Crisis in God 3: Wisdom of Kahana
An interesting phenomena occurred when I started these articles on the sacrificial
cult. I always expected that it would divide opinion amongst the readers, those pro, those against, but what I had not anticipated was the inability of some to remain unemotionally involved and discuss this simply from a legalistic and historical viewpoint. Obviously, when I began these articles there was a rational logic behind my doing so.
I wanted to see how committed today’s followers were in their adherence to the Torah. At no time has God advised us that we are no longer required to perform the sacrifice. Of course in those in the ‘against’ camp will quote Jeremiah 7:22-23, Isaiah 1:11 and Psalm 40:6 and I’ll point out that none of these statements are from the Torah, directly quoted from God, nor from our lawgiver Moses. In fact, these statements should not and cannot be read isolated from the remainder of the context of the rest of the chapters. To do so is a misconstruance of the holy writings, intentional distortions and of no difference what the Rabbanites have done with their Talmud. To ignore the hundreds of references in the Tanakh where God desires sacrifice (admittedly for reasons we may never understand or fathom) and offer instead the sum total of these paltry excuses as a defence against doing what we were instructed to do, supports what was my intent and purpose of these articles, to demonstrate that we have chosen to model, define and practice Judaism in a manner of our own making, and often in times totally in defiance of the commands from God.
WHAT THE PROPHETS SAY
What does Isaiah really tell us in that Chapter used as the counter argument to sacrifice? He says this:
יג לֹא תוֹסִיפוּ, הָבִיא מִנְחַת-שָׁוְא--קְטֹרֶת תּוֹעֵבָה הִיא, לִי; חֹדֶשׁ וְשַׁבָּת קְרֹא מִקְרָא, לֹא-אוּכַל אָוֶן וַעֲצָרָה.
13 Bring no more vain oblations; it is an offering of abomination unto Me; new moon and sabbath, the holding of convocations--I cannot endure iniquity along with the solemn assembly.
יד חָדְשֵׁיכֶם וּמוֹעֲדֵיכֶם שָׂנְאָה נַפְשִׁי, הָיוּ עָלַי לָטֹרַח; נִלְאֵיתִי, נְשֹׂא.
14 Your new moons and your appointed seasons My soul hateth; they are a burden unto Me; I am weary to bear them.
He is informing us that God does not want the sacrifices performed if we are a vain and sinful people that think we can use them in order to whitewash our sins. The same way he is telling us that the Rosh Chodesh celebration, the Sabbath and anything else we do is of absolutely no religious significance, and will not be accepted by Him because of the darkness in our hearts. So to select the one sentence regarding the sacrifice and say that He no longer desires it, is guilty of exactly what He proclaims. You do as you please, you sin and you still say, “Look at me, I am a good Jew.” Abandon your Sabbaths, abandon your festivals, because they are just as meaningless if you think you are entitled to define how the faith should be conducted in defiance of the Lord’s commandments. And I raise Isaiah first, because it is in this context that you must read Jeremiah who came after him. Read Chapter 7 of Jeremiah and you will see that the Lord is furious that the Children of Israel are worshiping Ishtar, Astarte and a host of other gods and making sacrifice to them as well. So he says this for those that choose to stop halfway through Sentence 23.
כג כִּי אִם-אֶת-הַדָּבָר הַזֶּה צִוִּיתִי אוֹתָם לֵאמֹר, שִׁמְעוּ בְקוֹלִי--וְהָיִיתִי לָכֶם לֵאלֹהִים, וְאַתֶּם תִּהְיוּ-לִי לְעָם; וַהֲלַכְתֶּם, בְּכָל-הַדֶּרֶךְ אֲשֶׁר אֲצַוֶּה אֶתְכֶם, לְמַעַן, יִיטַב לָכֶם.
23 but this thing I commanded them, saying: 'Hearken unto My voice, and I will be your God, and ye shall be My people; and walk ye in all the way that I command you, that it may be well with you.'
כד וְלֹא שָׁמְעוּ, וְלֹא-הִטּוּ אֶת-אָזְנָם, וַיֵּלְכוּ בְּמֹעֵצוֹת, בִּשְׁרִרוּת לִבָּם הָרָע; וַיִּהְיוּ לְאָחוֹר, וְלֹא לְפָנִים.
24 But they hearkened not, nor inclined their ear, but walked in their own counsels, even in the stubbornness of their evil heart, and went backward and not forward
The Lord condemns the people for placing the acts of ritual religion above his supreme commandment, which was to listen and obey. The people did as they pleased, practiced the rituals and sacrifice on behalf of other gods and God is saying, “It was not about the sacrifice, the ritual, the ceremonies, it was about OBEYING! That comes first, and then and only then do your rituals have meaning!” And in that context Jeremiah is speaking no differently from Isaiah and neither is speaking out against the ritual sacrifice, only on the emptiness, the deceit and the disgenuous nature in which they were being performed.
