In our previous article, we began exploring the unique nature of the mouth in Torah thought. On the most basic level, the mouth has three functions:
First, the mouth is the organ we use to eat and drink, which nourishes our bodies.
Second, the mouth is the organ we use in order to speak and communicate with others.
The third function, however, is the strangest of all. Across all continents, ethnicities, and cultures, the universal expression of love is kissing. We are all used to this concept, but if you were an alien from outer space visiting Planet Earth, and you were asked what the ideal form of affection would be, you might suggest rubbing cheeks or something of the sort. Kissing is simply strange, unsanitary, and illogical!
Fundamentally, though, we must ask a significant question. While the three functions of the mouth seem to be three completely separate activities, the Maharal explains that whenever an organ performs multiple functions, those functions are all deeply related. If this is true, then how are the three functions of the mouth – eating, speaking, and kissing – connected?
The answer, as we developed in our last article, is that all three of these functions are mechanisms of connection. Eating, speaking, and kissing all serve to connect two disparate parts together. To summarize:
Eating connects the physical body to the angelic soul.
Speaking connects people’s inner worlds together.
Kissing connects two physical bodies together, reflecting a deeper, internal form of connection and oneness.
Mishkan and Beis HaMikdash: The Mouth of the World
We can now understand, in the most profound way, why the Mishkan and the Beis HaMikdash serve as the “mouth” of the world. It is through this focal point that Hashem most potently connects to the physical world. It is therefore no surprise that the Mikdash serves the exact same three functions as the mouth, the organ of connection. Let us study the manifestations of this principle.
Just as our physical body needs to eat in order to maintain its connection to our spiritual soul, the physical world needs to “eat” in order to maintain its connection to the spiritual soul of the world, Hashem. The Gemara (B’rachos 10a) compares the relationship between body and soul to the relationship between Hashem and the physical world. Just as the neshamah is connected to our physical body, Hashem is connected to the physical world. Just as we have a mouth to maintain the connection between body and soul, the Beis HaMikdash is the “mouth,” the unique location through which Hashem maintains His connection to the physical world.
We can now understand korbanos, as well. The word “korban” comes from the word “karov” (to draw close). The Nefesh HaChayim (2:9) and Rabbi Yehudah HaLevi (HaKuzari 2:26) explain that korbanos are the “food” that fuels the connection between Hashem and the physical world (see also Z’vachim 13b). Just as we eat to connect our soul to our body, korbanos connect the spiritual to the physical. This explains why many of the details of the avodah (sacrificial service) have food-like connotations. The Mizbei’ach (the Altar where sacrifices were brought) is referred to as the “shulchan gavoah — the table of On High,” as if this is the table of eating. The Torah consistently refers to the korbanos as “lechem” (bread), as if the sacrifice is a meal. This also explains why we place salt on the korbanos, something that we have the custom to do at meals, particularly on Shabbos.
Nowadays, we no longer have korbanos, as the world is in a lower spiritual state. How then do we maintain the connection between Hashem and this world? What replaced the korbanos? As the Nefesh HaChayim explains, t’filah replaced korbanos (Nefesh HaChayim 2:9). When the means of eating could no longer be used, we now turn to the mode of speaking to create this connection. Prayer reflects a longing for closeness with Hashem; it is even referred to as “avodah she’ba’leiv” (the service of the heart). This is also why we face the Beis HaMikdash when we daven, as the connection we are building between Hashem and this world – through t’filah – stems from this focal point.
Just as people connect with each other through the mechanism of speech, Hashem spoke directly to the Jewish People specifically from the Beis HaMikdash. The pasuk (Sh’mos 25:22) explicitly says that Hashem will speak to Moshe from between the two Keruvim. The Keruvim were locked in an embrace of love, reflecting the love and connection between Hashem and klal Yisrael. The Gemara (Yoma 54b) explains how the Keruvim’s physical display mirrored the relationship between Hashem and the Jewish People. When our relationship with Hashem was close, the Keruvim faced each other; when we turned away from Hashem, the Keruvim turned away from each other, as well. The Keruvim served as both the physical location from where Hashem spoke with the Jewish People and a physical representation of the connection and level of closeness that Hashem and klal Yisrael shared.
