December 13, 2018 ~ Shabbat VAYIGASH. Maqam BAYAT.

Shabbat Vayiqra - שבת ויקרא

Sacrifices

אדם כי יקריב מכם - In the Book of Leviticus, Moses teaches the proper procedure of how to offer a sacrifice should one feel inclined to do so. While sacrifices are generally viewed favorably by God (ריח ניחח לה׳), there is a possibility (see Maimonides) that the entire practice is optional (כי יקריב), and merely a concession to allow the people to worship in a way that was meaningful and well-understood by them. We learn from the prophets (Jeremiah 7:22) that technically, God, at Sinai, didn't actually command to bring sacrifices, and that He prefers that we spend our time improving the world with acts of kindness, justice, and righteousness (עשה חסד משפט וצדקה בארץ). Rather than focusing on rituals (such as sacrifices and prayers) and then living corruptly, God says (Jeremiah 9:23) that He seeks (כי באלה חפצתי נאם ה׳) those who have their priorities straight and live by ethical, moral, and honest values (Beth Torah, April 1, 2017).

Sincerity

אדם כי יקריב ... ונפש כי תקריב - For lavish animal offerings, Leviticus 1:2 uses the simple word, “Adam” (אדם), or man. For more simple flour offerings, Leviticus 2:1 applies the more elevated word, “Nefesh” (נפש), or soul. Although at times these words are interchangeable, commentaries derive a lesson from this. When it comes to bringing a gift to God, what is most important is not the type of gift one brings, but rather how one brings it. We learn from the specific usage of these words that God prefers the one who brings a simple flour offering but with sincerity over the one who brings an expensive meat offering brought without much thought. Since the institution of prayer is said to parallel that of the sacrifice, the same lesson applies as well. One can derive that God prefers the prayers of the one who pours out their heart and soul over the one who just shows up to services as a routine but does not actually concentrate on praying. Beth Torah Bulletin, 3/17/18.


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