Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Our Speech Builds Heaven and Earth

Ask the Rebbetzin – Parashat Tazria-Metzora

Dear Rebbetzin,
We hear so much about the seriousness of the sin of lashon hara (evil speech). Is it true that through speaking lashon hara one may transgress 31 commandments: 14 positive and 17 negative?  I find it really hard to never speak badly about others, but afterwards I feel guilty about transgressing so many Torah prohibitions. Can you please share some Torah nuggets with me that will strengthen me in guarding my tongue? 
Devorah Harrington (name changed)

Dear Devorah,
Yom Atzmaut (Independence Day) Hike
It is very good that you seek chizuk (strengthening yourself) in guarding your tongue. This mitzvah is indeed central in the Torah. As you write, there are 31 Torah commandments regarding evil speech, and with just a few words, a person could easily transgress several of both ‘do’s’ and ‘don’t’s.’ The reason why speech is so important in the Torah is because it is the ability to speak that defines human beings. Through our speech, we distinguish ourselves from the animals. In the creation of Adam, it states, “The human being became a living spirit” (Bereishit 2:7). Targum Unkelos translates this phrase to Aramaic: “V’havet b’Adam l’Ruach Mamlela” which means, “and Adam became a speaking spirit.” King David extols, “Who is the man that desires life and loves his days to see good, guard your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit” (Tehillim 34:13). Rabbi Yisroel Meir Kagan, who revived the concern for guarding our tongue in modern times, received the nickname Chafetz Chaim (the title of his book on the topic) which means “Desirer of Life.” He explains that since speech is the tool of our craft with which we perfect ourselves, we need to pay special attention not to mess up our precious tools with which we express ourselves in Torah and Tefilah (prayer).

The Tool of Our Craft
Whereas Bilam’s tool was supposed to be his sword (Bamidbar 31:8), the distinctive tool of the Jewish people is our power of speech. Rashi explains that Bilam came against Israel exchanging his craft (the sword) for their craft (the mouth) – for Israel conquers only through prayer and petition… However, the craft of the gentiles is the sword, as it is states, “By your sword you shall live” (Bereishit 27:40), (Rashi, Bamidbar 22:23). The power of speech was given to the Jewish people, to encounter the awe-inspiring King of Kings through Torah and Tefilah to bless, thank, praise and glorify Him. Just as an artisan is unable to produce vessels worthy of the king without his special craftsman’s tools, or with broken and destroyed tools, likewise, we are unable to produce beautiful words of Torah and Tefilah with a mouth and tongue that has been defiled through evil speech. Only the artisan, whose tools are perfect and good, properly sharpened and shined, will be able to produce arts and crafts of the highest caliber. Through words of holiness, which we speak in this world before Hashem, we can create upper worlds as well as holy angels, who will afterwards become advocates for our souls. These higher worlds, created by means of Torah and Mitzvot, are dependent on the power of speech with which Hashem created the world. Hashem made us partners with Him in the continuous creation of the worlds through our power of speech. This is our great craftsman’s tool, through which we may can build heaven and earth, as it states, “I have put my words in your mouth, and I have covered you in the shadow of my hand, that I may plant the heavens, and lay the foundations of the earth and say to Zion, you are my people” (Yesha’yahu 51:16). (The Chafetz Chaim, The Gate of Commemoration, Chapter 10, the greatness of Guarding the Tongue through which one sanctifies speech).

