By: Rav David Milston
Weekly Shiur - Parshat Vayikra - Rav Milston
Korbanot and Tefillot – One and the Same?
“It has been stated: R.Yosi son of R.Chanina said: Tefillot were instituted
by the Patriarchs. R. Yehoshua Ben Levi says: Tefillot were instituted to
‘replace’ the daily sacrifices….
It has been taught in accordance with R.Yosi son of R.Chanina:
Abraham instituted Shacharit, as it says, “And Abraham arose early in the
morning to the place where he stood.” (Bereishit, 19:27) And standing refers
to prayer, as it says “Then Pinchas stood up and prayed.” (Psalms 106:30)
Yitzchak instituted Mincha, as it says, “And Yitzchak went out to meditate
in the field at eventide.” (Bereishit, 24:63) And meditation refers to
prayer, as it says, “A prayer of the afflicted when he faints and when he
pours out his meditation before the Lord.” (Psalms 102:1)
Ya’akov instituted Ma’ariv, as it says, “And he alighted (vayifga) upon the
place.” (Bereishit, 28:11) And pegiah refers to prayer, as it says,
“Therefore pray not you for this people neither lift up prayer nor cry for
them, neither make intercession (tifga) to me.” (Yirmiyahu, 7:16)
It has been taught in accordance with R. Yehoshua Ben Levi:
Why did they say Shacharit could be said until midday? Because the regular
morning sacrifice could be brought up to midday. R. Yehuda however says it
may be said up to the fourth hour because the regular morning sacrifice may
be brought up to the fourth hour.
And why did they say Mincha can be said up to the evening? Because the
regular afternoon offering can be brought up to the evening. R. Yehuda
however says it may be said only up to mid-afternoon, because the regular
afternoon sacrifice may be brought only up to mid-afternoon.
And why is there no time limit to Ma’ariv? Because the limbs (of the burnt
offerings) and the fat (of other offerings) which were not consumed on the
altar by the evening, could be brought for the whole night.
And why did they say the Mussaf Tefilla (said on Shabbatot, Rashei Chodesh
and Chagim) could be said during the whole of the day? Because additional
offerings could be brought during the whole of the day. R. Yehuda however
says it may be said up to the seventh hour because the additional offering
may be brought up to the seventh hour.” (Berachot 26b)
There seems to be an inherent connection between Tefilla and Korbanot. The
Talmud goes on to prove that even R.Yosi son of R.Chanina would agree that
although the Patriarchs instituted Tefilla, the Rabbis also found a basis
for it in the sacrifices, because otherwise he has no source for Tefillat
Indeed, we could conclude that Tefillot actually replaced Korbanot, i.e.
once we stopped sacrificing, this form of Avodat Hashem was replaced by
prayer. But perhaps our translation is slightly misleading.
We have stated that according to R. Yehoshua Ben Levi, Tefillot were
instituted to ‘replace’ the daily sacrifices; but does that mean there was
no Tefilla during the time of the Beit Mikdash? Was the concept of Tefilla
only introduced after the Temple was destroyed?
Surely not, for we know Shlomo HaMelech himself, when consecrating the
Temple, speaks of the prayers of the people to be said at the Mikdash.
The Mishna in Yoma relates to eight berachot the Kohen Gadol would say after
reading the Torah in the Beit Mikdash on Yom HaKippurim; the Mishna in
Pesachim talks of the Hallel recited during Korban HaPesach, and the
Mishna in Tamid relates to the Psalms said on a daily basis in the Beit
Mikdash, to list but a few examples.
Additionally, to supplement our textual proofs, we could argue that Tefilla
and Korbanot are two entirely different forms of Avodat Hashem. Tefilla is
praying to God – opening up one’s heart to the King of Kings, whereas
sacrificial offerings are an active expression of our devotion rather than a
verbal expression of commitment and dedication. How can Tefilla possibly
replace Korban, and conversely, how can Korban be in place of Tefilla?
Surely our Patriarchs prayed to Hashem as well as offering Korbanot?
With these questions in mind, let us return to the words of R.Yehoshua Ben
Levi, and try to understand exactly what he is trying to teach us.
We have two possibilities:
1. It is possible the Gemara is specifically referring to the Shemona Esreh.
After the destruction of the first Beit Mikdash, the Amida was instituted in
place of the daily sacrifices, and this continued even during Second Temple
Tefillot were an integral part of Avodat Hashem both before and during the
times of the Beit HaMikdash; however once the Mikdash was destroyed, and the
people became dispersed and naturally less learned, there was a need to
incorporate Tefilla into Jewish life in a much more structured fashion.
Hence Tefilla cannot replace Korban, in that the former is verbal
expression, and the latter an active expression of dedication. However, once
korbanot are no longer a part of our daily routine, the spontaneous element
of Tefilla was replaced by a more rigorous, structured form. This
compensates for the lack of active expression in our new exilic existence,
and thus Tefilla ‘replaces’ korbanot.
2. Alternatively, we could suggest the Talmud is not actually talking about
the concept of Tefilla per se but rather about the institution of fixed
times for prayer. Perhaps Chazal wanted to connect people outside
Yerushalayim to the ongoing daily activities taking place in the Beit
HaMikdash. Tefillot were thus fixed at times of regular Mikdash sacrifices
in order to create an intrinsic bond between Am Yisrael’s daily Tefillot and
the ongoing Avoda in the Beit Mikdash.
