The God Squad: The altar of burnt offerings — Part I

Rabbi Marc Gellman, Tribune Content Agency on

When the Romans destroyed the Temple in the year 70, they also destroyed biblical Judaism. If it were not for the rabbis who invented rabbinic Judaism, our faith would have disappeared.

The key move of rabbinic Judaism was the substitution of animal sacrifices with prayers. The morning sacrifice, the shaharit, was replaced by the morning shaharit prayer. The afternoon grain offering, the minha, was replaced by the afternoon prayer and so on.

The truth is that long before the Roman armies of Titus ended forever the practice of sacrificing animals prophets like Isaiah spoke out against animal sacrifices.

Listen to the power of Isaiah 1:11-17:

“I am sick of your sacrifices. Don’t bring me any more of them. I don’t want your fat rams. I don’t want to see the blood from your offerings. Who wants your sacrifices when you have no sorrow for your sins? The incense you bring me is a stench in my nostrils. Your holy celebrations all are frauds!

In the spirit of the prophets, the rabbis did try to preserve the sacrificial spirit of biblical Judaism. For example, they preserved the biblical commandment of the meiser, which is a commandment to give away a 10th of your gross income. Christians call this tithing oneself.

I buried many Jews who lived a life of sacrifice.

The man who rented a coal bin at his apartment so he could save all his wages and bring his family over from the old country.

The woman who never ate any part of the chicken except the wings so that one chicken could feed her entire family.


The woman who when she made a pot of beans and meat (called cholent) before the Sabbath would cook an extra pot for a poor family.

The woman whose husband was stricken with Alzheimer’s and could not drive safely. To protect his dignity, she drove him to work and picked him up every day for over 20 years. It prevented her from working or traveling or having a normal social life, and it was a daily sacrifice for her. That woman was my mother.

Let us remember the words of Psalm 43:3-4:

Send forth Your light and Your truth; they will lead me; they will bring me to Your holy mountain, to Your dwelling-place, that I may come to the altar of God, God, my delight, my joy; that I may praise You with the stringed instrument, O God, my God (elohim elohai).

Elohim elohai…O God My God. Let the altar of sacrifice burn in our souls forever.


(Send ALL QUESTIONS AND COMMENTS to The God Squad via email at Rabbi Gellman is the author of several books, including “Religion for Dummies,” co-written with Fr. Tom Hartman.)

©2021 The God Squad. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.




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