Rather than Judging Others, Find the Same Shortcoming in Yourself and Repent
In order to avoid evil speech we need to accustom ourselves to stop judging others unfavorably. Often when we notice misgivings in others, it is because we ourselves have a share in this same shortcoming. If it happened that we saw or heard about someone else’s sin, we need to realize that we may have a tinge of that sin ourselves. This should motivate us to rectify ourselves. Scripture states that the remedy for this is to “guard the tongue.” Although it is really hard to overcome the urge to speak lashon hara as it states in the Talmud, “We all fall prey to a tinge of lashon hara” (Baba Batra 165a). Still, we need work on ourselves, and rather than disparage the other person, realize that Hashem made us see and notice this sin in order to remove ourselves from the evil and rectify ourselves to become good. Through this repentance, also the sinner will repent, because through unifying with him, we can include him in our repentance, since we are all one person. Then we will cause him to be included in “and do good” that he will transform the evil to good and achieve the character trait of “seek peace and pursue it” (Tehillim 34:15); (Toldot Ya’acov Yosef, in the name of the Ba’al Shem Tov, Parashat Lech Lecha). Even if we already began to speak lashon hara and we feel that everything is lost, just as when we begin to eat cookies, we may feel we that it is too late to stop. This is not so. For every single word that we could have added but avoided, a supernal light is created. This is even so if we already spoke 100 words of lashon hara, but overcame the urge to speak one more word.  The Vilna Gaon teaches, “Every single moment a person averts his mouth he merits the hidden light, which is so great that no angel or any creature can even imagine.” 

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

How Can I Keep Family Purity When the Closest Mikvah is 2000km Away?

Ask the Rebbetzin - Parashat Shemini

Dear Rebbetzin,
I really want to keep the mitzvah of family purity, but where I live there is no ritual bath. The closest mikvah is 2000 km away, which would take about 25 hours to drive by car. What would be a solution? Perhaps I could use the ocean or a lake, as a mikvah since I don’t have a regular mikvah available. How would that work? Do you just dip in and say a blessing?
Maya Waternov (name changed)

Dear Maya,
It is wonderful that you are so dedicated to keep the laws of family purity in spite of the fact that you live far from a Jewish community with a proper mikvah. Throughout Jewish history, women have gone into great trouble in order to keep the mitzvah of family purity, sometimes even at the risk of their very lives. Using the Mikvah is so essential as it our primary connection with the Garden of Eden. All the water in the world ultimately has its root in the river that emerged from Eden (Bechorot 55a, Malbim, Bereishit 2:10). This river is the spiritual source of all water. After Adam was driven out of Eden, he repented by sitting by this river in order to maintain a link with the Garden (Pirkey d’Rabbi Eliezer 20). The word מִקְוֵה/Mikvah has the same letters asקוֹמָה  /Komah – the Hebrew word from rising or standing tall. Through the Mikvah we can rise from our fallen state, and reestablish a link with our perfected state in Eden. This explains why the Mikvah must be linked to a natural water source. The most primal forms of mikvaot are the natural bodies of water such as oceans, rivers, wells, and spring-fed lakes. They have the power to purify. However, these waters may be inaccessible or dangerous, not to mention the problems of rough weather and lack of privacy. Therefore, wherever a proper mikvah is available that is certainly preferred. But what can you do if there isn’t a proper mikvah in your neighborhood?

Safety Concerns for Using the Ocean as a Mikvah
ספר ויקרא פרק יא (לו) אַךְ מַעְיָן וּבוֹר מִקְוֵה מַיִם יִהְיֶה טָהוֹר וְנֹגֵעַ בְּנִבְלָתָם יִטְמָא:
“Nevertheless a spring or a cistern, in which water is collected shall be pure, but whoever touches such a carcass within it shall be impure (Vayikra 11:36).

The construction of a mikvah is very complex, and there is an entire tractate of the Mishnah called Mikvaot devoted to this topic. As we learn in Parashat Shemini, a mikvah must be connected to a natural spring, or a natural well, or be connected to a cistern of rainwater (Mikvaot 7:1). Oceans qualify for they are considered springs, as do rivers that do not originate from rainwater. If you’re using a river or spring that’s made up mainly of rainwater, you need to find a part of the water that is not moving. The water also needs to be deep enough for you to immerse your whole body at once. Immersing in the mikvah for family purity must ideally be done at night. Deep oceans with strong currents can be dangerous. If you can’t swim, an ocean mikvah is not for you. Make sure that whatever body of water you’re using is safe, and if necessary find out about the schedule of the tides so you won’t be suddenly caught at high tide. You also need to ensure the area is well lit and safe at night, at the very least you need to bring strong flashlights. If the area is not safe at night but is safe during the day, some rabbinic authorities allow for immersion during the day. This would be a good thing to ask your rabbi.

