The Book of Vayikra (Leviticus), also known as Torat Kohanim — the Laws of the Priests — deals largely with the korbanot (offerings) brought in the Mishkan (Tent of Meeting). The first group of offerings is called korban olah, a burnt offering. The animal is brought to the Mishkan's entrance. For cattle, the one bringing the offering sets his hands on the animal. Afterwards it is slaughtered and the kohen sprinkles its blood on the altar. The animal is skinned and cut into pieces. The pieces are arranged, washed and burned on the altar. A similar process is described involving burnt offerings of other animals and birds. The various meal offerings are described. Part of the meal offering is burned on the altar, and the remaining part eaten by the kohanim. Mixing leaven or honey into the offerings is prohibited. The peace offering, part of which is burnt on the altar and part is eaten, can be either from cattle, sheep or goats. The Torah prohibits eating blood or chelev (certain fats in animals). The offerings that atone for inadvertent sins committed by the Kohen Gadol, by the entire community, by the prince and by the average citizen are detailed. Laws of the guilt-offering, which atones for certain verbal transgressions and for transgressing laws of ritual purity, are listed. The meal offering for those who cannot afford the normal guilt offering, the offering to atone for misusing sanctified property, laws of the "questionable guilt" offering, and offerings for dishonesty are detailed.
The Biggest Bar-B-Q In The World
“When a man among you brings an offering…” (1:2)
Imagine you’re an alien traveler flying over Jerusalem some two and a half thousand years ago.
Your intergalactic GPS detects a beautiful building coming up on the horizon. Opening your “Earth on five dollars-a-day”, you read about what you’re seeing. “The Beit Hamikdash is the most spiritual place on earth.” Something doesn’t seem quite accurate about this description because everywhere you aim your scanner all you can see are very physical things.
For a start, animals are being slaughtered, dissected and burned on what looks like the world’s biggest bar-b-q. Wine is being poured down two holes on top of a square monolith on which the meat is being burned. Nearby, bread is being baked. Oil is being mixed with flour and fried in open pans. There are animals in pens, along with birds. Everywhere there are all kinds of cooking utensils. Men are washing their hands and feet. There is a column of black smoke rising perpendicularly into the sky.
This is spirituality?
You make a mental note to write to the editors of “Earth on five-dollars-a-day” that their description of this tourist spot is way off the mark.
Our intergalactic traveler could be forgiven for mistaking what he saw, for indeed the Beit Hamikdash ostensibly was a very physical place. Our fearless voyager, however, failed to notice a key item in the Beit Hamikdash — the Aron, the Holy Ark. Inside the Ark was the Torah. It was only through the Holy Torah that the Divine Presence rested on the Beit Hamikdash and turned the most physical of places into the most spiritual.
The Beit Hamikdash is a microcosm of the Universe, and a macrocosm of the body of a human. If you look at a person he seems to be a very physical thing. He consists of sinew and flesh, fluids and membrane. And yet, he is so much more.
Just as the Torah caused the Divine Presence to rest on the Beit Hamikdash and the Mishkan, so similarly the Torah turns flesh and blood into a dwelling place for the Most High.