The literal meaning of “Corban” or “Qorban” is “that which is brought near.” It was an offering made to God in the Temple to substitute an obligation. The Israelites used to offer to free themselves from the obligation of taking care of elderly parents. Once a person offered a “corban,” the person was free from any obligation to the parents. He could not reverse that by himself even if he changes his mind considering the needs of his parents. The temple authorities encouraged such offerings because they would benefit from the offerings made in the name of God. In case the person offered Corban wants to care for the parents, he had to seek the help of a wise man who had to approve it.
When the Pharisees with some scribes from Jerusalem criticized Jesus because his disciples ate without formal washing of hands. Jesus counteracted saying, “‘You disregard God’s commandment but cling to human tradition.’ He went on to say, ‘How well you have set aside the commandment of God in order to uphold your tradition! For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and ‘Whoever curses father or mother shall die.’ Yet you say, ‘If a person says to father or mother, ‘Any support you might have had from me is qorban”’ (meaning, dedicated to God), you allow him to do nothing more for his father or mother. You nullify the word of God in favor of your tradition that you have handed on. And you do many such things’” (Mk 7:8-13).
Jesus criticized that human-made practice that was contrary to the commandment of God. Parents were suffering because of such false teachings and traditions the leaders had developed against the will of God. According to him, no temple offering could substitute for the love and care one has to give to the parents, especially when they need care. It was also against the commandment of God, and such an offering was not pleasing to God.
We practice qorban in other forms by admitting the elderly, the physically or mentally challenged, or people with any other life issues to welfare institutions when we can care for them at home with love and compassion they need. Avoiding God-given responsibility by paying for institutional care is not God’s plan for us. If possible, we must care for them at home, while seeking professional help of day care services from institutions for such people.