How to Overcome the Challenges of Using the Ocean as a Mikvah
There are several challenges when using the ocean as a mikvah:
1. There is no mikvah attendant to watch and check that you are completely immersed in the water for each dunk.
2. There is no adjacent room to bathe and remove everything separating you from the water.
3. You have to make sure no man will see you going naked into the ocean.
4. There is sometimes wind that may tangle the hair.

I highly recommend to bring a girlfriend (preferably someone married) who will act as your mikvah ‘lady’ at the ocean. This woman should be Jewish and over the age of 12 (the age that constitutes adulthood for women according to Jewish law). Some rabbinic authorities allow your husband to fill this role, if no woman is available. Prior to immersing, your mikvah attendant needs to check you as well as can be done with a flashlight, to ensure that there is nothing separating between you and the water, like fallen hair etc. She also needs to ensure that you are immersing deeply enough in the water so that your entire body including the top of your head and hair are covered when you dunk. This is especially vital if you have long hair, some of which may float above the water. You will need to go to a beach that is not populated and it needs to be dark. It may be permissible to dunk in the water with a very lose-fitting dress, if you cannot be sure that there won’t be any men on the beach who may see you. This again is a question for your rabbi.

Guidelines for Preparing Yourself for Ritual Immersion
On your mikvah night, prepare as you usually do. Soak in a luscious bath (not a shower) for at least half an hour to soften up any kind of dirt, and dead skin. Make sure to remove all jewelry, hair bands, elastics, pins, false teeth, eyelashes, temporary dental fillings, nail polish, contact lenses, and dry scab on old wounds. Wash your entire body and hair well with soap and shampoo. Do not use conditioner, as it will leave a coating on your hair. Clean your ears with a cue-tip. Brush and comb your hair until the comb passes through your hair easily to ensure there are no knots. Comb your pubic hair, the hair in your armpits and even your eyebrows. Cut your fingernails and toenails. After you cut your fingernails, they should not be visible above the tips of your fingers when you turn your hands towards your face. If long fingernails are part of your everyday look, make sure they are equally long and smooth. Clean your fingernails well. Brush your teeth and use dental floss. The time of preparation varies from person to person.  Usually it takes about one hour, but for some people it can take almost two hours.

Ocean Immersion
Using the ocean as a mikvah is not as romantic as it sounds. I recommend finding out where there is a safe and quiet area with calm water. Depending on the privacy of the area you’re using, you may want to wear a long robe to get into the water. Then, when you’ve gotten to a point where the water is deep enough you can take off your robe under water and hand it to your helper. Before you dunk, shake off any sand or mud that may have clung to the bottom of your feet (you may want to walk out in flip-flops and take them off just before you dunk). Remember to choose a spot that is light enough that your helper can see that you’ve completely immersed.

Go out into the water wearing your robe right before sunset. Swim around and get comfortable for a little while. Then right after the sun sets, take off your dress and dunk, while your friend is right by you to watch.  When your head emerges from the water say the following blessing with full intention:

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה הָשֵׁם אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, אֲשֶׁר קִדְּשָׁנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו וְצִוָּנוּ עַל הַטְּבִילָה:
Baruch ata Ado-nai Elo-heinu melech haolam asher kideshanu b'mitzvotav v'tzivanu al hatevila
Blessed are You O Hashem our G-d, King of the universe, Who has made us holy with His commandments and commanded us to immerse.

