their actions. And yet the korbanot of the individual are all for the sake of the individual in all the times that pass upon him. If good comes upon him, he gives thanks to Hashem and offers his korban, and via this it is registered in his heart that this good came to him from Hashem, and he will trust in Him and fix his actions in order to have His Love and Favor continuously extend to him. And if he is is dire straights, he prays to God and vows a vow, that if he lets him escape he will offer before Him a korban, and then when he is saved he fulfills his vow, and it is registered in his heart that Hashem saved him. And if he sinned accidentally, he brings a korban and it is registered in his heart that his God forgave him, and he is desired before Him as he was initially.

ואם לא היתה כפרה לשוגג ,היה החוטא אומר בל
בו ; מי יצילני מיד האל הקשה הזה ? כי הנה עתה בבלי דעת חטאתי וחרה אפו בי וישליכני מלפניו ואין לי תקוה להשיב חמתו ; אם כן , למה אשתמר עוד מחטוא מהיום והלאה ? - ואמנם החוטא בזדון לא היה מביא קרבן , כדי שלא יתרשם בלבו כמחשבת הגויים הקדמונים שהאל לוקח שוחד מן החוטאים וסולח להם על פשעיהם . ועוד תועלת אחרת היתה בקרבנות היחיד , והוא כי מלבד החלק המגיע מהם לכהנים , הנה גם מה שנשאר לבעלים היו הבעלים מוכרחים לאכלו בחברה עם זולתם , כי לא היו רשאים להשאיר ממנו עד המחרת או עד היום השלישי ואף לא למלוח בשר הזבח ולהביאו לביתם חוץ לירושלם ולאכלו עם בני ביתם ; והנה המשלם נדרו לה ' על חסד אשר עשה לו היה מוכרח לשמח עמו גם אחרים , ועל ידי זה היה מתקשר בקשר האהבה עם אנשים אשר לא ידע מתמול שלשום או לפחות היה מהנה מסעודתו העניים והאביונים, ועיין למטה י"ט ט
And if there were no atonement for the accidental violation, the sinner would say in his heart: "Who will save me from this strict God? For behold now, without knowledge I sinned, and His anger is burning against me, and He will cast me from before Him, and I have no hope to turn away his wrath. If so, who should I guard myself further from sinning, from this day and on." And yet the one who sins deliberately does not bring a korban, in order that it not be registered in his heart like the thoughts of the early gentiles that God takes bribes from the sinners and forgives the nation for their sins. And a further purpose their is in the individual sacrifices, and that is that besides for the portion that comes from them to the kohanim, behold there is also that which is left over to the owners {of the sacrifices, that is the bringers}, such that the owners are compelled to eat it in a gathering with their peers, for they are not permitted to leave over from it until the next day or until the third day, and they may not even salt the meat of the sacrifice and bring it to their houses outside of Jerusalem and eat it with the members of their household. And behold, one who fulfills a vow to Hashem upon the kindness that He did for him, others as well are compelled to rejoice with him, and via this he is joined in the bonds of love with men whom he did not know beforehand; or at the very least the paupers will benefit from his feast. And see below, {Vayikra} 19:9.
So ends my rough summary of Shadal. This reminds me of the discussion on LookJed about whether to teach that Hashem desires our good deeds, and whether it is a positive thing, or a heretical thing to teach. It is possible that the hamon am can only relate to God in this manner.

I also wonder if all of this is Shadal reading his own values into the pesukim. He accuses kabbalists of reading their values into the words of Chazal; and he levels the same accusations at philosophers. I wonder if one can accuse him of the same regarding pesukim. When confronted with a contradiction between your own values/beliefs and apparent Torah values/beliefs, it is awfully tempting to read your own values into it and thus eliminate any conflict. On the other hand, such rereading might be true. And if your values are truth and good, how indeed can the value of the Torah be any different. Another approach is to recognize that their is a conflict. If so, one can admit to being an oisvorf; or else reject the specific values as being culturally limited, or else entirely wrong. I am just laying out the options here.

7 comments:

Michael said...

Nice Post,

I don't think he is reading his own values here because he seems to be closer to the pshat (or at least trying) than the Rambam.

shlomo said...

