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What replaced animal sacrifices in Jewish practice?


Question: What replaced animal sacrifices in Jewish practice?

Answer: Prayer has taken the place of sacrifices in Jewish practice. Hosea 14:3 reads, "Take with you words, and turn to the Lord. Say to Him, forgive all iniquity and receive us graciously, so we will offer the words of our lips instead of calves."

In some ways, Jewish prayer services parallel the ancient sacrificial practices. The extra service on the Jewish Sabbath, for example, parallels the extra Shabbat offering.

Even in Biblical times when sacrifices were made, Jews saw repentance as the most important and sacrifice as the least important way to gain forgiveness from God.

Few sins required animal sacrifice. According to the Torah, forgiveness for an intentional sin could only be atoned for through repentance, not through an animal sacrifice (Psalms 32:5, 51:16-19). Animal sacrifices were only prescribed for unintentional sins (Leviticus 4:2, 13, 22, 27; 5:5, 15 and Numbers 15:30). The one exception was when an individual who was accused of theft swore falsely in an effort to gain acquittal (Leviticus 5:24-26).

Furthermore, sacrifices could not make amends for a crime unless the person making the offering sincerely repented before making the sacrifice and made restitution to any person harmed by the sin.

In addition, sacrifices could only be made in the Temple, while prayers could be recited anywhere. Upon completion of the building of the Holy Temple, King Solomon asked that prayer be used by those away from the Temple to obtain forgiveness (I Kings 8:46-50). Even during the time of the Temple, synagogues were used for prayer.

Thus, even in Biblical times, prayer and repentance were important means to atonement. Today Jews no longer practice animal sacrifice, but they gain forgiveness from God via prayer, repentance and good deeds.

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