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Drawing Near Through Sacrifice
By Michael Chessen
This week's Torah reading, Va'yikra,
both opens the book of Leviticus and marks a new beginning in the
spiritual development of our people. After having been chosen to serve
God, receiving the Torah and constructing the Tabernacle, the Jewish
people now commence the actual service of God. This service originally
took the form of sacrifices, and since the destruction of the Second
Temple has been replaced by our institutionalized liturgy of prayers.
At first glance, our modern prayers
would seem to lack the element of giving something up which is implied by
the term "sacrifice". However, the Hebrew term "korban" actually suggests
not a relinquishing, but drawing near. This concept seems to be what
motivated history's first recorded accepted sacrifice, and its apparent
absence conversely made for the first rejected sacrifice. Near the dawn of
creation, Cain and Abel both made their offerings to God. The Torah speaks
not of God preferring one sacrifice over another, but of God's "paying
heed" to Abel and not paying heed to Cain (Genesis 4). As means of drawing
near to God, prayer and sacrifice possess one central common denominator:
both require sincere intention. We acquire and strengthen this kind of
intention primarily by way of the diligent study of God's Torah.
Upon embarking on our journey through
the book of Leviticus, we need to realize that our study of the service of
God is really as important as the service itself. Rabbi Nathan Lopez
Cardozo points out that the sacrifices being described as "a sweet savor"
to God suggests that they serve as something of a foretaste of good things
to come, comparable to the pleasant aroma of a tasty dish. Rabbi Cardozo
goes on to state that whereas sacrifice is a concept that primarily falls
into the realm of the relationship between God and man rather than man and
his fellow, sacrifice has its repercussions for inter-human relationships
as well. Namely, when an individual "draws nearer" God by way of dutifully
performing His service, he ultimately will be all the more inclined to
adhere to God's teaching to love his neighbor as he loves himself.
Clearly, the Torah's concept of sacrifice involves not loss, but a
The Element of Sacrafice
by Avi Lazerson
This week's Torah portion is Viyekra, the begining of the book of Leviticus. This is the third of the books of Moses. The previous book, Exodus, or in Hebrew, Shmot, concluded with the building of the portable sanctuary which accompained the Jewish People durring their 40 years of wandering in the dessert and for many more years untill the final building of the first Temple.
The book of Leviticus continues from where the building of the Sanctuary and its vessels left off. Leviticus deals with the various animal sacrafices.
Many people ask, perhaps in the early times when men were a bit primitive and did not understand much, perhaps they were able to appease G-d by slaughtering an animal. Today, we are a bit more modern and more concerned with the value of life. Why should we have to continue with this tradition? What will be when the third Temple is speedily rebuilt? Will there also be animal sacrifices?
To understand a bit more about animal sacrifices, we much realize that man was really created to do the will of G-d. If he sins and his sin is serious, he really has forfieted his life. Instead of having to surrender his life, he had to bring a expression of regret, in the form of a sacrifice. A cow, today, cost several hundred dollars. Together with the time and effort necessary to bring it to the Sanctuary/Temple. That is quite a sacrifice.
Today, since the Temple is not available, we can only show our regret by sincere feelings in the heart. We can give money to charity, and it certainly in praise worthy to do so.
The real sacrifice is really from the person. He/she can today sacrifice some form of pleasure as a means of regret. But still it is not the same as coming to the Temple where the presence of G-d was visible to all. Today, perhaps we have to try harder to give a sacrifice.
Soon the righteous Messiah will come and instruct us in rebuilding the Temple. There we, together, with all the nations, will return to our G-d, with an open heart. A heart that can feel G-dliness and eyes that can see the spiritual. Until then, we have to wait.
Wishing you all a Shabbat Shalom!
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