ḲORBAN (lit. "an offering"):
1. A sacrifice of any kind, whether bloody or bloodless; term used by Josephus in the sense also of a vow-offering, or of something devoted to God ("Ant." iv. 4, § 4; "Contra Ap." i. 22; Mark vii. 11). 2. The sacred treasury in which the gifts for the Temple, or the alms-box in which the gifts for the poor, were kept (Josephus, "B. J." ii. 9, § 4; comp. Matt. xxvii. 6).
The term "ḳorban" was frequently used in vows. By saying, "Let my property be to you ḳorban"—that is, a gift consecrated to God—a man could prevent another from deriving any benefit from what he possessed (Ned. i. 4). This, of course, led to great abuses, as, in fact, all inconsiderate vows did, and, therefore, was much opposed by the sages (see Eccl. v. 1-5). Jesus (Mark vii. 11-13; comp. Matt. xv. 5-9) had such a vow in view when he said: "If a man say to his father or mother, That wherewith thou mightest have been profited by me is Ḳorban, ye no longer suffer him to do aught for his father or his mother, making void the word of God by your tradition" (Greek). But the charge of hypocrisy, or lip-service, raised against the Pharisees in this connection is entirely unfounded; for pharisaic tradition did actually provide a remedy against rash vows by empowering any sage consulted to dissolve the vow in case it could be shown that it was not made with a full consideration of all its consequences; this very power "to loosen that which is bound" by the Law being declared to be a privilege of the Rabbis, derived from the spirit of the Law while seemingly against the letter ("hetter nedarim"; Ḥag. i. 8).
It is expressly declared, however, by R. Eliezer that if a vow infringes upon the honor due to father or mother, the right procedure is to endeavor to convince him who made it that he failed to consider the consequences sufficiently, and then to dissolve the vow; others, however, dissented, holding that God's honor ought to be considered first (Ned. ix. 1). Against this, R. Meïr declares (Ned. ix. 4) that "wherever a vow is made which infringes the laws of humanity, the vow should be dissolved by the sage." Thus the Mishnaic code shows the instance quoted in the New Testament to be, instead of a reproach of pharisaism, as contended by Oort in "Theol. Tijdschrift," xxxviii., a vindication of the humane spirit prevailing among the Rabbis; possibly Jesus had only the rigorous class of teachers in mind, while his more humane views were those shared by others. See Alms.