http://mikeoverton.com/blog/page/2/ Parashat Vayikra, By Jay (with Eliezer’s Insights below)
Sacrifice, gifts & getting closer
I am struck once again by the detail contained in this week’s parasha, not to mention the timing, coming right off the back of having completed the Mishkan in last week’s portion. It is, for me at least, quite a difficult Parasha to get through – the seemingly small nuances between the different types of sacrifices depending on who you are and how wealthy or not you are and of course the sin or mistake that you committed either inadvertently or advertently.
It made me want to take a few steps back and try to better understand a few things – what is a sacrifice, why do we do or have sacrifices and what is the outcome of a sacrifice either for us and/ or G-d. A few further thoughts if we have time – what if any is the modern equivalent of a sacrifice and are there any real life examples that can act as an analogy for a sacrifice.
One of the first or maybe it is the first mention of sacrifice in the Torah is Abraham’s final test, sacrificing his son Isaac upon an altar. As we know, in the end it was a ram, caught in the bush that was replaced at the last minute instead of Isaac – but I would imagine that in both situations, Abraham had in his heart the right intentions and so even though he did not sacrifice Isaac he was feeling and thinking the same things when using the replacement. Is this what we are trying to achieve with sacrifices – to be pure of heart, to strive to be close with our creator and to do his will.
As we have read, a sacrifice, can be either; animal, bird or grain and it consists of a series of steps which include, laying of hands, sprinkling of blood, removal of certain parts and burning them – which all seem, at least to me to be pretty gory and with sacrifices taking place multiple times a day, the temple days must have been an interesting time to live – not that I am naïve to think that a modern day abattoir is any different, but the purpose of sacrifices is not purely for the purpose of the meat or skin of the animal is was either; voluntary, peace, sin or guilt that a person was looking for atonement.
Is sacrifice for us or is it for G-d – clearly G-d neither needs nor wants anything so it must be for our purposes. We are made up of two main parts – the body and the soul. The vividness of the sacrificial process plus the smells must be trying to alter something in all of us. In life we are in constant struggle between following our animal nature or our spiritual essence our aim is to use our bodies with all of its urges to motivate and elevate ourselves towards serving Hashem. The use of an animal rather than us, the significance of an animal in regards to our two parts and the slaughter of that animal, with the blood, which is sprinkled and then poured in different parts of the alter and ceremony. The smell and the use of our hands compared with our other senses which include sight and taste must also be significant. Where else is smell used – we use smell during the Havdalah service at the end of Shabbat. This is because during Shabbat we are imparted with an additional soul, which leaves us and the smells are used to comfort us or our remaining souls – a little bit like the use of smelling salts are used to help revive us and in the same way as G-d breathed life into Adam through his nostrils – it is smell, I would argue that connects the body and the soul. I think that the sacrificial service is to remind us that we have an animal side and rather than let this side rule our life, our bodies and our actions – we need to sacrifice this and these in order to get closer to our source, our creator and the reason for life and our being here, alive and with purpose. The animal must therefore be a replacement for us – as in the case of Abraham and Isaac, but it is your intention, in your heart that makes the sacrifice real – clearly without these the sacrifice as with any other activity in our service of Hashem is just a series of random actions devoid of meaning and potentially a meaningful response.
The above made me think that since we do not have animal or indeed any other form of sacrifice around today – what are the modern day equivalents. Prayer, Mitzvot & Tzedakah must be a few examples – given in my mind that they try to achieve the same thing – bringing us closer to Hashem – but I am sure that there are others and I would be interested to hear what these are. However it was the real life analogy example that I was keen to end on this week and what sprung to mind, and I am hoping that the relationship I have with my wife, is no different from anyone else’s with their partner, when it comes to giving presents. Having been married for over a decade, I have had many opportunities during birthdays, anniversaries and special days to buy or give my wife that certain something special. I have to admit that I have not done well, with only a few exceptions. I commonly go through a period of panic, I have on several occasions fallen into the trap of thinking that it has to do with the amount of money spent or I recall on one occasion being convinced it had to be an experience. I have had conversations with, friends, family and even strangers – the last being a taxi driver who happened to be taking me home on one such day and who, in my former days, I would have put onto a pedestal, for the way he has carefully steered his relationship with his wife whereby he doesn’t go in for any of these commercialisations and as he said – my wife knows how much I love her without me having to show her! I have come to realize that they are all wrong – it has to do with the intentions of my heart – do I really feel it and whilst the actual gift is clearly important, the gift is actually my wife and if I realize this then I care and appreciate her more and one way I can do that is by giving, as giving is the real meaning of LOVE and by giving I get closer which continues a beautiful cycle of; gratitude (awareness and/ or sacrifice), giving and getting closer.
Thank you and Shabbat Shalom, Jay
E’s Insights on J’s DT:
– Jay spoke about Isaac’s sacrifice and Davening, I would like to elaborate on these two ideas:
The Gemarah explains Davening is the “replacement” for Karbonas today. Most people understand it to mean what we have achieved though sacrifices (which we no longer have now) can be attained through prayer. But in the times of the Temple they still had prayer IN ADDITION to the sacrifices, so how could they be “in place” of? Also why is Davening called AVODAH? What physical work are you actually doing?
The answer is in what Prayer is trying to accomplish. Clearly it is not NEEDED by G-d. It is only for us to WORK ON and literally CHANGE ourselves. Davening now takes on TWO roles, one as prayer and the other as offering OURSELVES to Hashem as the sacrifice. Letting go (“slaughtering”) of our old selves and rebirthing as a newly upgraded version. Issac left “his ashes” on the Altar when he arose. Because he was Re-Born as a new individual (some commentators even say that Abraham actually did slaughter him because he had to fulfill G-d’s command, but more explanation can be given another time on this). And that is HOW prayer works. We can never “change” G-d’s mind into giving us something He wasn’t planning on doing in the first place. But when we change ourselves, the person asking G-d for the favor yesterday (who NEVER would have been given the gift) is NOT the new person today, coming close to Hashem and now asking as a NEW individual (and of course THIS new person was always going to get those gifts all along… if only he would beCOME it, then he would get it without even asking!). Therefore, do not just run through the actions, or mumble through the words. Make the beauty of prayer impact and change you to become the Blessing-filled connected Jew that G-d wants you to be.
– Karbanos, as mentioned early, clearly bring us close to Hashem. But behind all the meaning, intention, and substitutional ideas, is the pure act of GIVING itself (as Jay alluded to). click Giving creates love, love identifies as oneness (the ultimate connecting), and that is the definition of and Karov/closeness to Hashem.