Will We Bring Animal Sacrifices in the 3rd Temple?
How Should We Evaluate Vegetarianism Now?
Maimonides presents the principles of the faith in his commentary on the Mishnah, “the Book of the Lamp" (In its original Arabic:"Kitab al-Siraj”; Hebrew translation “Sefer HaMaor” or “Peirush HaMishnayot.”). In the introduction to the 10th chapter of Sanhedrin, Maimonides lists the 13 Principles of the Faith. He asserts that “Anyone who doubts even one of these has exited the category of Israel”:
The Ninth Fundamental Principle is the authenticity of the Torah, i.e., that this Torah was precisely transcribed from God and no one else. To the Torah, oral and written, nothing must be added nor anything taken from it, as is said, “You must neither add nor detract” (Deut. 13:1).We have already sufficiently explained this principle in our introduction to this Commentary on the Mishnah. (trans. Maimonides Heritage Center, mhcny).
Commentary on Mishnah
The Torah has been literally instructed by the Creator, by no one else.
The Torah is G-d’s permanent word, and no one else can change it. Nothing can be added to or subtracted from either the Written Torah or the Oral Torah. The Torah says, “Thus you shall not add to it, nor subtract from it.”
Popularizations of this principle appear in the daily prayerbook, as listed in “Best Jewish Studies” compiled by Prof. Rabbi Ahron Daum:
אֲנִי מַאֲמִין בֶּאֱמוּנָה שְׁלֵמָה, שֶׁזּאת הַתּורָה לא תְהֵא מֻחְלֶפֶת וְלא תְהֵא תורָה אַחֶרֶת מֵאֵת הַבּורֵא יִתְבָּרַךְ שְׁמו.
I believe with with perfect faith that this Torah will not be changed, and that there will never be another Torah given by G-d.
לֹא יַחֲלִיף הָאֵל וְלֹא יָמִיר דָּתוֹ. לְעוֹלָמִים, לְזוּלָתוֹ:
G-d will not replace nor change His Law for all time, for anything else.
Note: This principle has clear polemical value. It obviates the claims of Christianity and Islam, specifically, that later revelation has superseded the Torah. It inoculates the Jewish world against future enthusiasts. It may fit Maimonides definition of a “necessary belief.”
Does it also fit his definition of a “true belief”?
Maimonides argues for the principle on purely logical grounds: “’The Torah of the Lord is perfect’ 9 Psalms 19:8), and a perfect thing cannot be the subject of any additions or deletions. Therefore it is impossible for it ever to change” (Guide 2:39).
Don Yitzhak Abarbanel (or Abravanel), in his Rosh Amanah (Principles of Faith), raises objections to the principle:
It is still possible that there might be a change in it in terms of its recipient. I mean to say that God might add to, or subtract from, or change the Torah at some time, either in its totality or in part, in accordance with what is best for its recipients. Have we not seen that He gave Adam special commandments, and did not permit him to eat meat, while he gave Noah other commandments and permitted him (to eat) meat? He gave the commandment of circumcision to Abraham and added many other commandments to Moses since divine laws change according to [the needs of the] time and in accordance with what is best for the recipients? (translation by Menachem Marc Kellner 67).
Abarbanel undermines Maimonides’ proof text by noting that “you shall not add to it nor detract from it” (Deut. 13:1) “only admonishes us to add or to detract from the commandments on our own authority. But what is to stop God from adding to or detracting from the commandments?” (68).
Abarbanel cites Rav Hisdai Crescas who proposes that the Torah could be perfect, and yet could be changed to a different, but equally perfect, Torah (120).
Abarbanel marshals arguments which he considers definitive in supporting the Maimonidean principle that the Torah will never change.
Abarbanel notes several Midrashic texts that clearly predict change in the Torah in the future:
From Vayikra Rabbah: “All the holidays are destined to be abrogated except Purim and the Day of Atonement” based on Jeremiah 23:7-8.
From the Midrash Tanhuma: “Why is the pig called hazir [apparently from the root h.z.r which means ‘to return’]? Because in the future God will return it [ha-haziro] to Israel.”
Another similar example appears in Vayikra Rabbah: “All the sacrifices are destined to be abrogated except the Thanksgiving offering” (27:12 and Midrash Soher Tov to Psalms 56). This example seems directly to anticipate a world with fewer sacrifices than the Torah currently commands.
Marc Shapiro devotes a chapter of his book, The Limits of Orthodox Theology: Maimonides’ Thirteen Principles Reappraised, to authorities who question or deny the principle of Maimonides that the Torah will never change.
