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Thoughts on Parsha Vayikra

by Wendy Low

The book of Vayikra begins with an exhaustive description of animal sacrifice. What is the relevance of sacrifice to our lives today when we don’t sacrifice?

The Hebrew word for sacrifice is korban which comes from the word karov- meaning close. The sacrificial process was about getting closer to God– a tangible way to show our dedication and to mark our spiritual growth.

One of the most fascinating details of the sacrificial laws is that there were vegetarian options for sacrifice, most likely because of the high cost of cattle. The Torah doesn’t want anyone to be excluded from closeness to God, instead you could provide a bird which was cheaper, and if you couldn’t afford it, you could bring grain.

The sacrificial process included a system that allowed everyone to participate. Our current housing system does not reflect that Jewish value. So many people are without housing and even more are living in housing that is unsafe or unhealthy. Yachad’s work doesn’t change the unfair housing policies that play-out in the Unites States, but it does remind us of our core values, that everyone has the right to safe and fair housing and that we as a community can and should be doing more to make our society align with these values.

In previous blog posts, I have discussed the connections between building homes and building a relationship with God. Even in a chapter about sacrifice, the concept still stands. If the point of sacrifice historically and through prayer today is reflection and rededication to a Jewish sense of morality and God, then might it be possible to rededicate ourselves by working towards a more just world? One of our most valuable assets today is our free time. What if we orient ourselves towards “sacrifice” by taking some of our free time and devoting it to a community cause?

I’ll leave these questions to swirl in your mind throughout Shabbas.

Shabbat Shalom.

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