The Daily Sacrifice

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by R. Gidon Rothstein

Parshat Pinchas

In my plausibly faulty memory, my Rosh Yeshiva at Gush, R. Amital, zt”l, was fond of a statement found in the introduction to Ein Ya’akov. While many know R. Akiva’s called ve-ahavta le-re’akha kamokha, you shall love your neighbor as yourself, a kelal gadol ba-Torah, a great principle of the Torah, the author of Ein Ya’akov knew a version where R. Shim’on b. Pazi claimed a verse in this week’s Parsha, 28;4, et ha-keves ha-echad ta’aseh ba-boker, make one lamb in the morning (and the other during the afternoon), was a greater principle yet.

For R. Amital (and for R. Yonoson Sacksyib”l, whom I trusted to tell me it was R. Shimon b. Pazi), the idea drew our attention to the value, importance, and necessity of consistency. All very nice, but let’s look at the mitzvah of these sacrifices itself.

Two Lambs, One Mitzvah, for the Community

Rambam, Obligation 39, says Hashem commanded us to offer two lambs each day in the Mikdash, called temidin (either always or consistent, offered every single day, including on Shabbat and holidays; Minchat Chinukh points out that on such days, only essential parts of the sacrifice were performed, the rest left until after).

Sefer HaChinukh 401 throws in the view of Ramban, in his glosses to the eleventh of Rambam’s rules for how to count the 613 mitzvot, the afternoon tamid should count separately from the morning one in the 613, because it happens at a different time, and the sacrifices are valid independently, neither needs the other to be accepted. (Minchat Chinukh offers a situation where the afternoon tamid does depend on the morning one: a new mizbeach, altar, required chinukh, some kind of dedication, which might be performing a service on it. An afternoon tamid could not be the avodah ha-mechanekhet, the qualifying inaugural service. In that sense, the later tamid needed the earlier one.)

Either way, the tamid reminds us of a lost major element of an ideal Jewish world, one I suspect many of us do not remember to miss. What role does the lack of temidim play in our current religious experience? What role would/should it play in our lives when, God willing soon, we have a restored Mikdash?

To get back to the more factual, Sefer haChinukh adds that the sacrifices will be offered by the kohanim, as he calls them, the attendants of God. [It’s unclear to me why he emphasizes it  here, when they offer all sacrifices; perhaps since these are the anchor sacrifices, start and end the Mikdash’s sacrificial day, he thought it a good place to remind us.]

He then adds that the warning to fulfill this mitzvah rests on the court, the sages who teach Torah to the Jewish people. They are the ones empowered/ entrusted/responsible to ensure the community fulfills its obligations, including this one.

Minchat Chinukh gives the financial side, the funds for these sacrifices came from terumat ha-lishka, the coins taken from the half-shekel given annually by all Jews, and the animals involved were to be set aside four days before they were used, to be checked for possible invalidating physical abnormalities. He refers to Rashi, Arakhin 13, who includes two views of whether the day the animal is offered counts as one of the four, Turei Even analyzes whether the check could be done before the animal was consecrated for service, and Tosafot insist—Rambam does not mention it—the animal is invalid if not checked, even if we are later sure it had no problems.

A Lesson for Whom?

The presentation so far seems to me to point out an element of a well-functioning society we might not remember: our leaders are going to have to ensure we collect the money to let our kohanim, God’s attendants, offer these sacrifices. A whole central machinery of the nation’s functions, happening twice daily, happens largely outside the consciousness of most jews.

I write that although Sefer HaChinukh seems to disagree. He groups this mitzvah with sacrifices and the Temple service generally, ways to draw Jews’ attention to God. He repeats a refrain of his, external actions spark internal change. Here, just as people need food morning and evening, we offer sacrifices morning and evening, to keep us from getting so caught up in our own needs that we forget our higher goal, service of God.

[I see two weaknesses here: First, the tamid of bein ha-arbayim is likely offered much earlier than a later afternoon meal, although that might be for purely technical reasons, leaving the symbolism of two “meals” in the Mikdash in place. The bigger issue, to me, is that most Jews wouldn’t see the tamid brought all that often. I can understand being impacted when bring an olah, chatat, or whatever, can imagine that is much of the goal. But when some kohen is doing something I won’t see?

To fully express what a tamid and musafim do, I would search for a reason that addresses a reality where most Jews know of these intellectually, perhaps think of them occasionally, but mostly just go about their day.]

The Start of the Mikdash Day

The morning tamid was offered before sunrise, any time after the eastern horizon was fully lit. In common practice today, the time for morning prayers lasts until a third of the day has passed, but Sefer HaChinukh reminds us that limit came from one time during the Second Temple where matters went awry and the morning tamid was late. Really—as fans of vatikin point out—the tamid was offered much earlier.

Minchat Chinukh brings up a Mishnah in Megilla that says that day-time mitzvot always start with sunrise, are valid earlier only after the fact. He thinks the tamid could be done earlier as a regular practice because we trust the kohanim not to do it too early.

[Not fully our topic here, but I do think it worth noticing what counts as morning. He’ir kol hamizrach, the whole eastern horizon is lit, is still relatively dark. It suggests—in contrast to how many of us experience the day—that morning starts with any light, not full light.]

The Temple day started early and (for reasons both related and independent) our prayer day is supposed to as well.

The Early End of the Mikdash Day

To me, the bigger surprise is at the other end. The second tamid could be offered as early as a half hour after noon (“hours” here are sha’ot zemaniyot, eahc hour one-twelfth of the daylight period. Minchat Chinukh does know of a Penei Yehoshu’a who questions this certainty, thinks some religious rituals, including sacrifices, might use a constant hour throughout the year. I think it is a very minority view).

 It could theoretically be offered until the end of the day (I assume he means sunset, the opinion of the consensus of Sages in the Mishnah, but R. Yehuda thought it had to be done before pelag ha-Mincha, the justification for early Ma’ariv minyanim all over the world).

Regardless of how late it could have been offered, the general plan was to slaughter it after 8 ½ hours of the day, and offer it an hour later. After that, other than on the fourteenth of Nisan, the sacrificial day was over. (In a 6AM-6PM day, that would be 3:30).

It’s not quite a temidim question, so I will put it out there without trying to answer it, but the afternoon tamid does call for us to consider why the Beit ha Mikdash would close for business, as it were, so early.

Our mitzvah lets us see service in the Temple was sandwiched by the Jewish people’s regular communal sacrifice, paid for by our half-shekels, supervised by our Torah scholars, performed by the kohanim. Not a bad microcosm of Jewish life generally.

About Gidon Rothstein

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