Transformation through Water
Using a Mikvah is one of the main factors distinguishing a Jew from non-Jew. A Mikvah is actually more important than synagogue. A congregation that does not have its own Mikvah does not even have the halachic status of a community. The Mikvah represents womb. The world’s most primary state was water: “The spirit of G-d was hovering over the water” (Bereishit 1:2). Thus the water is the womb of creation. Emerging from a Mikvah is very much like a process of rebirth. “A convert who embraces Judaism is like a newborn child” (Yevamot 22a). The convert’s first step into Judaism involves immersing in a Mikvah. The consecration of Aaron and his sons to become Kohanim involved immersion in a Mikvah. Thus, the Mikvah facilitates a change of status – an elevation from one state to another. Water is the essence of impermanence, while ego is the essence of permanence. When dunking in the Mikvah, we place ourselves in the state of non-existence and non-life. Since breath is the essence of life, submerging in a Mikvah momentarily without being able to breath, makes us enter the realm of the non-living, to emerge like one reborn.  Mikvah can’t be a vessel or tub but must be built directly in the ground, for in a sense, the Mikvah also represents the grave. We immerse temporarily into a state of nonliving, so that we emerge resurrected with new status.  In Hebrew, the word קֶבֶר/Kever means both womb and grave.  Both are endpoints in the cycle of life. Our sages liken a person who immerses in the Mikvah to seeds planted in the ground. The seeds return to their source where they can once again begin the cycle of growth.

Hashem is Our Ultimate Mikvah
משנה מסכת יומא פרק ח משנה ט
מַר רַבִּי עֲקִיבָא, אַשְׁרֵיכֶם יִשְׂרָאֵל, לִפְנֵי מִי אַתֶּם מִטַּהֲרִין, וּמִי מְטַהֵר אֶתְכֶם, אֲבִיכֶם שֶׁבַּשָּׁמַיִם, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר, (יחזקאל לו) וְזָרַקְתִּי עֲלֵיכֶם מַיִם טְהוֹרִים וּטְהַרְתֶּם. וְאוֹמֵר, (ירמיה יז) מִקְוֵה יִשְׂרָאֵל ה’, מַה מִּקְוֶה מְטַהֵר אֶת הַטְּמֵאִים, אַף הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא מְטַהֵר אֶת יִשְׂרָאֵל:
Rabbi Akiva said, “Happy are you, Israel. Before whom do you purify yourselves? Who purifies you? Your Father in heaven!” It is thus written, “I will sprinkle pure water upon you, and you shall be pure” (Yechezkiel 36:25).

It also states, “G-d, Hashem is the Mikvah of Israel” (Yirmeyahu 14:8). Just as the Mikvah purifies the impure, so does G-d purify Israel (Mishna Yoma 8:9). What does it mean that G-d is Israel’s Mikvah? The word מקוה/Mikvah is related to the word תקוה/tikvah – hope. The Mikvah gives us the ability to transcend the bonds of time and become reborn as a new person. Hashem is our Mikvah and hope for the perfected future. When we hope that a future event will happen, we free ourselves from the limitations of time. G-d is our ultimate Mikvah, which extends beyond time. His unity gathers past and future into the present moment. The word Mikvah literally means gathering. When we dunk into the cleansing waters of the Mikvah, let’s keep up our hope in Hashem, Who purifies us. Then we can truly become transformed and let all our past wrongdoings dissolve into the expiating waters of the Mikvah by our resolve to emerge pure and reborn.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Why Does Preparing for Pesach have to be such Agonizing Slavery?

Ask the Rebbetzin - Chol HaMoed Pesach
Printable Version

Dear Rebbetzin,
Growing up in a yekkish (German Jewish) home I naturally became a ‘neat freak.’ Soon after Tu b’Shevat I start Pesach preparations as it takes me and my cleaning crew about two month to get my home together. For the past ten years, I have been following my plan to get each room ready by a certain date. The cabinets are reorganized, the walls, lamps and light switches scrubbed down until each room shines. The last week is reserved for the kitchen. That week requires the most intense cleaning eradicating any residue of chametz (leavened) by means of my weapons of dish soap, oven cleaner and bleach. This year the devoted chief of my cleaning crew deserted me, and I was at a complete loss, as she is totally irreplaceable. No one else did a satisfactory job and I was devastated. Why did Hashem do this to me? Why did I, who cared so much about cleaning my home to the dot, have to be left without my chief cleaner upon whom I relied so much all these years? Why did I have to go through this agonizing slavery almost alone in my kitchen for hours without end?
Nokia Weiss (name changed)

