Question: I have a question about modern orthodox Jews in regard to the Old Testament practice of animal sacrifices. If it’s correct that orthodox Jews reject Jesus as the Messiah–the perfect sacrificial Lamb of God–do they still believe that a blood sacrifice is needed to cover sin? In the history of Judaism, when and by what justification did they stop conducting animal sacrifices?
Answer: It is true that orthodox Jews reject Jesus as their Messiah. There are some Jewish people (by heritage) who have come to believe that Jesus truly is their Messiah. Many of them identify themselves as Messianic Jews. I’m not sure if any of them would consider themselves to be orthodox Jews. So, for the remainder of this response, I will use the term orthodox Jews to refer to Jewish people who believe the Old Testament, but reject Jesus as the fulfillment of the Messianic prophecies.
Once the temple was built by Solomon, the Jews offered sacrifices there. When they went into exile in Babylon, the sacrifices ceased until the temple was rebuilt about seventy years later. This was in the sixth century B.C. The sacrifices stopped again when Antiochus IV Epiphanes attacked Jerusalem in the second century B.C. and defiled the temple by sacrificing a pig on the altar. They continued a few years later until AD 70 when Titus and the Roman army sacked Jerusalem and destroyed the temple. Since then, the Jews have not offered sacrifices because the temple has not been rebuilt.
Currently, the Islamic mosques, the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa, sit on the Temple Mount. Many orthodox Jews would like to rebuild the temple at that site, and I’ve read that some have been preparing to do it, but such an act would likely trigger a major war.
Some Christians think the temple will eventually be rebuilt on the Temple Mount alongside of the mosques during a time known as the Tribulation Period. This scenario was popularized by the Left Behind book series and I think it is plausible.
One Jewish website (www.beingjewish.com), citing Deuteronomy 12:13-14, says that Jews are not permitted to offer sacrifices anywhere except for the temple. Instead, this site states that Jewish people can be forgiven through repentance and confession, but if/when the temple is rebuilt then sacrifices would be required. Of course, I would say that forgiveness can only come through repentance and placing one’s faith in Jesus Christ, the Messiah.