Although the Rambam’s commentary to Seder Kodshim made it easier for people to understand the laws of Korbanos, the situation hardly changed. Learning the laws of Korbanos was not popular. Most people would rather learn about Mitzvos which are relevant to our daily lives, such as eating Kosher and keeping Shabbos. The laws of Korbanos remained a closed book for most people.
Now let’s fast forward to the late 19th century and early 20th century, where we will see how one great Rabbi took a different approach which made the Korbanos laws quite relevant.
The great Rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan (1839-1933), called the Chafetz Chaim was a learned and famous leader who headed a yeshiva in Radin, Russia, around 100 years ago. In his classes, he encouraged his students to study the sections of the Talmud which discuss the laws of Korbanos, which at times can be very complicated.
“My dear students,” Rabbi Yisrael Meir said one morning. “I have something very dear to my heart that I would like to share with you. As you know, I am a Kohen.”
“Yes, we always call him up to the Torah for the first Aliyah, the Kohen Aliyah.”
“And most Jews by the last name of Kagan are Kohanim.”
“Today we will begin learning something that every Kohen must know fluently. It’s Seder Kodshim – the section of the Talmud that talks all about the detailed laws of bringing Korbanos.”
“But Rabbi,” his students protested. “There are so many other things we need to learn. Shouldn’t we spend our time learning something a bit more practical?”
“Practical?” replied the Chafetz Chaim. “What could possibly be more practical than learning the laws of Korbanos?”
“With all due respect, Rabbi – what are you saying? We don’t have a Beis HaMikdash, and we are not allowed to bring Korbanos!”
“That’s true. But Moshiach could come at any moment and then we will have the third Beis HaMikdash! And the Kohanim of this generation – myself included – better be ready to do our job properly!
The most famous Sefer of the Chafetz Chaim was probably the book that gave him the name we know him by – Sefer Chafetz Chaim – which is all about the laws of how a Jew should speak. He also wrote a famous commentary on the Code of Jewish Law, called the Mishnah Berurah.
But did you know that this great Rabbi authored many other works as well? One less-famous book was Nidchei Yisrael, which means “The Dispersed Ones of Israel.” It was composed specifically for the Jews living in isolated cities and towns in America.
And as a Kohen who eagerly awaited the day that he would one day bring Korbanos in the Beis Hamikdash, he wrote a work on that subject as well and named it Likutei Halachos, “A Collection of Laws.”