Given the efficacy of prayer and the contemporary aversion to animal sacrifices, much thought has been given to whether animal sacrifice will be reinstated in the Third Temple. Although there are many differing opinions regarding what form the service will take, let there be no doubt that the Temple as a central unifying force and spiritual vortex is sorely missed. That having been said, there remains a certain tension between the deep desire to see the Temple rebuilt and the cohanim performing the Temple service and not wanting to revert to an ancient paradigm for Divine worship that may no longer be relevant today.

This question has been addressed by Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh in a slightly different context: the movement away from the honored tradition of self-affliction, including, for example, frequent fasting, denying one’s self sleep, and rolling in the snow. The Ba’al Shem Tov spoke out forcefully against these practices. Rabbi Ginsburgh points out that the Ba’al Shem Tov neither deemed these practices worthless nor denigrated those who had employed them; rather, he taught that they were no longer effective in his day. The Ba’al Shem Tov refused to judge the past through the prism of contemporary values and opinions (a danger we mentioned at the beginning of the previous section); rather, he taught that times had changed and so had humanity; therefore, new approaches, including a genuine attachment to joy, sincere prayer, and repentance, could now accomplish what self-affliction had attempted to in the past. Obviously this does not provide us with the right to wantonly abrogate Jewish tradition, but it does open the door to legitimate change and evolution within the parameters of Jewish law, custom, and practice.