Seder HaKorbanot Part One

The Tamid Offering

“At that time I will bring you home, and at that time I will gather you, for I will give you renown and praise among all the peoples of the earth when I bring back your exiles before your eyes, says the L-rd.”  With these words from Tz’fanyah 3 (Zephaniah) our focus shifts to the Seder HaKorbanot (the order of the offerings), a thumbnail sketch of the Holy Temple offerings.

The importance of the Temple offerings is highlighted by an intriguing detour; rather than launching immediately into the description of the actual offerings, we first study the preparations which lead up to them.  Reading excerpts from Yeḥezk’el (Ezekiel) and Vayikra (Leviticus), we become immersed in the sights and sounds of Temple life.

We first see the bronze basin and bronze laver.  The Kohanim (priests) wash their hands and feet when they enter the Mikdash (Tent of Meeting) and again before approaching the altar, explained simply with, “so they will not die.”  There are no minor or perfunctory duties in the Temple; each one is to be approached respectfully and diligently.

We then witness the meticulous procedure for taking the ashes from the altar.  Notice that this seemingly menial series of tasks is described as “the law of the burnt offering” and includes specific instructions for the offerings, the ashes, the fire – even what clothes are to be worn at which times.

Now, ready to consider the details of the offerings, we pause momentarily to lift our hearts and eyes heavenward,  “May it be Your will, L-rd our G-d and G-d of our ancestors, that You have compassion on us and pardon us all our sins, grant atonement for all our iniquities and forgive all our transgressions.  May You rebuild the Temple swiftly in our days so that we may offer You the continual offering that it may atone for us as You have prescribed for us in Your Torah through Moses Your servant, from the mouthpiece of Your glory, as it is said: The L-rd said to Moses . . . “

Excerpts follow from BMidbar 28 (Numbers) and Vayikra 1 (Leviticus) which provide the description of the Daily Sacrifice – the Tamid offering – directly from the Torah.  Notice that Moshe is to command the Israelites to “Be careful to offer to Me at the appointed time My food-offering consumed by fire, as an aroma pleasing to Me.”  Again we see an admonition for scrupulous attention to detail.  (Imagine presenting a gift to a world leader, or to a cherished loved one – how much more fastidious we should be when presenting an offering to HaShem, L-rd of all creation!)

The offering components are described and then a seemingly minor yet immensely significant phrase precedes the recap: “This is the regular burnt-offering instituted at Mount Sinai as a pleasing aroma, a fire-offering made to the L-rd.”  Our national memory awakens; despite our centuries without the Beit HaMikdash (Holy Temple) we remember the magnificence of the days of old – then, as our vision slowly fades, with a mixture of sadness and hope we conclude, “May it be Your will, L-rd our G-d and G-d of our ancestors, that this recitation be considered accepted and favored before You as if we had offered the daily sacrifice at its appointed time and place, according to its laws.”

Comprised of two yearling lambs, together with their designated meal and wine offerings (one lamb at sunrise, the other at dusk), the Tamid is the first and last offering every day.  Preparations for the Tamid offerings begin long before sunrise; the concluding activities last long after sundown.  The yearling lambs have to be available and inspected.  The grain, oil, and wine must be ready.  The duty priests must be present, and they must know precisely how to perform each part of the sacrifice.  All this took place twice daily, week after week, year after year, century upon century.

In Judaic thought the most frequent activities are often imbued with the greatest holiness.  We are taught that it is better to give one groschen for tzedakah (charity) one hundred times, rather than one hundred groschen at one time, as the more frequent giving builds a habitual awareness of our opportunities for tzedakah.  They also teach that Shabbat, every Shabbat, is the holiest day of the year.

The Tamid is not only the foundation of the Holy Temple offerings; it is our first lesson in understanding how to view things which at first glance appear to be commonplace.  When we see the breathtaking beauty of routine holiness, measuring every moment, every choice, against His Torah, we joyously endeavor to perfect every mitzvah – even though another opportunity is already on the horizon.  Indeed, this is living a life pleasing to HaShem.

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