VAYIKRA opens with an explanation of the various korbanot. And like many other Hebrew words and ideas, the concept of a korban loses its true meaning and essence when translated into the English language. While some might mistakenly translate the term korban as “sacrifice” the word actually comes from the Hebrew root karov (near), indicating that a more literal translation into English might be “that which brings near.” Korbanot brought to the Mishkan (and later to the Temple in Jerusalem) essentially serve the purpose of enhancing a person’s overall closeness to the Divine.
VAYIKRA’s fourth aliyah specifically features the korban shlamim, which Sforno explains as korbanot voluntarily brought when one feels personally motivated to express gratitude to HaShem. This korban, brought from a sense of love and appreciation, is an expression of recognition for the Kadosh Barukh Hu’s constant generosity and eternal connection to the Children of Israel.
According to Rashi, the name shlamim is derived from the word Shalom, because the shlamim has the ability to increase peace in our world. Living in a generation without a Mishkan or Temple makes it difficult to understand how bringing korbanot – a seemingly primitive act by Western standards – could have any meaningful impact on the universe. When judged by the wrong yardstick, mitzvot like the ritual slaughter of animals can appear insignificant or even barbaric. But while Western thought measures things according to the present reality as perceived through our limited senses, Israel’s Torah views life according to the standard of our reality’s deeper inner workings, as well as where we understand the world to be heading. Only by viewing reality through a pure Hebrew lens can one attain the necessary vision to appreciate how each korban serves to release Divine energies that flow into this world and uplift Creation to a higher plane of existence.
Torah concepts of mitzvot, especially those pertaining to the Temple in Jerusalem, come from a higher dimension of reality that our world is meant to exist on and will certainly reach as history progresses towards a more advanced state. The individual stages that bring about this higher goal can only be perceived when one achieves a broader view of the amazing reality mankind is currently approaching. In order for a person to appreciate the significance of an individual piece of any given puzzle, he must first have an idea of what the entire picture should look like. Only then can he realize the necessity and value of each piece – each phase of the process leading up to the complete picture.
Each korban brought to the Temple in Zion has a ripple effect that adds incredible blessing to the world – curing diseases, alleviating suffering and influencing random acts of kindness across the globe. Jerusalem’s chain reaction of Divine goodness demonstrates how all of existence is connected at the source.
Korban Aharon supports Rashi’s understanding of the shlamim by explaining that the peace expressed through its name is the harmony between the heavenly world of the spirit and the earthly material world. Bringing a korban shlamim to the Temple works to unite the spiritual and material facets of existence. Israel is meant to serve as a national bridge between the holy and seemingly mundane spheres of life. The Jewish people is tasked with revealing kedusha in every aspect of this world in order to uplift existence to its highest potential. This Divine mission necessitates Israeli self-determination in Eretz Yisrael, as only by existing as an independent nation in our homeland can we reach and elevate every facet of life to its highest ideal. And only through a Hebrew Kingdom in the Land of Israel can we bring mankind to the awareness of HaShem as the timeless ultimate Reality without end that creates, sustains and empowers all with His love.
The Ramban offers a special explanation for the word shlamim, teaching that it is derived from the Hebrew word shleimut (completeness). He further explains that a person who brings this offering is not motivated by a need to atone for past sin, but rather by a sense of completeness and free-willed desire for universal perfection. He is not apologizing for any wrongdoing but expressing an idealistic drive to elevate the world. His service to HaShem stems from an active Torah that aspires him to revolutionize human civilization and bring history to completion. Instead of living an individual “Judaism” of personal reward and punishment, he is involved with a macro-level Torah of cosmic proportions that harmoniously connects him to all of Creation.
Due to the terrible persecution Israel suffered throughout nearly two thousand years of exile from our soil, many Jews have turned inward and developed a warped sense of our collective national mission. Some have come to genuinely believe that the goal of the Jewish people is to merely serve G-D quietly without distractions or the threat of outside aggression. The very concept of the korban shlamim clearly exposes the error of this perspective. The mission of the Hebrew Nation is to revolutionize the world, bringing it to perfection as determined by the Kadosh Barukh Hu. Israel is to serve as HaShem’s instrument in leading mankind to a lofty state of total blessing and everlasting peace incomprehensible to the leading thinkers of contemporary Western civilization.
Israel is to bring humankind to its highest state of universal perfection. If properly trained, we can learn to perceive the realization of this objective in our own generation through events bringing history closer to its ultimate goal. The redemption process is currently materializing with the rebirth of a sovereign Hebrew state in portions of our homeland, a still yet to be completed ingathering of our exiles and a spiritual revolution reacquainting many Jews with our Torah. After centuries of bitter oppression and exposure to external cultural influences, a decolonization of Jewish identity is taking place. Our generation has been Divinely chosen and blessed with the opportunity to participate in and contribute to the present stages of redemption – to recognize the miraculous developmental process unfolding and to facilitate the building of HaShem’s Divine Kingdom in our world.