Friday, March 7, 2014

Modern Day Sacrifice

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 that.

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