When a man from [among] you brings a (Korbon) sacrifice to HASHEM; from animals, from cattle or from the flock you shall bring your sacrifice. (Vayikra 1:2)
And on the eighth day, the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised. (Vayikra 12:3)
There are only two positive or action Mitzvos that if one fails to perform them the result is KORES – being cut off, disconnected. (What exactly that means is a long discussion but suffice it to say that it is not a pleasant place to be.) Those two Mitzvos are Bris Mila and Korbon Pesach! Why are those two so loaded with such heavy consequences? What makes them so much more important? There may be many approaches to the question but here is one I’d like to try on for size.
What is the reason for bringing a Korbon? Yes, it is a Commandment, but what is the Taam, the reason, literally the taste, or benefit of this Mitzvah? The Ohr Gedaliahu introduces a raging debate on the subject between two giants of Jewish thought. The Rambam, Maimonodies states that the reason for Korbonos is to nullify idolatry. Those animals that the nations of the world held in high esteem and even worshipped are meant to be rendered false, and worthless. Only HASHEM is worthy of our service. The Ramban, Nachmanodies, disagrees with his earlier contemporary the Rambam. He says that the reason for a Korbon is to be found in the word itself, Korbon, which means to draw close, that is to draw close to HASHEM.
He also contends that the Rambam contradicts himself. Although he writes in Moreh Nevuchim that a Korbon is meant to nullify idolatry, in his giant compendium the Yad HaChazaka, in his introduction to the laws of Avoda Zara- idolatry, the Rambam reviews the history of how Adam’s initial belief in one G-d devolved into idolatry over time. He identifies the historical period when that despicable practice started, based on a verse in Chumash, “And to Shes also to him a son was born, and he named him Enosh; then it became common (huchal) to call by the name of HASHEM”.
Rashi explains the verse based on the Midrash, Then, it became common: Heb. הוּחַל, is an expression of חוּלִין profaneness: to name people and idols with the name of the Holy One, blessed be He, to make them idols and to call them deities” It seems that idolatry, according to the Rambam, came in to being generations later and yet everyone agrees that Adam the first man brought a Korbon. Why would he need to bring a Korbon at a time that predated idolatry?
The Ohr Gedaliahu cleverly reconciles and essentially makes perfect peace between the two competing approaches to the reason of Korbonos. After the sin with the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, HASHEM approached Adam. “And HASHEM called to man, and He said to him, “Where are you?” And he said, “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because (ANOCHI) I am naked; so I hid.”” This declaration that Adam made is very revealing. He declares, as if with a capital “I”, “I am naked”. The Midrash says that he intimated in that statement, “I did it and I will do it again!” He was infused with a brazenness, a sense of independence and separateness from HASHEM. The Midrash may really be telling us about his desperation. “I did it, and I don’t think I can stop myself from doing it again!” In either case he found himself distant from HASHEM.
The Baal Shem Tov sees meaning in the verse in Devarim, “I stand between HASHEM and you…” (Devarim 5:5) that the “I”, the inflated ego, the ANOCHI stands between each of us and HASHEM. To the extent that that ANOCHI, that fat I, the first granule of Avoda Zara is whittled down so too we grow closer to HASHEM. It’s the removal of idolatry which has its roots in self-absorption which allows us to draw closer to HASHEM.
Bris Mila is the sublimating of the individual’s animalistic appetite to holiness. That is the process of abolishing the personal egoistic form of idolatry. Korbon Pesach is the nullification of the collective ego, the sacred godhead of Egypt. In order to bring the Korbon Pesach one needs a Bris Mila, because one must first cure himself and only then can he hope to fix the world!