Kenneth Cohen

Prayer Instead of Sacrifices

The Haftarah for Shabbat Chazon, the Shabbat preceding Tisha B’Av, is very moving. It is a strong rebuke from the Prophet Isaiah, for having turned away from G-d, and the Torah.

Later in this chapter, there is a verse that has significance in our times. The prophet asks in the Name of G-d, למה לי רוב זבחכם, “What need do I have for your sacrifices?”

The bringing of sacrifices without true intent, is abominable in the eyes of G-d. Hashem would rather not receive such sacrifices, that were not offered with the desire to seek forgiveness and getting closer to Him.

This is relevant today when we are confronted by missionaries, who ask the same redundant question. If there is no Temple today, and no sacrifices to atone for one’s sins, then there must be the need to embrace a religion that allows an individual to find atonement.

Our response is that according to Isaiah, even when the Temple existed, sacrifices were meaningless if not offered with the right intent.

Today, prayer takes the place of sacrifices. True atonement can be achieved by returning to G-d sincerely, by showing remorse, and the resolve to mend one’s ways.
Sacrifices were once a means to achieve a special connection with G-d. They will be reinstated when the third Temple is rebuilt. In the meantime, prayer and sincere repentance, takes the place of sacrifices. This point was made very clear by the Prophet Isaiah.

About the Author
Rabbi Cohen has been a Torah instructor at Machon Meir, Jerusalem, for over twenty years while also teaching a Talmud class in the Shtieblach of Old Katamon. Before coming to Israel, he was the founding rabbi of Young Israel of Century City, Los Angeles. He recently published a series of Hebrew language-learning apps, which are available at