Question & Answer With Rafi G. Of Life In Israel - Understanding The Korbanos
A Simple Jew asks:
How has your training as a shochet helped you better appreciate Sefer Vayikra since it deals with the more physical aspects of animals and their anatomy?
Rafi G. of Life In Israel responds:
Honestly I was wondering if it would help me understand and relate better. I think I will only be able to answer the question completely when Sefer Vayikra is behind us.
But being that I have almost finished going through half of Parshas Vayikra already, I can say that I understand better the physical aspect of the korbanos, meaning I am able to follow the different parts of the animal and understand what is getting burnt, what is getting eaten; what the different parts are. I realize that I do feel a certain understanding of the korbanos.
When shechting my most recent animals, I tried to contemplate what it would be like doing so in the mikdash for a korban. The first thing I thought about was the amount of time it took.
Of all the people I went with, none of us were professional butchers, aside from the Arabs who skinned the animal and made the initial breakdown. It took us an awfully long time to cut the animal up. I thought about how it would be done in the mikdash when they are slaughtering tens, hundreds and even thousands of korbanos in a day.
They have to get the animal down into the rings (I am sure it was no easy feat) at the northern end and then slaughter it. They had to then skin it and cut it open and remove various organs for various procedures. They had to break it down and separate the various parts that needed to be placed on the mizbeah or eaten. This must have taken plenty of time, even assuming they had expert kohanim there butchering the animals. And they had to do this tens of times a day, minimum. The work in the mikdash must have been an awesome sight to see, the kohanim whizzing about efficiently breaking down all these animals.
The Ramban is famous for saying that when one offers a korban on the mizbeah, he is meant to consider as if he should be the one up there being sacrificed as atonement for his sins. The animal takes his place, but his feeling should be that it should have been him up there. That will spur a person on to doing t'shuva.
As I waited to shecht my animals, I looked at them and thought about that. I considered myself doing that in the mikdash (shehita is kosher for a non-kohen to perform in the mikdash) and thinking about the animal taking my place. I stood there looking at the animal, even petting it a bit and talking to it. I said to it that it is the vehicle for my performing a mitzva and it is fulfilling its purpose in this world in the process.