As we continue to read of biblical sacrifices, we sit today and ask how these commandments can be relevant in our current lives. Parshat Tzav, this week’s Torah reading, outlines the sacrifices and all their details. Eventually, Jewish history will bring the sacrificial system to a halt with the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. From then on, Judaism forbids the bringing of any sacrifices.
Yet, we continue to read of them, and we continue to mention them in our prayers. If we are forbidden to bring sacrifices, why do we keep their details so alive?
In fact, Jewish tradition emphasizes sacrifices even more by stating that children should begin their study of Torah with the book of Leviticus, the laws of sacrifices. One of our oldest texts explains that children begin with studying sacrifices because the goal of the sacrifices was to bring us back to a place of purity, and our children always exist in a state of purity, so “let the pure connect with the pure” and strengthen us.
The Hebrew word for sacrifice in the Torah is the word korban. It means ‘drawing near’. In the ancient world we are taught to draw near to God through physical sacrifices. Later, the Sages teach us that we can also draw near to God through studying Torah and speaking of the details of sacrifice. The Midrash tells us that when our children learn of their Judaism, and their priceless legacy of Torah, they draw all of us closer to God.
Physical sacrifices no longer speak to our Jewish reality, but we keep them present in our religious view and our prayers. We understand that the goal is to create a personal closeness with God and to use the power of that relationship to change the world.
There are infinite ways to get there –watching our children learn of their ancient unbroken Jewish chain is one of those ways.
I’d like to wish everyone a sweet and peaceful Shabbat –our Jewish time to regroup, rest, and reinvigorate.