Dear Nokia,
I very much sympathize with you in your desire to make your home super kosher for Pesach. Although dust is not chametz and the woman of the home is not a Pesach sacrifice, I do believe that spring-cleaning is hidur (beautifying) the mitzvah of cleaning for Pesach, as long as we are able to do it with enthusiasm and happiness. It sounds like you experienced some major challenges and obstacles in your Pesach cleaning routine. I understand it is a great loss to lose your prior devoted chief of cleaners, and to feel overwhelmed with all the pressure of Pesach cleaning on your shoulders. I understand that you were very upset and questioning G-d why this happened to you. It is indeed a good question when realizing that everything G-d does is for our best, and all challenges are test that help us grow. So what lesson is it that Hashem wants to instill in you through this hardship?

Freedom from Being in Control
The holiday of Pesach is about gaining freedom. Freedom doesn’t necessarily mean to be free to do whatever you feel like. Such freedom is in fact slavery to the yetzer hara (negative impulse). True freedom is to let go of attachments. The matzah we eat on Pesach is simple; it needs nothing except flour and water. Freedom on Pesach is to become like the matzah – to free ourselves from relying on anyone or anything other than Hashem. True freedom is to accept that only Hashem is in control. It seems to me that the lesson Hashem wants to teach you is to let go on the attachment to be in control. You cannot control your chief of cleaners; you cannot make anyone do what you want them to do. You need to do what you can and rely on Hashem for the rest. You may have to accept that this year you weren’t able to do as much extra cleaning as in the past. As long as you got rid of the actual chametz that should suffice.

Receiving Divine Assistance When We Rely on Hashem Alone
I heard the following story in the name of the Rebbe of Biala about a Jew who was extra strict in his Pesach preparations. He was so concerned about not getting a single crumb of chametz in his water barrels that he made the gentile water carrier cut his hair and change his clothes before drawing water. When he visited Rebbe Mordechai of Chernobyl zt”l for the last day of Pesach, the Rebbe told him that there was chametz in his water barrel. He returned home and indeed found bread floating in his water barrel. When he asked the Rebbe why this happened to him, he explained: “Other people are not so fanatic in their preparations for Pesach as you are. They know they are imperfect, and turn to Hashem for help in protecting them from inadvertently possessing or eating chametz. Therefore, Hashem protects them. Without Hashem’s help, it is impossible to rid ourselves from every last crumb of chametz. You, on the other hand, relied on your own resources and excessive stringencies. You were so sure of your own abilities to protect yourself that you did not turn to Hashem for help. Hashem would have preferred you to be less exacting and more humble. Therefore, He allowed this to happen to you.” When we rely on nothing but our own endeavors, we deprive ourselves of the assistance that Hashem offers those who rely on Him (Mevaser Tov, Ma’amar HaHoda’ah).

Emerging from Self-imposed Slavery
On Pesach, we change our routine and go with the flow, overcoming our attachments to getting things done in our usual way. We use different sets of dishes and kitchenware, and we do not eat the same kinds of foods as during the rest of the year. On Pesach, we went out of slavery. Every Pesach we need to emerge from our own self-imposed slavery.  Hashem didn’t tell Moshe to merely demand “Let My people go,” but rather “Let My people go, that they may serve Me.” We need to free ourselves of the obsession with any extra work that is not serving Hashem, and therefore no longer serving us either. This gives us freedom to rest on the holiday of Pesach and enjoy what is, rather than craving what isn’t. May you truly emerge liberated this Pesach!

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Why Do We Need All These Animal Sacrifices?