Note the opinion: "There is no difference between this world and the days of the Messiah except [that in the latter there will be no] bondage of foreign powers" - b. Talmud, Berakhot, 34b and elsewhere. In Shabbat 151b, the Talmud contrasts this opinion with that of R. Shimon ben Elazar: “‘until the days come when you will say “I have no desire in them”’ (Kohelet 12) refers to the days of the Messiah, when there is neither merit nor guilt.”
Consider the two alternatives. First, R. Shimon ben Elazar believes there will no longer be the opportunity to observe commandments or to transgress. Will we then offer sacrifices, as the Torah commands, or will we then not have the opportunity, or need, to offer sacrifices?
Second, Samuel believes that we will still perform mitsvot in the days of the Messiah. The order of the world will not miraculously change. Will we have the Temple and sacrifices restored?
Maimonides clearly thinks so. In the Mishneh Torah, he rules according to Samuel; but in The Laws of Kings and their Wars 11:1, Maimonides explains that the Messiah will restore the Temple and reinstate sacrifices. In the laws of Meilah (Misuse of Sacred Materials) 8:8, Maimonides quotes the ancient rabbis on the central importance of the sacrifices. And this position seems entirely consistent with his own Ninth Principle, that the Torah has not, and will not, change.
Our prayer book calls on us to reiterate the request that we will once again offer all the sacrifices in the future. You can easily see this in the formulae of Korbanot in each morning service, and in the Musaf on every Rosh Hodesh or festival.
Maimonides himself, however, offers a seemingly contradictory account for the origin and function of sacrifices. In the Guide of the Perplexed, he explains that sacrifices in the Torah exist as an elaborate stratagem on the part of the Creator to wean us away from idolatrous sacrifices (3:32, 46). Maimonides articulates a gradualist conviction that nothing in nature tolerates swift transitions. Babies must drink soft foods before they can chew plants and animals. So too, people in antiquity could not understand a religious practice without sacrifices. The Torah restricts sacrifices in place, to the Temple, and restricts who may offer sacrifices to the Kohanim, and occasions on which we may offer sacrifices, to when we are ritually prepared (Tahor). In the Guide, Maimonides clearly implies that we have outgrown sacrifice.
Ramban strenuously objects to this account of the origin and use of sacrifice. For Ramban (see his comments on Lev. 1:9), a human who brings a sacrifice vividly experiences what ought to happen to him or herself, and so comes to reevaluate his relationship with God.
Rabbi Ari Zivotovsky, in an article devoted to debunking the idea that major Torah thinkers anticipate a world without sacrifices, nonetheless admits some exceptions:
Despite all that has been said, there are rabbinic authorities (none of whom were the stature of Rambam or Rav Kook) who suggest that animal sacrifices might not be reinstated in the days of the Third Temple. The Ashkenazic Rabbi Simcha Paltrovitch (d. 1926; Simchat Avot [New York, 1917], 7-8) says that while the Torah can never be changed, instead of actual sacrifices, those sections of the Torah dealing with korbanot will be interpreted via “remez” or “sod.” Alternatively, he suggests that in the seventh millennium there will be a Messianic period where animal sacrifice will be reinstated; however, in the eighth millennium there will be a more rarified period where animal sacrifice will not be practiced. As part of a long list of potential “changes” in halachah, the Moroccan Rabbi Yosef Messas (d. 1974; Otzar Hamichtavim, vol. 2, no. 1305, 249-251) suggests, based on Rambam, that it is possible to say that in the future there won’t be animal sacrifices, or that there will only be the Korban Todah (an animal sacrifice). Rabbi Chaim Hirschensohn, from Bayonne, New Jersey, and a brother-in-law of Rabbi Zvi Pesach Frank, also envisions a Third Temple without animal sacrifices (Malki Bakodesh, vol. 6 [Jerusalem, 1928], 96 and elsewhere). He has a novel explanation for the origin of sacrifices and it was to him that Rav Kook wrote the letter (cited in Iggrot HaReiyah) explicitly stating that there will be sacrifices. For more about Rabbi Hirschensohn’s position on sacrifices (Vayikra Rabbah 9:7), see Marc Shapiro, The Limits of Orthodox Theology (Oxford, 2011), 128-130 and online: http://seforim.blogspot.co.il/2010/04/marc-shapiro-r-kook-on-sacrifices-other.html.
However, I once had the privilege of asking a major talmid hakham whether he thought we would bring animal sacrifices in the 3rd Temple. I will not use his name here (no, not R. Eliezer Cohen) because I did not ask his permission to share his opinion. His reply: “Of course not.”
I conclude this discussion with the stirring words of Yeshayahu HaNavi: “Even those I will bring to my holy mountain and make them joyful in my house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be acceptable on my altar; For My house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples" (56:7).
At first glance, vegetarianism appears to present no issues in halakhah. Although the laws of kashrut permit meat, we have no obligation to eat everything kosher.
