“Rabbi Aha said in the name of Rabbi Hanina ben Pappa that God regards the study of the laws of sacrifices equal to offering them” (Leviticus Rabbah 7:3).
If studying the offerings is equal to offering them, then it is a good thing that one entire book (Leviticus/Vayikra) of the Torah focuses on the Temple service, with a large part of that text dedicated to the sacrifices. Without question, the Temple service and its offerings are critical to Jewish life. Yet for 2,000 years, the Jewish people have survived without the Temple or sacrifices. Is it not a contradiction that a Temple oriented religion has been without a sanctuary much longer than it ever actually had a Temple*?
When the Israelites were commanded to construct the Tabernacle as a temporary sanctuary in the wilderness, they understood that God was providing them with a way of drawing closer to Him. The ultimate goal of Jewish life has always been about creating a meaningful relationship with the Divine. For this reason, the sages stated that, nowadays, if people repent from transgression, it is considered by God as if they had gone up to Jerusalem, built the Temple and the altars, and offered all the sacrifices ordained in the Torah (Leviticus Rabbah 7:2). Repentance in Judaism is known as teshuva, which is based on the Hebrew verb meaning “to return.” Teshuva, when it is sincere and complete, is the ultimate means of coming close to God and creating a relationship with the Divine.
Complete teshuva, however, is difficult to accomplish. So, in these days when no Temple stands, the closest one can come to partaking in the service is to delve into the holy texts.
*The total years of both Temples was only 830.
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