“He sent the young men of the children of Israel and they offered burnt-offerings... ‘This is the blood of the covenant that G‑d has made with you...’”

-Mishpatim 24:5-8

The Jewish people entered the covenant of the Torah by three rites, the third of which was the above mentioned offering. In the words of Maimonides: “Israel entered the covenant by way of three rites: circumcision, immersion, and a sacrifice. Circumcision was performed in Egypt ... immersion was performed in the desert (Yitro 19:10) ... and also the sacrifice (Mishpatim 24:5) ...” This procedure remained the requirement for all future conversions to Judaism. With the destruction of the Holy Temple, which precludes the offering of a sacrifice, there remained but circumcision and immersion. When the Holy Temple shall be rebuilt, however, these converts from the time of the galut will have to offer that sacrifice as well.

Offhand, the present procedure raises a question: how can we presently accept a convert as a full-fledged Jew without the sacrifice? There is, however, a basic distinction between circumcision and immersion on the one hand, and the offering on the other hand. The convert enters the fold of Judaism by means of the first two. Circumcision removes the impurity of his former state, while immersion infuses the holiness of Jewishness. The sacrifice does not add anything essential to his entry into Judaism.

A sacrifice is an offering and a gift to G‑d which establishes the profound and intimate bond between the Jew and G‑d, analogous to the relationship between a child and its parent. Indeed, the Hebrew word for sacrifice is korban, which comes from the root of karov, meaning “close” or “near.” A convert, therefore, will offer this sacrifice after having entered the covenant, to mark this special bond between G‑d and himself.

The Holy Temple demonstrated a manifestation of the Divine Presence. In that time, the profound bond between G‑d and Israel was also manifest. It is not the same in the era of the galut. At present, the observance of Torah and mitzvot is essentially in a mode of simple submission to the “yoke of Heaven,” and it is difficult to sense fully the special bond which existed during the time of the Holy Temple. Thus, one can become and remain a full-fledged Jew even without the sacrifice.

Nonetheless, when the Holy Temple shall be rebuilt, that offering will have to be made up to achieve its unique effect. For the Messianic era will reestablish the special bond between Israel and the Almighty in a fully manifest and revealed way as in the most idyllic times before, and even more so. Thus it is written: “Behold, days are coming, says G‑d, when I will make a new covenant with the House of Israel and with the House of Judah; not like the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt... But... I will put My teaching in their inward parts and in their heart I shall write it; and I will be their G‑d and they shall be My people...” (Jeremiah 31:30ff.)