As for Psalm 40:6, those that use it as a defence against abandoning the burnt offering, then I suggest they read it more closely. From the first statement, the author says that he is presenting it to the Leader of the community. Which community, we have no idea, but the lack of reference to King or Monarch suggests it was a later creation, even if he dedicates it as a Psalm of David. Admittedly, in sentence 8, he confesses that he follows his own rules (oral traditions?), adhering to a book (rules) that pertains only to him. He’s even raised his different beliefs before the congregation and has suffered immeasurably for it. He seeks revenge, and punishment for all those that have made him suffer, especially because they have mocked him by saying, “Aha, if you words were from God, would he let this suffering befall you.” So as to the timeframe of this Psalm, I would suggest it is from the time of Alexander Jannai, whom the Pharisees refused to call King. Perhaps it was even written by Ben Shetah, and for that reason it was included within the Book of Psalms by the later Rabbis. Does it have any value in the argument against the sacrificial cult, a resounding No.
CAIN AND ABEL
So what has been my lesson from all of this. There definitely has been a lesson for me. When some of the readers were incited to invoke insults, emotional outbursts, disparage my roots, the Kohenim and the entire Karaite congregation, and even make suggestions of a more physically violent reaction should the sacrificial cult ever be reinstated, then it brought immediately to my mind the story of Cain and Abel in Genesis 4. Many read this chapter but fail to read the underlying message that resides just below the surface. Let’s examine what is written:
ג וַיְהִי, מִקֵּץ יָמִים; וַיָּבֵא קַיִן מִפְּרִי הָאֲדָמָה, מִנְחָה--לַיהוָה.
3 And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD.
ד וְהֶבֶל הֵבִיא גַם-הוּא מִבְּכֹרוֹת צֹאנוֹ, וּמֵחֶלְבֵהֶן; וַיִּשַׁע יְהוָה, אֶל-הֶבֶל וְאֶל-מִנְחָתוֹ.
4 And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering;
ה וְאֶל-קַיִן וְאֶל-מִנְחָתוֹ, לֹא שָׁעָה; וַיִּחַר לְקַיִן מְאֹד, וַיִּפְּלוּ פָּנָיו.
5 but unto Cain and to his offering He had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell.
ו וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה, אֶל-קָיִן: לָמָּה חָרָה לָךְ, וְלָמָּה נָפְלוּ פָנֶיךָ.
6 And the LORD said unto Cain: 'Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen?
ז הֲלוֹא אִם-תֵּיטִיב, שְׂאֵת, וְאִם לֹא תֵיטִיב, לַפֶּתַח חַטָּאת רֹבֵץ; וְאֵלֶיךָ, תְּשׁוּקָתוֹ, וְאַתָּה, תִּמְשָׁל-בּוֹ.
7 If thou doest well, shall it not be lifted up? and if thou doest not well, sin coucheth at the door; and unto thee is its desire, but thou mayest rule over it.'
The fist realization is that It wasn’t simply a spontaneous idea that popped into both men’s head simultaneously that they should make a sacrifice. There was an event that came to pass, a time that they knew in advance and both had been working towards over the process of time, in which they knew a sacrifice had to be made. From sentence 7, it is clear that Cain knew what was expected from him and he made the conscious decision to defy that instruction from God. 'Doing well', as the Lord implied, meant listening and obeying God’s commands. Whatever Cain’s reasons, perhaps he like the many modern Cains that responded to my articles and found animal sacrifice abhorrent, even though 97% of us go to the market regularly to buy our meat and have no problem consuming it ourselves, he chose not to make an offering of a lamb. Perhaps he resented the fact that he had to request a lamb or purchase one from his brother. Maybe it was arrogance, feeling that as a vegetable farmer, he should not be considered inferior to a sheepherder. Per chance, it was even a sense of superiority, superiority over God, making a statement that God should take whatever he decides to give him (not too unlike a comment I received from one reader that he would sooner leave Judaism should the Temple sacrificial cult ever be restored). We may never know exactly what the sin God speaks of that made Cain defy the command and therefore have his offering rejected. I can only suggest that from some of the comments I received, and the demeaning, almost threatening nature in which they were made, this concern that God found within Cain’s heart, his ability to sin as soon as he did not get his way, exists as a mark of Cain to this very day.
So to those that have read this series of articles wondering what was its primary purpose. It was never to say that the sacrificial cult must be restored. If it is what God commands then I am not in a position to judge the Lord’s reasoning or purpose. I am here to obey. I will do as the Lord instructs. Will you?
Avrom Aryeh-Zuk Kahana