In this post, I give a general description of the steps involved in doing an animal-offering. After the prior posts about the Korbanot, this one might be a little less comfortable to read.  But I hope it can serve as a reference and educational resource on this topic.

     “Jewish” sacrifices can’t be discussed fully without reference to the layout of the Mishkan. To help yourself imagine how it was done, use the diagram of the Mishkan (which, for the purposes of discussing sacrifices, was the same as the Temples) as a reference for how and where the various steps occurred.

     For a larger view, you can click on the image, or go to a previous post of mine. [1] To return to the text, click on your “back” arrow (points left).

     Although the procedure could vary, depending on the type of korban being offered, the proper performance of each step contributed toward its validity, which was absolutely vital: Our health, abundance and security – and that of the entire world – utterly depended on it (as the recitation of “רצה” in Temple and synagogue liturgy shows).  Therefore, each step had to be done with profound care and precision.  A basic “outline” could include:

1. Ha’k’rah’vah [הקרבה] – Owner brings the sacrificial animal to the entrance on the East side of the Mishkan (later of the Temple), declares what type of korban it is, and leads it to the correct place near the altar. For example, if it was an “olah” – a “burnt offering” – it was brought to the North side. (Lev. 1:3)

2. S’mi’chah [סמיכה] – Owner stands with his animal on the North side of the altar, facing Westward (i.e. towards the Tent of Meeting), places his hands between the animal’s horns, presses down firmly and does confession and prayer. (Lev. 1:4)

3. Sh’chi’tah [שחיטה] – Owner, a kohen or anyone else properly trained in the procedure, slices the throat of the animal with surgical precision. The resulting rapid, extreme loss of blood causes the animal to quickly become unconscious, thereby feeling no pain during the subsequent steps in the procedure. (Lev. 1:5)

4. Ka’ba’lah [קבלה] – Kohen receives the blood in a “mizrak” [מזרק] (bowl).

5. Ho’la’chah [הולכה] – The Kohen brings the mizrak to the Mizbeach ha-N’cho’shet (the “brass” altar).

6. Z’ri’kah [זריקה] – Kohen sprinkles blood on the corner of the altar appropri-ate for the particular type of korban, pouring the remainder out at the base. (Lev. 1:5)

7. Ha’f’shah’tah [הפשטה] – Kohen removes the animal’s skin. (Lev. 1:6)

 8. Ni’tu’ach [ניתוח] – Kohen  sections the animal’s remains. (Lev. 1:6)

9. Ah’ri’chat ha-Ae’vo’rim [עריכת האברים] – Kohen arranges the sections of the animal in the order in which they’ll be brought to the altar.  (Lev. 1:8)

10. Rach’tzah [רחצה] – Kohen washes animal’s innards and legs. (Lev. 1:9)

11. Ki’dush Ya’da’yim v’Rag’la’yim [קדוש ידים ורגלים] – Kohen washes his hands and feet in water from the kiyor, before ascending the altar. (Ex. 30:19-20)

12. Ha’k’ta’rah [הקטרה] – Kohen places the animal’s sections on the fire. (Lev. 1:8-9)

13. Min’chah [מנחה] – Kohen mixes flour with oil and places it in the fire. (Num. 28:5)

14. Neh’sehch [נסך] – Kohen pours wine out at the base of the altar. (Num. 28:7)

15. Ah’chi’lah [אכילה] – Kohen eats the meat in the Heichal/”Holy Place,” depending on the type of korban. Some korbanot could be eaten elsewhere. [2]

     For the “Korban Tamid” — ” the perpetual offering” given in the morning and evening, the Kohen would also enter the Tent/Temple (after washing hands and feet) and burn incense on the Golden Incense Altar, facing towards the parochet that separated the Holy Place (the Heichal) from the “Holy of Holies.” He’d then return outside and complete the offering.

     Notice that there isn’t a lot of random motion. This was carefully “choreo-graphed” (as it were), and done with a lot of emotional restraint. There’s a very “egalitarian” quality about it: there’s no distinction between what the rich person and the poor person do (however much this was to change in later centuries). I’m almost reminded of “surgery.” Note also that G-d doesn’t ask for more than this, either. Torah doesn’t say: “Sacrifice one bull each morning and evening for now, but later, when you have more, make it one hundred.” It’s our hearts that G-d wants more of; not our animals or produce.

     The description of the steps might seem jarringly graphic (although less so than many of the movies we routinely watch these days). But having a clear mental image of the steps makes it much more real — in the same way that Norman Mailer’s use of detail in a novel like “Ancient Evenings” strengthens the reality of the scenes he’s describing. 

     The stronger the emotional impact the image has, the stronger the emo-tional impact the meaning of the image will have, too.

     That meaning — our profound re-harmonization with the Divine — is the very heart of Torah and of all that’s associated with it. That pretty much includes everything that we do.

(Next post: The meaning of the word “Korban” according to Maimonides).


[2] based on (see: “Temple Studies”; Components and Procedure of the Avodah); also The Korban Olah; C.I.S. Publications