Clearly, it matters to God that sacrifices are performed in just the right way. At the same time, however, the Talmud is insistent on bringing an ethical and spiritual dimension to laws that, in the Torah, often seem more like arbitrary superstitions or taboos. The rabbis do not say that any old sacrifice is acceptable to God; the law must be followed to the letter. At the same time, however, the ritual action must be performed in the proper spirit, with the heart directed to God. Kavanah, intention, is crucial to Jewish observance; in the kabbalistic tradition, it would even be endowed with cosmic and magic powers. This is the Jewish response to the Apostle Paul, a Jew turned Christian, who convinced the world that Judaism was a religion of the letter, while Christianity cared about the spirit. Not so, the rabbis would reply: what Judaism cares about is the right letter performed in the right spirit.
Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.
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