Vayikra was given after chet haegel. It is trying to define and circumscribe the desire to bring sacrifices, not encourage it.

joshwaxman said...

indeed, that would work well with a Rambam-based theory. Shadal would say chas veshalom. Perhaps because if it is really problematic, just outlaw sacrifices. (While chet haEgel was indeed a sin of idolatry, why should that cause a condemnation of all sacrifices?)

kt,
josh

Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

A lot can be said about this, but for now suffice it to say that Shadal does at times read his own values into Tanakh, despite his best efforts not to. This is unavoidable, as he was a human being, however his desire was to avoid this as much as possible (as he writes in his introduction to Yeshaya; he knows that it isn't completely possible to get outside oneself and into the mind of the biblical writer, but one must try). Furthermore, some might say that his entire motivation toward writing a peshat commentary was itself a projection of his own views onto the Bible (or, really, onto Judaism). His contention was that Tanakh, on it's peshat level, conveys what Judaism is all about. For example, it teaches about God, about prayer, about mitzvos, about righteousness and compassion, and so forth. He felt that it was unecessary to resort to Torah she-be'al peh to see what Judaism is. Torah she-be-khesav already shows this, provided one read it plainly and simply. This contention, while interesting and in many ways justifiable, is also something that could be considered highly debatable, and one might say that the idea originated in his own mind rather than in the Bible.

Furthermore, however great his commitment to peshat was, obviously he was limited in the tools at his disposal. He flourished before the discovery of cognate Semitic languages besides for Aramaic, Syriac and Arabic. Doubtlessly he would have liked to have known of Ugaritic and the other tongues. He would have liked to have known the actual forms of the ancient alphabet used during First Temple times in Israel, rather than the modern Samaritan alphabet alone (he did not and could not have known they were similar, but not identical, and sometimes it makes a difference). He would have liked to have seen the fruit of the Cairo Geniza, Biblical and Israelian pointing, the Dead Sea Scrolls and whatever will turn up in the future.

As for the specific issue of korbanos, this relates generally to common beliefs and practices of the ancient Near East. Shadal's chiddush (I think it is his) is that the Torah (meaning, God) responded to those things which were common in one of two ways. Either there was nothing positive in them, only evil, and therefore the Torah stamps that belief or practice out. Or else it is essentially neutral, so God allowed it to be retained in the Torah, only channeled into a way that teaches God's values, so to speak. Thus, korbanos were already commonly practiced; they were in fact initiated by humans. The reason they initiated it -- according to him -- was to express thanks (some might suggest it was fear that motivated them, hm?). Since God evidently did not find this to be a negative practice, but rather a way for people to show their thanks, it was not outlawed, unlike practices like idolatry, and instead it was even promoted. This principle of his (which, I stress, he thinks is PESHAT) extends to other things, like the creation story. The version in the Torah teaches values God wanted to convey, like common descent of man (evidently Shadal believed in the literal Adam and Eve story, complete with talkinf serpent), but that doesn't mean it's true. It simply meant it was much like what the ancients believed, was not a negative thing, but taught positive things that God wants people to believe.

Getting back to his own method of study, although he was only human, was handicapped by living in a time when people trusted in their power of deduction perhaps a bit too much, he was extremely diligent and pedantic, and he was ridiculously broad in the reference materials he used. In addition, he well exemplified the "accept the truth" maxim, being as he agreed with findings of many a scholar whom he had a major personal bone to pick, especially Ibn Ezra and Spinoza, and disagreed with many scholars whom he adored (he certainly doesn't accept Rashi's interpretation all the time). So he tried, although he was human and imperfect.

Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

Mississippi Fred,

I enjoyed your comment.

You wrote:

Getting back to his own method of study, although he was only human, was handicapped by living in a time when people trusted in their power of deduction perhaps a bit too much,

I am not sure that era is over yet.

Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

There is greater self-awareness about it. I'm not suggesting that old-style positivism isn't thriving (as it should be) but even many a positivist, like myself, is aware of theirown limitations. In any case, even if in general that era is not ever, it's certainly less acute than it was mid-19th century. Most scholars don't now have pretensions of being able to harness what amounts to thinking really, really hard about things to arrive at the clear Truth, without further need for study, exploration and evidence. (This is not to say that scholars then, someone like Shadal, were negligent in this. As far as the conscientious ones were aware, they were being very diligent and waited for much corroborating evidence before publicizing their conclusions).

Dov Kramer said...

"The version in the Torah teaches values God wanted to convey, like common descent of man, but that doesn't mean it's true."

If this were the value G-d wanted to teach, why didn't He just create the world that way to begin with? Why create it one way, and have to misrepresent how He created it in His primary communication with His creations?

As far as making religion conform with our intellect goes, the intellect is the main tool G-d gave us to connect to Him, so we must use it to try understanding what He is about and what He expects from us. as long as we recognize our limitations (and that we have them), and use the traditional commentaries as our guide, we are supposed to use our brains to try figuring things out.

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