Question: I have heard that in the time of Moshiach we will continue to offer sacrifices. But aren’t we are told that these will be times without sin?
Answer: To reply to your question, let us examine an important passage in Parashat Emor (Leviticus 22:29-30): “Vechi tizbechu zevach toda LaShem, lirtzonchem tizbachu. Bayom hahu ye’achel, lo totiru mimenu ad boker, ani Hashem – And when you will offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving to Hashem, offer it [in such a manner] that it may be accepted. It must be eaten on that same day; you shall let none of it remain until the morning, I am Hashem.”
Rashi (ad loc.) explains that this pasuk serves as a reminder to be careful from the beginning of the sacrificing. It warns us that the slaughtering is to be done with the intent to eat it on the same day, and it is not to be done with the intent to delay the eating to the following day. Any such unfit thought will render the sacrifice unacceptable, and will not gain favor for the one who brings the sacrifice.
Rashi’s understanding of the pasuk is based on Tractate Zevachim (36a): There are two texts in reference to “notar” (meat of a sacrifice that remains until the next day). One verse Parashat Bo (Exodus 12:10) states, “Velo totiru mimenu ad boker – And you shall let none of it remain until the morning.” And the other (Leviticus 7:15) says, “Lo yani’ach mimenu ad boker – He shall not leave any of it until the morning” [the only difference being “lo yani’ach” instead of “lo totiru”]. Since one [text] is superfluous in respect to [actual] leaving over, we apply it to the intention (lit. the thought) of leaving it [until morning].
Mitzpeh Eitan (Zevachim, ad loc.) notes that the first verse the Talmud refers to [which we assume to be the verse in Parashat Bo regarding the paschal sacrifice] is actually the pasuk in Parashat Emor (Leviticus 22:30) quoted above [which states “lo totiru” instead of “velo totiru,” as we read in Parashat Bo loc. cit.].
Commenting on the thanksgiving offering as described in Parashat Emor, Midrash Tanchuma (Parashat Emor, siman 17) and Vayikra Rabbah (9:7, Parashat Tzav) both provide an almost identical explanation: R. Pinchas and R. Levi and R. Yochanan said in the name of R. Menachem of Galil, In days to come all the sacrifices will be abolished, except for the thanksgiving offering which will not be abolished; [likewise] all the prayers [which consist mostly of asking for forgiveness and mercy] will be abolished, except for the [prayers of] thanksgiving and praise, which will not be abolished. That is what is referred to in Jeremiah (33:11), “Kol sasson vekol simcha, kol chatan vekol kallah, kol omrim hodu et Hashem Tzeva-ot ki tov Hashem ki le’olam chasdo; mevi’im todah beit Hashem…” “The voice of joy and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the voice of those who shall say, `Praise the L-rd of Hosts for He is good, for His benevolence is everlasting’ ” – alluding to declarations of praise – “when they bring a thanksgiving offering to Hashem’s House [i.e., the Temple].” The latter alludes to the korban todah – the thanksgiving offering. Similarly, King David said (Psalms 56:13), “Alai, Elokim, nedarecha ashalem todot lach – Upon me, O G-d, are the vows to You, I will pay You my offerings of thanksgiving.” It does not say “todah” [in the singular] but “todot” [in the plural] – says the Midrash – referring to [prayers of] praise as well as the thanksgiving sacrifice.
The commentary Be’ur HaAmarim on Midrash Tanchuma (loc. cit.) notes that most of the sacrifices are offered because of sins that are committed, and that will not happen in the future. Even the shelamim, the peace offerings, are only intended to spread peace in a world that is divided. That will also not be the case in the future. But we will still bring thanksgiving offerings to thank Hashem for His munificence, which will be even more obvious at that time.
The Be’ur HaAmarim proceeds with a philosophical elaboration on the Torah and the commandments, noting that the mitzvot are the adornments of the Torah. As the situation changes, the adornments might also change in form.
The commentary Etz Yosef on Vayikra Rabbah (loc. cit.) adds that the fact that there will be no need to engage in prayer for the removal of sickness or trouble does not entail a bitul mitzvah, namely, that a mitzvah commanded in the Torah will be abolished. Rather, it may be compared to the injunction of installing a railing (ma’akeh) on the roof of one’s house, a commandment that does not apply to a person who does not own a house.
We find many examples in the Talmud of future changes indicated by our sages. In Tractate Shabbos (115b-116a) it states: Our Rabbis taught [regarding the verse in Parashat Behalotecha (Numbers 10:35)], “Va’yehi binso’a ha’aron va’yomer Moshe – When the Ark would journey, Moses said …”: for this section G-d provided signs (an inverted letter nun) preceding it and following it, to indicate that this is not its [proper] placement … R. Shimon b. Gamaliel said that this section is destined to be removed from here and written in its [correct] place (i.e., in Parashat Bamidbar (Numbers Chap. 2) dealing with the encampment of the tribes according to the degalim, their banners).
Then why was it placed here? In order that it provide a break between earlier trials and tribulations and those that followed later on. Rashi ad loc. remarks that in the future there will no longer be a yetzer hara, an Evil Inclination, and there will no longer be a need for a break, or separation, between [the many] troubles. Thus we see that although some changes will take place, nothing will be abolished from our holy Torah.
The Talmud (Sukkah 51b-52a) tells of a “great enactment” the Sages had instituted: a gallery was provided for the women in the Temple in order to prevent frivolity at the festivities of Beit Hasho’eva, the Water Drawing ceremony. The Gemara then asks: How could they alter the original structure of the Temple? Is it not written (I Chronicles 28:19), “All this, said [King Solomon], was put in writing by the hand of G-d, who instructed me”? Answered Rav, They found another verse (Zecharia 12:12) which they expounded: “And the land will mourn, every family apart; the families of the house of David apart, and their wives apart.” Is this not, asks the Gemara, a kal va’chomer argument? If at a time in the future (the Prophet Zecharia refers to the death of Moshiach ben Yosef who will be universally mourned), when they will be engaged in mourning and the Evil Inclination will have no power over them, Scripture nevertheless states that the men and the women will mourn separately, how much more so [is it required] now [at Simchat Beit Hasho’eva], when they are engaged in rejoicing and the Evil Inclination has sway over them.
Thus we see that even in the future, when our greatest foe, the yetzer hara, will be rendered powerless, as described by the Gemara, precautions that were enacted will continue to be observed. The Torah, of course, will always exist, and the “notar” will also remain intact.