Ask the Rebbetzin - Parashat Tzav
Printable Version

Dear Rebbetzin,
I’ve been a vegetarian for many years and I have a hard time with the notion of animal sacrifices which is so central in the Book of Vayikra. These rites seem to me barbaric and unethical to animals. Why would G-d command that we take the lives of innocent animals just to atone for our own sins? I just don’t understand why so many Torah verses center around describing the horrific animal sacrifices. Since I don’t find any meaning in these Torah sections, I end up just skipping them. I certainly hope that these archaic rites will not be reinstituted when our Temple in Jerusalem will be rebuilt.
Chaya Dinner (name changed)

Dear Chaya,
I totally understand the way you feel, and I’m positive you are not the only one who has a hard time relating to the animal sacrifices. When I was a new returnee to Judaism, I felt exactly like you, and I have to admit that I still do not find the sacrifices the most exciting part of the Torah. Nevertheless, I believe that all the mitzvot have intrinsic value, which transcends any meaning or explanation that we may give. A mitzvah is a mystical powerhouse, regardless of our understanding. There must be deep mystical reasons for the animal sacrifices. Otherwise, why would the Torah go to such lengths to describe them in so many details? The Hebrew word for sacrifice, קָרְבַּן/korban, derives from the root קָרַב/karav – “come close,” specifically to G-d. Thus, all the sacrifices, including the animal sacrifices, were vehicles to bring someone who had become far from Hashem close to Him once again. Still, why is it necessary to use animal sacrifices in order to engender such rectification? Why is repentance and prayer not enough?

Kabbalistic Reasons for the Sacrifices
I found some fascinating teachings of the Arizal on the sacrifices by Rabbi Avraham Greenbaum in his commentary on Vayikra. According to Arizal, it sometimes happens that a person’s soul falls to become incarnated in an animal. When the animal is brought as a sacrifice, it rectifies this soul to become elevated to its root and close to G-d again. Even when the sacrificial animal is not an incarnation, it nevertheless may contain holy sparks that fell at the time of creation and that are rectified through the sacrificial ritual. Arizal further explains that when the impure animal aspect of a person’s soul gains dominion over him, it causes him to sin. To rectify this, he must bring an animal as a sacrifice. The burning of the animal on the altar draws down an exalted fire that burns away the sins and cleanses the person’s animal soul at its very root. Since the impurity of the vegetable and inanimate levels are even greater than that of the animal level, and also cause people to sin, they must also be represented on the altar in the form of wine, flour and salt. In this way, the sacrifices elevate and purify all the fallen sparks and raise the physical vitality of this world to a higher plane.

An Elevation for the Animals
The sacrifices accomplish even more than prayer, which connects us to the spiritual level, because they connect the physical with the spiritual world. They affect not only the person who comes closer to Hashem through his sacrifice, but moreover, elevate all the animals in the world. I remember hearing the Rabbi in my first year of Yeshiva, explain that the sacrifices actually benefited the animals to such an extent that they would stretch their necks in their desire to be sacrificed. The human soul has several layers, including the Divine, the rational and the animal within. The sacrifices in the Temple elevated all of these levels, in addition to the animal that was being sacrificed. Thus, the sacrificial service consisted of elements from the inanimate world (salt), the vegetable world (flour, oil and wine), the animal world (the sacrificial animal or bird), the human world (the sinner, who had to confess his sin over the offering) and the world of the souls (represented by the officiating Kohen. These realms correspond in turn to the world of action (Asiyah) – inanimate, the world of formation (Yetzirah) – vegetative, the world of creation (Beriyah) – animate, and the world of emanation (Atzilut), corresponding to humanity. Finally, the highest world called Adam Kadmon corresponds to the repenting soul. Arizal further explains that the sacrifices rectified the original sin of Adam who caused good and evil to become mixed, thereby blemishing all the worlds and strengthening the forces of evil. Accordingly, G-d commanded man to bring together representatives of the inanimate, vegetative and animate realms. The service of the Kohanim, the music of the Levites, and the repentance of the owner of the sacrifice, cleanses and purifies all the worlds (Arizal, Ta’amey HaMitzvot, Vayikra).

