Wednesday, March 21, 2007

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.


At March 21, 2007 at 5:56:00 AM EDT, Blogger Rafi G. said...

At March 21, 2007 at 3:12:00 PM EDT, Blogger DixieYid (يهودي جنوبي) said...

I have kabbalah to shecht ofos, and that experience does make me think about a thing or two:

Shechting a pigeon properly seems virtually impossibe (at least for one person to do by himself). This is because the trachea and esophogas (the two simanim, kaneh and veshet)flop around in the pigeon's neck. They have to be held in place with one hand, the pigeon's body has to be held with the other hand, and the shechita is performed with the other hand (notice three hands are needed!). Could this be one reason why Hashem decreed that pigeons are slaughtered by "melika," breaking the back of it's neck with the kohen's thumb nail, since it's too difficult to do properly?

Also, during my training I went to a shlochthaus for behemos gasos, and I saw the pirkus (death shaking that lasts for 30 to 45 seconds) of such large animals. Does anyone know how they handled restraining the large animals during their pirkus when they were being slaughtered as korbanos?

Dixie Yid

At March 21, 2007 at 4:08:00 PM EDT, Blogger yitz said...

Nice piece, Rafi. Rebbe Shloime Twerski ztvk"l, who ran the Denver shlact-haus (slaughterhouse) ["Denver meat" at that time had the reputation for being the best hecksher in America!] used to tell us, especially when women complained about the "drudgery" in the kitchen, that the Beis HaMikdash was, for a good part of the time, "one big kitchen" as the Kohanim were busy all day with Korbanos!

At March 21, 2007 at 9:50:00 PM EDT, Blogger Neil Harris said...

Very insightful post, thanks!

At March 22, 2007 at 3:14:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Judaism fervently believes that, with the correct leadership, humankind can and will change. The leadership quality of Mashiach means that through his dynamic personality and example, coupled with manifest humility, he will inspire all people to strive for good. He will transform a seemingly utopian dream into a reality.What is Utopian Dream?
To CHANGE.Not to destroy the Earth anymore. Not to destroy and kill humans anymore.Not to kill animals. Not to destroy the Life, the Creation, the God's property.
Humans are like thiefs who enter the property of someone and they were let to eat the fruits in it.But humans did more than that. They eat all the fruits,cut the trees,killed and eat all the animals and than there is nothing left to that property.Than the owner will come to see what happen.What will he do? He will not profit anything even if he judge,punish or kill the destroyers, the rebelles, but he will put them to work to create a new look in his property. So it will happen exact the opposite of what has happen a Total Korbanos.
That means to really understand the real Korbanos, Anihilation of the Earth and the Humanity, the criminal. A Crime changes the bad,the criminal too but so does the change come when the good things happen. There is Death and than is Life.It's the Life's Time now, because the Death's Time ended.

At March 22, 2007 at 3:22:00 AM EDT, Blogger Rafi G. said...

dixie and yitz - thanks for your additional insights.

anonymous - I have no understanding of what you wrote. it was completely cryptic to me.

At March 15, 2008 at 12:57:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

question: i understand that the animal sacrifice was helping humans to raise their souls, the animals' souls and all of creation...but in reality...the whole thing, sorry, is disgusting to me. utterly terrible.

it doesn't seem holy at all. it makes me very sad about all the spiritual glory of the temple. i can get with the singing, the praying, the lights...but killing all those animals??? if it were fewer would i feel different? i don't know. is it possible that after noach from avraham to mashiach that humanity needed all those korbanos to atone?? what does reb nachman say on this?

i'm so sorry to say that this whole thing makes me feel very bad about my own precious traditions.


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