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Offerings to a deity. All ancient people offered sacrifices to their gods. Some sacrifices were tendered in thanksgiving for a rich harvest, for a victory in battle, or other happy events. Some were offered in times of trouble, to appease the deity when he was thought to be angry. Others symbolized the bond between a people, a tribe, or a clan and its god. The Israelites in biblical times offered up cattle, sheep, goats, doves, and farm products chiefly as a symbol of their loyalty to God. At first such offerings could be made anywhere. Later, they were permitted only at the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, where the priests ceremoniously slaughtered the sacrificial animals on behalf of the entire people. The ritual was prescribed in great detail. There were “regular” sacrifices offered each morning and evening, with “additional” offerings on Sabbaths and holidays. From these and the services accompanying them there evolved the daily morning, afternoon, evening, and holiday services that have been recited at synagogues since the destruction of the Temple. In addition, there were personal sacrifices, offered after a sin had been committed and expiated, as well as thanksgiving offerings after a vow had been fulfilled. Prophets like Amos and Jeremiah spoke out against the sacrificial cult. They were not opposed to the idea of sacrifices so much as to the fact that people thought they could fulfill their obligations to God through material offerings rather than through purity of heart and action. Although Jews have not offered sacrifices since the destruction of the Second Temple, Orthodox Jews have always prayed that sacrifices will be restored with the coming of the Messiah and the rebuilding of the Temple in Zion.

Second largest religious and political party in Palestine during the 2nd and 1st centuries B.C.E. Its members are believed to have been the followers of the high priests, descendants of the house of Zadok, the high priest under King Solomon. The Sadducees recognized the Bible as the only source of Jewish law and rejected most of the traditions and interpretations which had developed since Ezra the Scribe. They drew their followers from the rich and aristocratic, as well as military circles. Often, the Sadducees came into conflict with the Pharisees in religious and political matters. In opposition to the Pharisees, they supported the wars for expansion led by Johanan Hyrcanus and Alexander Jannaeus, as well as the policy of forcing conquered peoples to convert to Judaism. The Sadducees, as opposed to the Pharisees, did not believe in reward and punishment after death.

The numerous differences between the two parties often led to bloody clashes. Whenever the Sadducees were in power, they suppressed and persecuted the Pharisees. After the final war with the Romans, the Sadducees disappeared. The Jewish people henceforth followed the tradition of the Pharisees.

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