This Shabbat we begin reading the book called Vayikra and as the first Parasha of that book, it bears its name. It’s Latin name of Leviticus—“relating to the Levites” tells you what is to come.
Reading through detailed lists of the types of sacrifices—animals and grains can be difficult and some would say cumbersome, repetitive and boring. The modern Jew may ask, “Of what relevance is it to me, the lists of types of sacrifices that would be offered by a person who committed a particular sin??” We do not have a Temple, I do not live in Israel (let alone Jerusalem) and if even we did have a Temple and I did live in Jerusalem, we would not be performing such rituals anymore anyway.
The word Korban is translated as sacrifice, but it literally means “closeness,” as the way our ancestors were able to become close with God. In modern times, we use the expression to “connect.” The laws of the korbanot–sacrifices do, however, remain extremely relevant because of their awesome symbolism.
The korbanot meant something very important to those who brought them then. What they stood for is still meaningful to us today: a contribution from a person of lesser means is no less important and meaningful to God than a contribution from a person of greater means. The quality of an offering is always more meaningful than the quantity. Our Sages extrapolate that a shorter prayer said with meaning, intensity and devotion is much more sacred and desirable to God than a longer prayer said by rote or without understanding.
We may not have Temple sacrifices, but we do need a way to be close to our source, to express appreciation for our blessings, remorse for our regrets, our resolve to improve, our hopes for love, healing and a better world. What method do you use?
Our modern society screams for an explanation of how and why these laws, rules and statutes can possibly be relevant to us today. The reality is they are. As we travel through the Book in the coming weeks, you will be amazed at the universal, transcendent and timeless truths that emanate from these sacred texts.
This Shabbat we are privileged to learn with Ruth Bergman at Adat Shalom. 10:00 a.m. Come as you are. Stay as long as you like.