The Beis HaMikdash is also where Hashem “kisses” the world. The Gemara (Bava Basra 74a) states that the Beis HaMikdash is where the heaven and earth kiss. In other words, this is the point where the infinite and spiritual meets and connects with the finite and physical. This is where Hashem most strongly connects to the physical world. It is the most potent concentration of connective energy between us and Hashem, where Hashem and klal Yisrael embrace in the ultimate closeness.
Yitzchak: Eating, Kissing, Speaking
This understanding of the Beis HaMikdash sheds light onto an interesting episode in B’reishis. When Yitzchak wanted to give Eisav the brachah of the firstborn, he utilized all three forms of connection: He asked Eisav to bring him food to eat, he kissed him, and he then wished to deliver the brachah through the medium of speech. This is because the prerequisite to giving Eisav a brachah, which would create a deep closeness between Eisav and Hashem, is a deep connection and closeness between the giver of the brachah, Yitzchak, and the recipient, Eisav. In order to build that closeness, Yitzchak wished to first utilize all three forms of connection.
No Korbanos during Mashiach
Returning to our original question, we can now explain why there will no longer be korbanos in the days of Mashiach. Korbanos bring us and the world closer to Hashem, ensuring that there is no separation between them. According to many opinions, the coming of Mashiach will usher in a reality in which both we and the physical world will be uplifted to a more angelic state (see Maharal, Netzach Yisrael, chap. 52; Ramchal, Daas Tevunos 52). Although there will still be aspects of the physical, we will no longer require korbanos in order to achieve a state of elevation and connection with Hashem. Mashiach will be a time of absolute connection and oneness.
[This may explain why the Midrash states that we will still bring the Korban Todah, the offering of thanksgiving. While a Korban Chatas atones for sins, in the times of Mashiach there will be no sins. Similarly, the other korbanos connect the physical to the spiritual; however, these may be unnecessary in the times of Mashiach, as well. The korban of thanksgiving, however, is not necessarily about creating the connection between the physical and spiritual but about recognizing the connection that already exists. Even in the times of Mashiach, we can be thankful and recognize this connection.
In a similar vein, Purim is the only holiday that will still be celebrated in the times of Mashiach (Midrash Mishlei 9:1), because it represents hidden miracles. In the times of Mashiach, all previous open miracles will be overshadowed by the miracles of Mashiach. The hidden miracles of Purim, however, will still be fully relevant and celebrated.]
Creating Connection in Our Own Lives
We all yearn for connection: to ourselves, to other people, and, of course, to Hashem. But connection is difficult; it requires time, patience, and constant effort. Genuine communication takes a lifetime to achieve. As displayed in the opening story, more often than not, it can be difficult to know what is going on in another person’s inner world, to understand what he or she is experiencing on a deep, existential level. Breaking through the infinite barriers between our inner worlds is truly a challenge. The same is true when it comes to us, as we struggle to achieve genuine self-awareness, to get in touch with our true selves. This all-encompassing mission takes a lifetime. The goal, though, is not to be connected, it’s to constantly become more and more connected. This is the journey of life, a journey of becoming, a never-ending process. May we be inspired to use these three forms of connection to experience genuine connection with ourselves, with others, and with Hashem.
Rabbi Shmuel Reichman is the author of the bestselling book, The Journey to Your Ultimate Self, which serves as an inspiring gateway into deeper Jewish thought. He is an international speaker, educator, and the CEO of Self-Mastery Academy. After obtaining his BA from Yeshiva University, he received s’micha from RIETS, a master’s degree in education, a master’s degree in Jewish Thought, and then spent a year studying at Harvard. He is currently pursuing a PhD at UChicago. To invite Rabbi Reichman to speak in your community or to enjoy more of his deep and inspiring content, visit his website: ShmuelReichman.com.