9 As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax booth. “Follow me,” he said to him. So he got up and followed him. 10 As Jesus was having a meal in Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with Jesus and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 12 When Jesus heard this he said, “Those who are healthy don’t need a physician, but those who are sick do. 13 Go and learn what this saying means: ‘I want mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Avot D'Rabbi Natan (A) 4Mishnah
On acts of kindness. How so? It says (Hosea 6:6), “For I desire kindness, not a well-being offering.” The world was created from the very beginning with kindness, as it says (Psalms 89:3), “For I have said that the world will be built on kindness, and the heavens will be established on Your faith.” Once, Rabban [our rabbi] Yohanan ben Zakkai, left Jerusalem, and Rabbi Yehoshua followed after him. And he saw the Holy Temple destroyed. [Rabbi Yehoshua said: Woe to us, for this is destroyed –] the place where all of Israel’s sins are forgiven! I.e., via the bringing of sacrifices. [Rabbi Yohanan] said to him: My son, do not be distressed, for we have a form of atonement just like it. And what is it? Acts of kindness, as it says (Psalms 89:3), “For I desire kindness, not a well-being offering.” And so we find that Daniel, the precious man, would busy himself with acts of kindness. And what were these acts of kindness that he was so busy with? If you would say that in fact he did bring burnt offerings and other sacrifices in Babylon, doesn’t it already say (Deuteronomy 12:13–14), “Take care not to bring burnt offerings in just any place you see, but only in the place that the Eternal will choose in one of your tribal territories shall you bring burnt offerings.” So what were the acts of kindness he busied himself with? He would help a bride and bring her happiness, he would escort the dead [in a funeral procession], and he would always give a perutah to a poor person. And he would pray three times a day, and his prayers would be gladly accepted, as it says (Daniel 6:11), “When Daniel learned that [the ban against worshiping God] had been put in writing, he went to his house, in whose upper chamber he had windows made facing Jerusalem, and three times a day he knelt down, prayed, and made a confession to his God, as he had always done.
Notes and References
"... As prescribed in the book of Numbers, on the Sabbath the priests burned two unblemished yearling lambs, a meal offering mixed with oil, and a libation in addition to the daily sacrifices. Since lighting a fire and cooking were forbidden on the Sabbath, one might suppose burning sacrifices would also be prohibited. Yet according to the Pharisees themselves, it was not. The duty of Temple service outweighed the requirements of Sabbath rest. So too, Jesus was implying, did the sacred mission of his disciples outweigh the rules forbidding plucking grain on the Sabbath. Jesus said, 'I tell you, something greater than the temple is here.' Then he continued, 'If you had known what this means, 'I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,' you would not have condemned the guiltless (Matthew 12:7; Matthew 9:13). Jesus reminded his accusers that the prophets had excoriated people for placing their faith in rituals and sacrifices to the neglect of their fellows. 'Hear this, you who trample upon the needy and bring the poor of the land to an end, saying, 'When will the new moon be over, that we may sell grain? And the Sabbath, that we may offer wheat for sale?' 'Your burnt offerings are not acceptable, nor your sacrifices pleasing to me.', 'I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed beasts .... Seek justice, correct oppression; defend the fatherless, plead for the widow.' ..."
Stern, Frank A Rabbi Looks at Jesus’ Parables (p. 68) Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2006