As mentioned earlier, the word “Korban” [קרבן] comes from a Hebrew root that means to “draw near.” So, “bringing a ‘korban'” should mean drawing nearer to G-d. Right?

    Maimonides, usually called “(the) Rambam,” an acronym formed by the first letters of the words Rabbi Mosheh ben Maimon, strongly qualifies that under-standing: Because G-d is incorporeal, he says, we can’t “draw closer” to G-d, nor can G-d “draw closer” to us. We can physically draw closer to an idol, but not to a spiritual Being. Physical concepts simply don’t apply to a Being with no physical qualities.

     “…the Supreme is incorporeal, and consequently…does not approach or draw near a thing, nor can [anything] approach or touch Him;…when a being is without corporeality, it cannot occupy space, and all idea of approach, contact, distance, conjunction, separation, touch, or proximity is inapplicable…” [1]

     He says that we can, however, “approach” G-d spiritually, in terms of our knowledge and experience of the Divine. He argues his point with reference to other places in TaNaCh where the root KRB [קרב] is clearly used that way:

     “There can be no doubt respecting the verses “The Lord is near (קרב) to all them that call upon Him” (Ps. 145:18); “They take delight in approaching (קרבת) G-d” (Isa. 58:2); “The nearness (קרבת) of G-d is pleasant to me” (Ps. 72:28); all such phrases intimate a spiritual approach, i.e., the attainment of some know-ledge, not, however, approach in space [italics mine]. Thus also “who has G-d so near (קרובים) to him” (Deut. 4:7); “Draw near (קרב) and hear” (Deut. 5:27)…” [2]

     By “knowledge,” he of course does not mean the accumulation of ideas alone. Instead, he is saying that as a result of the deep contemplation of these ideas, we can come to a “personal knowledge” — a direct, personal experience — of the Reality of the Divine. “Nearness” would then best express our cognitive experience, rather than a fact about G-d.

     This is very similar to “Jnana Yoga” — a practice involving the contemplation of certain ideas and relating them to everyday life:

     “[On the intellectual path to G-d-realization] Discrimination, or the power of the intellect, is the vehicle which enables [one] to advance on the path of knowledge… ” [3]

     For Maimonides, then, bringing a “Korban”/[קרבן] was simply the outer ex-pression of an inner change in our ideas, our perception and our conscious-ness. This brings us back to the awareness of G-d that Torah describes as  originally intended for us in Eden. As I wrote about in my post on “Vayikra”:

     “…our chance to recapture Adam and Havah’s ideal state of mind in Eden – is to alter our thinking, to “remember” the reality of G-d’s Presence…” [4]

     Using contemporary idioms, we could say that bringing a “Korban” should bring us back to our “center,” or place us back in “the zone.” Yet, simply knowing this doesn’t necessarly bring it about. To alter our consciousness, Maimonides tells us to change our fundamental thoughts about G-d. This is the “intellectual” approach. There are others.

     The detail that we find in Torah and Talmud as to how sacrifices were done, could then be fairly compared to the attention to detail in ballet, or other arts. The best art might be the most “inspired,” but that’s almost always preceded by prolonged, sustained attention to detail. Likewise sacrifices were best done with great delicacy and precision but, as Maimonides emphasizes, also with incrementally greater “knowledge” of G-d.


[1] Maimonides; Moreh N’vuchim; (Friedlander edition), p. 28 (The title is often translated as “Guide for the Perplexed,” but might better be: “Guide for the Confused,” as it’s our misunderstanding that Maimonides is addressing.)
[2] ibid.
[3] Maharishi Mahesh Yogi; The Science of Being and the Art of Living (1963 ed.); p. 283
[5] As I’ve mentioned Maimonides, and it’s impossible to ignore what’s still going on in Japan, I’ve added his “8 Degrees of Tzedakah/Charity” here:
1. Giving an interest-free loan to a person in need; forming a partnership with a person in need; giving a grant to a person in need; finding a job for a person in need; so long as that loan, grant, partnership, or job results in the person no longer living by relying upon others.
2. Giving tzedakah anonymously to an unknown recipient via a person (or public fund) which is trustworthy, wise, and can perform acts of tzedakah with your money in a most impeccable fashion.
3. Giving tzedakah anonymously to a known recipient.
4. Giving tzedakah publicly to an unknown recipient.
5. Giving tzedakah before being asked.
6. Giving adequately after being asked.
7. Giving willingly, but inadequately.
8. Giving “in sadness” – it is thought that Maimonides was referring to giving because of the sad feelings one might have in seeing people in need (as opposed to giving because it is a religious obligation; giving out of pity). based on:
Maimonides; Mishneh Torah; Hilkhot Matanot Aniyim (Laws about Giving to Poor People), Chapter 10:7-14