March 15, 2018 / 28 Adar, 5778 • Parshat Vayikra / Hachodesh
Issue 499
Dedicated in loving memory of Mrs. Miriam Friedman

Getting Close

G-d said to Moses, "When someone brings a sacrifice..."

Leviticus 1:2

The notion of sacrifices seems to run counter to the Jewish conception of G-d: G-d has no need to "consume" or be "bribed" by our sacrifices. Yet we see in this section of the Torah that G-d not only accepts sacrifices but explicitly sets down the procedures for them, giving every indication that He actually wants them!

In fact, the Hebrew word translated as "sacrifice" or "offering"--korban--actually means "getting close." Although we generally associate sacrifices with atonement for sin, the first sacrifices mentioned in this section are voluntary offerings, which an individual brings to G-d not to atone for sin but out of the desire to draw closer to Him. Of course, some of the sacrifices are indeed sin-offerings. This simply indicates that G-d calls out to all of us to draw close to Him--not only to the guiltless among us--at all times.

Nowadays, in the absence of the Tabernacle (or its permanent successor, the holy Temple in Jerusalem), there are three ways that we draw close to G-d: through studying the Torah--particularly its teachings about sacrifices; through prayer, the liturgy of which is modeled after the sacrifices; and through acts of charity and kindness.

From Daily Wisdom