I think the Rambam alludes to both possibilities in the first chapter of
In Halacha 3, he explains that in its ideal and initial form, Tefilla was
very much a personal issue. Each person was obliged to pray, but they would
choose what to say and how long to pray for. Indeed, some would pray once a
day, others would pray numerous times. Everyone would pray towards the
Mikdash irrespective of where they were actually standing. This was the
reality from the time of Moshe Rabbeinu until the time of Ezra.
In Halacha 4 he explains that after the destruction of the First Temple, the
Jewish people were dispersed among the nations and consequently assimilated.
Few Jews of the following generation were able to express themselves
adequately in Hebrew; there was both a lack of clarity and direction in the
developing form of Jewish prayer. We reached a stage where we could no
longer rely on the layman spontaneously turning to Hashem and praying in the
correct manner. Hence Ezra and his Beit Din structured the Shemona Esreh, a
fixed group of prayers in Hebrew that would enable every member of Am
Yisrael to pray as they should.
In Halachot 5 and 6 the Rambam notes Ezra’s decree that the number of times
a person prays each day should be parallel to the times of the daily
Korbanot in the Beit Mikdash.
The Rambam clearly prefers our second suggestion, explaining that Ezra
synchronized the times of the daily prayers to run parallel to the
sacrificial activities in the Mikdash.
It is clear from the Rambam that Tefillot do not literally replace
sacrifices. The times and number of Tefillot were fixed on the basis of the
daily Temple routine.
This brief study is crucial to our overall understanding of Avodat Hashem.
There are different forms of serving God and each and every one of them is
crucial in its own right.
We need Tefilla; we need our dialogue with the Almighty, and we need
sacrifices; the active experience of ascending the mountain of Hashem.
When we pray to God, we open our hearts and express our innermost feelings
of love and fear to the Almighty. Prayer enables us to thrice daily realign
ourselves with our mission in life. Each time we open up the siddur and pray
we are reminded of what our priorities should be, and we are often shocked
at the par between the ideal and our reality.
I may well have left an incredibly important business meeting to run to
Mincha, but as thoughts of a big financial deal race through my mind, I am
instantly reminded of Teshuva, Geula, Yerushalayim, Beit Mikdash, and of
peace for Am Yisrael. What are the dollars of a big financial transaction
really worth in comparison to the notion of peace for our people? In the
midst of the issues of ‘this world’ I am redirected to the path of Hashem. I
need to do this thrice daily whether there is a Beit Mikdash or not.
Even once the Mikdash is rebuilt speedily in our days, I will need to make a
living, bring up children, and have Tefilla to keep my feet on the ground,
to direct me on the right path. When I think of thrice daily prayers, I
think of the phrase, ‘stop the world, I want to get off!’ The world is such
a busy place; there is so much going on all the time. If I do not take time
out every day, I run the danger of losing my way.
Our objective with Tefilla should be that as we enter the synagogue, we
leave the world. Cellular phones – off; beepers and iPods – shut down, and
minds turned on. We must be strict with ourselves and make sure we read our
prayers from the siddur, because for most of us the minute we close our eyes
to pray, our minds begin to wander. Prayer is such a gift; the ability to
turn to the Almighty, the ability to realign; it is not a replacement for
anything. It is an ideal.
Oh, but to bring a sacrifice to Yerushalayim! To go through the necessary
process of purification, to prepare the family to go up to the Holy City
together; to enter the walls of Yerushalayim and see the Kohanim busy with
their chores, to bring my sacrifice to the Kohen and to experience the total
spiritual atmosphere... this is an active experience! I pray to the King
thrice daily, but when I visit Yerushalayim I envelop myself in a spiritual
atmosphere that is so much more intense, so pure.
The Heavenly world descends to Yerushalayim, to the Beit HaMikdash. The
natural world ceases to exist, and a world of Godliness and miracles
surrounds me. To bring a sacrifice is not some pagan act of killing animals,
for if it were then the castigation of Yeshayahu and so many other prophets
would be both unfair and misplaced. No, to bring a sacrifice involves much
preparation, and the offering is only part of the whole process that
essentially brings the mere human to the contemporary ‘burning bush.’ Just
as Moshe Rabbeinu stood in awe at that magnificent sight all those years
ago; just as Am Yisrael stood at Har Sinai basking in the breathtaking
revelation of Almighty God Himself, so we aspire to bring a sacrifice to the
Tefilla cannot replace such an awe-inspiring experience. Can reading about
Hevron compare to being there? Can reading about Israel in the Tenach
replace living here? And can learning about the Kohen Gadol coming out of
the Holy of Holies on Yom HaKippurim be as good as seeing it with your own
eyes? Can sitting within the walls of Yerushalayim waiting for nightfall
together with the entire people of Israel on Erev Pesach possibly be
compensated by a prayer?
Once our Beit Mikdash returns, our entire Jewish calendar will be a
different reality, and we will truly realize we need both these forms of
Avodat Hashem – Tefilla and korbanot.
The Tefillot will define and refine us, and the Korbanot will enthuse and
infuse us – bimheira beyameinu!
 See Melachim Alef, 8.
 Yoma 7:1.
 Pesachim 5:7.
 Tamid 7:4.