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I've been bothered by this contradiction in Rambam: He says in Moreh Nevuchim 3:32 that sacrifices are a concession and that it would not have been good to introduce the truthest most pure form of worship (i.e. prayer, worship in thought not action) to the Israelites because of the prevalent form of worship.

Therefore, how can he say that sacrifices should be reinstituted since a) he says it is not the truest form of worship and b) it would be forcing on us a completely new and bizarre form of worship?

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Maimonides does not mean that God must make a concession as a response to the condition of Man. God created Man with this instinct for a lower form of worship. It is a necessary imperfection. See my answer and Rabbi Lopes-Cardozo's article. –  Yahu Apr 14 '11 at 7:40

2 Answers 2

Rabbi Nathan Lopes-Cardozo deals with this question by suggesting that we have not progressed past this form of imperfect worship; rather we have regressed and will need to rise to the level of appreciating it. Therefore, to eventually progress to the purest form of worship it will be required that we first experience the "concession."

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I heard a recording in which R' Yosef Veiner attributed this to the general approach of the Moreh Nevochim not being meant as anything other than palatable answers for those who were "straying." However, that entire approach to the Moreh is very tenuous, ואין כאן מקום להאריך.

R' Yaakov Kaminetzky in Emes L'Yaakov on Chumash, Vayikra 1:9, resolves a different contradiction in the Rambam, but I think it resolves your issue as well:

In contrast to the citation in the question of the Moreh, the Rambam writes in the end of Hilchos Me'ila (8:38):

ראוי לאדם להתבונן במשפטי התורה הקדושה, ולידע סוף עניינם כפי כוחו. ודבר שלא ימצא לו טעם, ולא ידע לו עילה--אל יהי קל בעיניו; ואל יהרוס לעלות אל ה', פן יפרוץ בו. ולא תהא מחשבתו בו, כמחשבתו בשאר דברי החול...

והחוקים, הן המצוות שאין טעמן ידוע. אמרו חכמים, חוקים שחקקתי לך, ואין לך רשות להרהר בהן. ויצרו של אדם נוקפו בהן, ואומות העולם משיבין עליהן--כגון איסור בשר חזיר, ובשר בחלב, ועגלה ערופה, ופרה אדומה, ושעיר המשתלח...

וכל הקרבנות כולן, מכלל החוקים הן. לפיכך אמרו חכמים שאף על עבודת הקרבנות, העולם עומד--שבעשיית החוקים והמשפטים, זוכין הישרים לחיי העולם הבא; והקדימה תורה ציווייה על החוקים, שנאמר "ושמרתם את חוקותיי ואת משפטיי, אשר יעשה אותם האדם וחי בהם"

Very concise translation: A person should think deeply about the laws of the Torah according to his ability, and not think lightly of them if he doesn't find a reason. Chukim are laws that we don't know the reason(s) for, and a person is inclined to question and reject them. Sacrifices are Chukim, and the world stands on them.

Here the Rambam waxes poetic about the supreme holiness and importance of sacrifices, which are beyond our understanding.

R' Yaakov suggests that the Rambam understood that sacrifices have a sublime purpose which we cannot question in the event we don't understand it. However, the Rambam wanted to give an explanation of sacrifices. He explains that in relating to Hashem, there is a base-line value of if not actively coming closer to Hashem, at least distancing yourself from the opposite, and in that way coming closer.

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