The opening chapters of the book of Leviticus, parshat
Vayikra (Lev. 1:1 – 5:26) spell out the details of the animal sacrifices that the
Israelites will offer in the newly erected Tabernacle in the wilderness. In fact, much of the book of Leviticus deals
with animal sacrifices.
So far in the Torah, much of what we have read has been
comprehensible to us. We understand the
family stories of Genesis, and the oppression and liberation of Exodus. But how may we relate to the slaughtering of
bulls and rams as worship of God? We may
find Leviticus irrelevant, embarrassing, or offensive.
The word “sacrifice” in Hebrew is “korban” from the verb which means “to draw near”. Leviticus 1:2 reads, “When a person presents from
themselves an offering of cattle to the Lord…”
The offering must be from themselves, that is, it must come of one’s own
possessions. So even though we may not
be able to relate to animal sacrifices, the concept of sacrifice remains with
us. What commodity is valuable to us
today? What can we give of ourselves to
draw close to God?
I would suggest that the answer for many of us is “time”. Our lives are packed with so many things that
we must do; things that are urgent draw us away from things that are
important. Perhaps we can start this period of the reading of
Leviticus with a resolve to sacrifice some of the time we spend on other things
thinking about what it means to draw closer to God, and how we can achieve
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