Kenneth Cohen

The Sacrifices

This week we begin the Book of Vayikra, also known as Torat Kohanim. The main subject deals with the sacrifices and the service of the Kohanim in the Temple.

There were two main categories of Korbanot. The first was called Kodesh Kodashim, Holy of Holies. This referred to sacrifices like the “Olah” that were burned entirely on the altar. It also included sin and guilt offerings, that were eaten partially by the Kohanim, to help achieve atonement.

The second category was known as “Kodshim Kalim.” These were less severe sacrifices as parts of it were consumed by the donor. The Korban Pesach, Thanksgiving and free will offerings, were in this category.

It is also interesting to note that it was permissible to receive Nedarim and Nedavot, from non-Jews. This is an indication of the importance of the Temple for the entire world. It was a place of prayer and connecting with Hashem for everyone.

The sacrifices were meant to create humility from its donor. He was meant to realize that the blood spilled in presenting his offering was to make the person realize that it could have been his blood. The ability to achieve atonement was a gift from G-d.
There is even an opinion that says that the first subject of Torah to teach a child, should be the Book of Vayikra, and the laws of Korbanot. A child is considered pure and innocent. The cleansing power of the sacrifices, were also meant to clean one’s slate and create purity.

Even though we do not have Korbanot, studying its laws bring great merit. It also shows our belief and anticipation of the Third Beit Hamikdash, when Temple service will be reinstated once again.

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