Sedra Shorts

Ideas and commentaries on the weekly Torah readings.

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Location: Bet Shemesh, Israel

I taught Tanach in Immanuel College, London and in Hartman, Jerusalem. I was also an ATID fellow for 2 years. At present, I work for the Lookstein Center for Jewish Education in the Diaspora, in Bar-Ilan University, Israel. The purpose of this blog is to provide "sedra-shorts", short interesting ideas on the weekly Torah reading. Please feel free to use them and to send me your comments.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Parshat VaYikra,

Sacrifice and Offering

The Rabbis call Sefer Vayikra the Laws of Priests. Indeed, most of Sefer VaYikra is a priestly book, dealing with the subject attaining holiness, purifying impurities and the cleansing of sin. To be sure, Sefer VaYikra lists ritual upon ritual, which are mostly animal sacrifices, on how Israel can attain this level of holiness.

The modern world, including myself, finds it difficult to understand how the sacrificing of animals, the sprinkling of their blood and the smoldering of their ashes could possibly accomplish these goals.

We will try to understand this another time.

For now, let's try to understand the concept of the korbannot. Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch explains that we normally use two words to translate korban: Sacrifice and Offering.

These words are antonyms.

A sacrifice is done unwillingly, when one has no choice, while an offering is given willingly, with an open heart. There actually two types of sacrifices, some are requirements, sacrifices; while others are voluntary, offerings.

Both types of kobanot, nevertheless, have the same purpose, that is, to bring the sacrificer / offerer, closer to God.

Indeed, as Rabbi Hirsch explains that is the actual meaning of the words: korban. It comes from the Hebrew root, krv (קרב), which means: to come close.

We aim to come closer to God. Judaism is an organized religion that can help us to achieve that goal. Its rituals are considered practices to help us achieve that. The problem is that the rituals become routine and we therefore, sometime miss the point.

Our challenge is to turn our obligations into offerings.

Through uniting our sacrifices and our offerings we create a korban and turn our rituals into meaningful ceremonies that can bring us closer to God.

Last year's Sedra Short on Parshat VaYikra, entitled: "Korbanot, Honey and Chametz" appears at

Another Sedra Short on Parshat VaYikra, entitled: "Moshe's Calling" appears at

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