Surprisingly, R. J. David Bleich published a concerted attack on vegetarianism in Tradition. Rabbi Bleich objected to vegetarianism for several reasons, but primarily for adopting an autonomous higher standard in place of the heteronomous halakhah.
In the ensuing months, R. Bleich mitigated his stance by explaining that he had no objections to vegetarianism for health reasons, nor for stringent standards of kashrut. He objected primarily to acting upon ethical or moral sensitivities apart from the Torah.
Another argument supporting meat eating appears in the Talmud, specifically in regard to the joy of the festivals: “there is no joy but with meat and wine.” However, the Talmud concludes that this statement applies to the meat and wine of sacrifices (Pesahim 109a). Nowadays, in the absence of sacrifices, we experience the joy of the festivals with “what is appropriate: wine for men, clothing and jewelry for women, and snacks for children.”
The claim that the pleasure of Shabbat should include meat eating also falls on closer analysis. (R. Nachman Levine tells me that the late Lubavitcher Rebbe quoted his father to the effect that there is no requirement to eat meat on Shabbat in any source. The decisors only mention meat-eating as an example of a possible luxury appropriate for Shabbat. However, one exception: on Shabbat Hazon, failing to eat meat might give the impression of mourning on Shabbat.)
In the rebuilt Temple, however, if the same laws apply as they did in the first two Temples (as Rambam insists they would), kohanim would be required to eat the meat of several varieties of sacrifices, and other Jews would have to eat the meat of the Paschal sacrifice. Other Jews would also have occasion to eat meat if and when we bring a Thanksgiving offering or a Peace offering (Korban Shelamim).
I used to ask candidates for conversion if they would eat from the Paschal offering, were the opportunity to arise in their day. Did their commitment to halakhah outweigh their commitment to vegetarianism? This, however, remains a highly theoretical question at the present time.
Themes in favor of vegetarianism also exist in classical Judaism. A close reading of the biblical text supports the Midrashic observation that Adam and Eve and their descendants were forbidden to eat meat, and the prohibition was lifted only after the family of Noah left the ark. The tradition does not assert that anyone actually followed the law requiring vegetarianism; only that the law demanded vegetarianism. One could reasonably draw from this Midrash the conclusion that vegetarianism applies in the ideal, Edenic paradise, and that we should look forward to a vegetarian future.
Another support for the picture of Edenic vegetarianism comes from a literal reading of the vision of the prophet Yeshayahu that “the wolf will lie with the lamb,” (11:6) and “the lion will eat grass like cattle” (65:25).
Support for vegetarianism can also come from the prohibition on causing unneeded pain to animals (Tsaar Baalei Hayyim). The Talmud records a dispute about whether this qualifies as a Torah or rabbinic prohibition (Bava Metsiah 32b; Hulin 115b).
Despite the prohibition on causing pain to animals, the Torah permits slaughtering animals for food “whenever you feel a strong desire to eat meat” (Devarim 12:20). Emphasize “whenever,” and this ambiguous phrase seems to mean a general endorsement of eating meat: “whenever you feel like.” Emphasize “avat nafshekah = you have a strong desire” and it seems to mean “only when you feel a kind of lust.” (Errico-Nagar reports that Rabbi Solovietchik took that second approach: you may eat meat only when you have a lust for meat.).
Someone who does not feel a great desire for meat, and does not need meat medically, may not have a need for meat which overcomes the prohibition on causing pain.
Modern factory farms may compound that problem. Simply raising animals under current conditions may qualify as unneeded harm to animals.
Feeding animals antibiotics to stimulate faster growth may also have health and environmental consequences which have halakhic significance.
Abravanel, Isaac. Principles of Faith (Rosh Amanah). Trans. Menachem Marc Kellner. (East Brunswick, NJ; London, Toronto: Associated University Presses, Littman Library, 1982).
Bleich, Rabbi J. David. "Vegetarianism and Judaism," Tradition, Vol. 23, No. 1 (Summer, 1987).
Errico-Nagar, David. “Vegetarianism and Judaism: The Rav’s Radical View” Kol HaMevaser, Feb. 7, 2012.
Schwartz, Richard. Judaism and Vegetarianism, Lantern Books, 2001 (New Revised Edition). Thorough analysis of the Jewish case for vegetarianism. Schwartz has many more publications on this topic.
Shapiro, Marc. The Limits of Orthodox Theology: Maimonides’ Thirteen Principles Reappraised. (Oxford: Oxford UP, 2004), 8:122-131.
Zivotofsky, Ari. “What’s the Truth about . . . the Korbanot?” Jewish Action: The Magazine of the Orthodox Union. December 1, 2014.