Shaya Cohen -


Are Jews in Rebellion Against G-d?

Some weeks ago, a commenter on Ricochet said that Jews today are clearly in rebellion, since we do not offer sacrifices as called for in the Torah. Either we follow the Torah or we do not, right?

And I can see it from his perspective. The Torah gives clear commandments to bring offerings, and Jews today, despite having possession of Jerusalem*, have not done so.

Let’s assume the Jews could bring offerings. Is the fact that it is not happening indeed Jewish rebellion against G-d’s commandments?

It is not. And the reason is simple: the text says:

Take the Levites from among the Israelites and purify them. This is what you shall do to them to purify them: sprinkle on them water of purification, and let them go over their whole body with a razor, and wash their clothes; thus they shall be purified. Thereafter the Levites shall be qualified for the service of the Tent of Meeting, once you have purified them and designated them as an elevation offering. (Num. 8)

So the waters of purification are a prerequisite for bringing offerings. And how do we get these waters? Well, we need to do the ceremony that requires a red heifer (see Num. 19).  There is a problem with this, because we don’t seem to have any red heifers today. These are rare: in Jewish history there have only been nine. And while there are efforts to breed a red heifer, none has yet made it to the required age while still meeting the requirements. Presumably, once one has been achieved, then there will be no Torah reason why we are not able to purify the Levites and start formal services in Jerusalem once again, after a 2,000 year hiatus.

The story is not quite this simple, because there is, according to many opinions, something we could – perhaps should be offering now – and it does not require the red heifer. This is the Passover Offering, the korban pesach. Here is a (poorly recorded, but understandable) recording of a lecture by a very knowledgeable rabbi on this very topic (he includes discussion of the other perceived obstructions as well).

Part 1 and Part 2.

(I should warn listeners: it is not easy to follow unless one is au fait with the relevant vocabulary.)

The upshot: it is plausible that we should be offering the korban pesach today. And perhaps if we make that effort, then we will deserve the red heifer that will enable the next step: resuming full service in the tabernacle in Jerusalem.

Which means that the commenter may be correct, but only in a much more limited sense: if there is no obstruction to bringing the korban pesach, then, if we truly seek to follow the commandments of the Torah, then we should be doing so.

*I should note that in at least the technical sense, Jews do not control the Temple Mount itself, the only place where we are even theoretically allowed to bring offerings. In 1967, Israel captured Jerusalem, but promptly handed the Temple Mount back to Muslims. Nevertheless, Israel could certainly take it back in full at any time, though such a move would probably stir up more than a little outrage from Muslims, Arabs, and liberals (not necessarily in that order). You may recall that moving the US-acknowledged capitol to Jerusalem was supposed to start a war, too.

Comments are welcome!

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