Korban – To Draw Close
“When any of you presents an offering…”
– Leviticus 1:2, NJPS
“As an olah is an offering that “rises” towards G’d in its entirety, since the whole of the animal is being offered on the altar, so is prayer an offering of the heart which rises toward Heaven in its entirety.” – Akeidas Yitzchak on Leviticus 1:2
The Hebrew word for offering is korban. The shoresh (root word) of korban is KRV, meaning “to draw near.” Therefore, the act of bringing an offering has the connotation of drawing near to H’Shem. According to Akeidas Yitzchak, the olah offering, in particular, represents prayer from the heart, because the olah completely ascends to H’Shem. Therefore, in like manner that the entire animal brought as an olah offering is consumed on the mizbeach (altar), so too, it can be said, that our prayers of the heart ascend entirely to G-d.
Interestingly enough, the name associated with the korbanot is YHVH, the name that denotes H’Shem’s Attribute of Mercy. Since the korban is not associated with the name, Elokim that represents the Attribute of Justice, the implication is that an offering permits us to draw near to H’Shem, because of His mercy towards us. Although the world was first created with the Attribute of Justice, denoted by the name Elokim (the name of G-d that first appears in the Creation narrative), later, the name YHVH appears, because the world could not survive without Mercy (see Rashi, Genesis 1:1). H’Shem’s Attribute of mercy makes an allowance for reconciliation through atonement, by way of a korban.
Today, even without the Beis HaMikdash where offerings were brought to H’Shem, we may still rely on H’Shem’s mercy. We may even bring our own offerings to Him, in a sense, by committing to the performance of good deeds, and doing tikkun hanefesh (the rectification of the soul). By devoting ourselves to H’Shem, we, ourselves, in certain sense may become an offering. So, in consideration of making ourselves an offering, may our prayers arise like sweet-smelling incense, and find favor with H’Shem.
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