The Words Are The Sacrifices
"When one of you offers from himself..."
In 1883, the Sefas Emes discussed the sacrifices in the name of his
father: "The Talmud declares: 'When one recites the verse (Leviticus 1:11
describing the slaughter of the sacrifice), G-d remembers the Binding of
Yitzchak (Isaac).' Specifically, the Binding of Yitzchak -- for this is the
essence of the sacrifice. Yitzchak was willing to be sacrificed by his
father; at that point, it was no longer necessary to keep him on the altar.
His willingness to be sacrificed was considered as if he was sacrificed. A
ram could be offered in his place...
"Each sacrifice needed this kind of feeling: 'I am to be the
sacrifice!' With such a dedication, it is no longer necessary to sacrifice
the person, but a substitute could be taken in his place.
"The Rabbis decreed: Prayers will be in the place of the daily
offerings, to fulfill the verse (Hoshea 14:3) 'Our lips will compensate for
bullocks.' If so, it will have to be with the same attitude as the
sacrifices of bullocks: Only if we dedicate ourselves with sacrifice can
the words of the prayers be taken in substitute for our own lives."
Just as the sacrifice contained no magic, simply the spirit of true
giving, so the prayers are to be uttered with an attitude of dedication.
Thus the silent prayer, the 'Shemonah Esreh,' concludes: "May the words of
my mouth and the thoughts of my heart be before You..."
In fact, the offerings were accompanied with prayers and songs. As
the wine libations were poured on the altar, the Levites sang Hallel.
Accompanying the Passover offering, too, the Levites sang Hallel. The
offerings brought for atonement required the Vidui -- the oral confession.
King David stated: "The cup of salvation I will lift up, and I will
call in the Name of G-d." (Psalms 116:13) Rashi explains that the verse was
referring to the sacrifice. The 'cup of salvation' was the wine of the
altar, which David would bring for his thanksgiving offering; the 'calling
out in the Name of G-d' referred to the songs of praise that would be
recited at that time. Just as the Levites sang at the wine libation of the
public sacrifice, David would sing praises at the pouring of the wine on the
altar for his private thanksgiving offering.
Paying with Speech
Perhaps the utterances and songs were the most important aspect of
the offerings; there the owners' dedication would be felt. In that case,
the main duty of the offerings remains intact to this day: heartfelt
declaration of of one's error or thanksgiving.
It is interesting to note that the Pesach Seder, commemorating the
Paschal and Festival offerings, is entirely devoted to speech! In fact,
many Rabbis hold that the four cups of wine were decreed because of the
various songs and recitations; just like the Levites in the Temple service,
wine should always accompany our song.
Rabban Gamliel said, 'Anyone who has not mentioned three things, has
not fulfilled his obligation: The Pesach (Paschal lamb), Matza (Unleavened
bread) and Morror (bitter herb).' The reason is because it states regarding
the Paschal lamb, "You shall say: 'It is the Passover offering to G-d,
because He saved us when He smote the first-born in Egypt.' " (Passover
The Rabbis said, Pesach (Passover) means Peh Sach (the mouth
speaks). 'Our lips will compensate for bullocks!' (Hoshea 14:3). The major
aspect of the offerings, the gratitude and devotion, still remain...