Divergent Views on the Sacrifices by Rambam and Ramban
Rambam notes that the sacrifices served to nullify belief in idol worship. By sacrificing animals worshipped by pagans, we declare: “Don't worship these animals! Use them in the service of Hashem!” For example, the Egyptian's believed in a ram god; hence, the Passover sacrifice is a lamb, which is then eaten at the Passover Seder celebration. During Biblical times, it was the general practice among all nations to worship by means of sacrifice. G-d did not eliminate this practice since “to obey such a commandment would have been contrary to the nature of man, who generally cleaves to that to which he is used.” Therefore, G-d allowed Jews to make sacrifices, but He transferred that which had served as idol-worship to His service. This way He redirected the sacrificial order to wean people away from paganism and towards monotheism (Moreh Nevuchim 3:32, 46). Ramban objects to Rambam’s anthropological-psychological-sociological- historical explanation for the sacrifices. He holds that the animal sacrifices are fundamental and not merely a response to external influences on the Jewish people. Firstly, the Torah tells us that Kayin offered a sacrifice, obviously predating any pagan influence. Secondly, in many places the Torah refers to korbanot as being רֵיחַ נִיחֹחַ לַהָשֵׁם/reiach nichoach laHashem – a pleasant fragrance to G-d. If the sacrifices were merely a concession to man’s weakness, why would G-d be so pleased with them?

Will the Animal Sacrifices be Reinstituted in the Third Temple?
In line with Rambam’s approach, there would be no need to reinstitute the animal sacrifices at a time when it is no longer the way of people to worship by sacrificing, especially when there is an aversion against such worship. The Torah requires that sacrifices must be slaughteredלִרְצֹנְכֶם /lirtzonchem – ‘willingly’ (Vayikra 19:5). As the Talmud explains, one must be able to say, ‘I want to bring this offering’ (Babylonian Talmud, Erchin 21a). When the slaughter of animals is no longer acceptable to society, this condition will not be fulfilled. According to Rav Kook, only the mincha offering consisting of flour and oil will be reinstituted in the third Temple. At that time, all aspects of the universe will be elevated, including the animals. They will advance to a level of awareness of G-d similar to the level of people today (Arizal, Sha’ar Hamitzvot). Therefore, no sacrifice could be offered from such humanlike animals. It is about this messianic era that the Midrash makes the startling prediction, “All sacrifices will be annulled in the future” (Tanchuma Emor 19, Vayikra Rabbah 9:7). The prophet Malachi similarly foretold of a lofty world in which the Temple service will consist only of grain offerings, in place of the animal sacrifices of old:

ספר מלאכי פרק ג (ד) וְעָרְבָה לַיהֹוָה מִנְחַת יְהוּדָה וִירוּשָׁלִָם כִּימֵי עוֹלָם וּכְשָׁנִים קַדְמֹנִיּוֹת:
“Then the grain-offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to God as in the days of old, and as in ancient years” (Malachi 3:4).

The fact that we may feel uncomfortable killing animals, emanates from a hidden anticipation of the future, already ingrained in our souls, like many other spiritual aspirations (Gold from the Land of Israel pp. 173-176. Adapted from Otzarot HaRe’iyah, vol. II, pp. 101-103; Olat Re’iyah vol. I, p. 292).

Animal Sacrifices Provide Eternal Meaning to an Animal’s Existence
Still, as Ramban asserts, the animal sacrifices do have intrinsic value, and it is hard to believe that the Torah verses describing them would not have eternal relevance. The halacha transforms he sacrifices from a primitive religious practice into a sophisticated and advanced form of worship. By virtue of this transformation, the sacrifices are referred to as a sweet odor to Hashem (Meshech Chachmah, Vayikra, Introduction). Personally, I look forward to the rebuilding of the third Temple, when we will find out whether the animal sacrifices will be reinstituted or not. I can see reasons for both possibilities. As we have demonstrated, animal sacrifices are not necessarily cruel to the animals. Rather, they engender spiritual elevation for them. Furthermore, by helping humans live more righteously, share with others, feel thankful and repentant, and fulfill the commandments, an animal’s existence gains eternal meaning.