How One Jewish Sage Explains the Lack of Sacrifice
Since the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 C.E.and a place for sacrifice was not possible, rabbis sought to explain away the need for the Biblical sacrificial system.
Moses Maimonides (1135-1204) is thought to be one of the greatest Jewish philosophers of all time and his writings have had a profound influence on Jewish thought. Below is Maimonides’ explanation of sacrifices, taken from The Guide for the Perplexed translated by M. Friedlander (London, Dover Publications, 1881, parts one to three, page 325):
As the sacrificial service is not the primary object of the commandments about sacrifice and whilst supplications, prayers and similar kinds of worship are nearer to the primary object, and indispensable for obtaining it, a great difference was made in the Law between these two kinds of service. The one kind, which consists in offering sacrifices, although the sacrifices are offered to God, has not been made obligatory for us to the same extent as it had been before. We were not commanded to sacrifice in every place, and in every time, or to build a temple in every place, or to permit any one who desires so to become a priest and to offer sacrifices. On the contrary, all this is prohibited to us. Only one temple has been appointed, in the place which the Lord shall choose” (Deut. 12:26); in no other place is it allowed to sacrifice (comp. ‘Take heed to thyself, that thou offer not thy burnt-offerings in every place that thou seest’ (Deut.12:13); likewise, only the members of a particular family were allowed to officiate as priests.
All these restrictions served to limit this kind of worship, and keep it within those bounds within which God did not think it necessary to abolish sacrificial service altogether. But prayer and supplication can be offered everywhere and by every person.
Because of this principle,…the prophets in their books are frequently found to rebuke their fellow men for being over-zealous and exerting themselves too much in bringing sacrifices. The prophets thus distinctly declared that the object of the sacrifices is not very essential, and that God does not require them. Samuel therefore said, “Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt-offerings as in obeying the voice of the Lord?” (1 Sam. 15:22) and Isaiah exclaimed, “To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me?, said the Lord.” (Isaiah 1:11)
Maimonides speaks very plausibly, very rationally, very succinctly, but could it be that he is merely making an excuse to avoid regarding the facts stated in the book of Hebrews:
“Therefore it was necessary for the copies of the things in the heavens to be cleansed with these, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ did not enter a holy place made with hands, a mere copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; nor was it that He should offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the holy place year by year with blood not his own. Otherwise, He would have needed to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now once at the consummation He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once, and after this comes judgment; so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, shall appear a second time, not to bear sin, to those who eagerly await Him, for salvation.”