This coming week’s Torah portion, Vayikra, is the first portion in the Book of Leviticus.
It is a conversation between Moses and G-d in which G-d explains all the rules around the different types of sacrifices and offerings that the people of Israel must bring to the priests in the Temple based on the type of sin they have committed.
This parsha is very instructional and technical as it thoroughly elaborates on the minute details of the “what” and the “how” surrounding the sacrifice. The parsha sees the sacrifice as an offering or a gift to G-d as payment for a wrong doing. In today’s world, we see a “sacrifice” as something we are giving up. When reading the parsha, it made me question the concept of sacrifice as we understand it today, and led me to wonder: Are we predisposed to see sacrifice as something we are losing, rather than an opportunity for something we can gain? Perhaps by reframing our understanding of sacrifice as more of an offering or a gift it will provide us an opportunity to learn how to start seeing sacrifice through the Torah’s lens.
The individual sacrifices we are making right now are difficult. We are giving up the luxury of our creature comforts, our ability to share a cup of coffee with a friend, our freedom to go grocery shopping in peace with overflowing shelves, our capability to collect a paycheck for a job we love, and for our children to learn in a classroom where all of their dreams are possible. In place of these things we long for, we are now tasked with cooking with whatever food we have, providing an education for our children within the confines of our homes, surviving the natural feeling of defeat, living in what feels like constant chaos, and an ache of loneliness for the ones we can’t be with.
Throughout all of these individual sacrifices, there is a glimmer of hope, and the offering and gift we are really giving ourselves and our greater community becomes apparent. What once used to be a rushed nightly dinner of individuals is now a gathering of family. The hard-to-schedule cups of coffee with friends are now meaningful phone calls of support and love. The “once a year family vacation” is now a weekly virtual game night where we laugh and forget about everything else. And the ever-growing list of things we would do to heal our mind, body, and soul if we ever had the time are now within our grasp.
Perhaps, we can look to this week’s Torah portion, though seemingly rigid and technical, and actually find richness in the process of sacrifice. In Biblical times, those that brought sacrificial offerings to repent for their wrong doings were not trying to justify their mistakes or pretend bad didn’t happen. Rather, they were coming to G-d to renew their commitment through the act of sacrifice.