02. The Custom of Reciting Korbanot and its Reason

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The Sages teach (Ta’anit 27b and Megilla 31b) that when God entered a covenant with Avraham and promised him that he and his children would inherit Eretz Yisrael, Avraham asked God, “Master of the universe, perhaps, God forbid, Israel will sin before You and You will do to them as You did to the generation of the flood and the generation of the Tower of Bavel?” God answered, “I will not do that to them.” Avraham said, “How will I know that You will not destroy their memory?” God responded, “Bring me three calves…,” thereby alluding that the korbanot bear witnesses to the eternal bond between Israel and God. Therefore, even if they are sinful, it is only because of external influences; at their core they are righteous and connected to God. Therefore, by offering korbanot and expressing Israel’s absolute connection to God, their sins will be atoned. Avraham said before Him, “Master of the universe, what if the Temple is destroyed? How will their sins be atoned?” God answered, “I have already instituted the Korbanot passages for them. Whenever they recite them, I consider it as though they are bringing an offering to Me and I will forgive them for all their sins.”

The Sages further say that one who delves into the laws of the ĥatat (sin) offering is like one who offered a ĥatat, and one who delves into the laws of the asham (guilt) offering is like one who offered an asham, and so forth for all korbanot (Menaĥot 110a; see Peninei Halakha: Prayer 13:5-6 on the reason for the Tamid offering and the incense). The idea is that every deed performed in the world possesses an inner spirit, and the soul of the mitzvot is the words of Torah that discuss those mitzvot. This is especially true of the korbanot, whose central idea is to express a bond with God. Therefore, when one cannot actually bring the offerings, their study is considered a substitute (see Maharal, Gevurot Hashem ch. 8).

For this reason, many men customarily recite the Tamid passage every morning before prayer. Although there is no rabbinic enactment to do so and hence its recitation is not considered a true obligation, the practice is nevertheless based on the words of the talmudic Sages, who even instituted Shaĥarit to correspond to the morning Tamid. Thus, over time, the recitation became virtually obligatory.

Secondary in importance to the Tamid passage is the passage of the incense (ketoret), for it too was offered every day. Zohar (Vayakhel 218:2) greatly praises one who recites it daily. It is commendable for men to recite the other passages and prayers included in the Korbanot service as well, but it is not an obligation to recite them (as explained in Peninei Halakha: Prayer, 13:1 n. 1).

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