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Every Piece In It's Place
A d'var torah about a modern application of the concept of sacrifice. Originally distributed for the Hazon CSA listserve.
Every Piece in Its Place, by Scott Shafrin
Oftentimes, the Torah devotes a tremendous number of verses to matters that may appear, to some, to have very little do with our lives today. One such example is the group of laws concerning the korbanot, the sacrifices offered to God in the wilderness and later in the Temple in Jerusalem. For the last two thousand years, most Jewish people have considered animal sacrifices to have been an outdated means of worship, and even those who might have wished to partake were unable to since the Temple and its altar no longer exist. Amazinly, a plethora of discussions on the topic appear in the Talmud and later commentaries, eventhough it’s unlikely that that these sacrifices will ever be offered again.
In this week’s Torah portion, Parashat Tzav, this question is brought to the forefront. The first part of the parsha deals entirely with the laws of the ritual sacrifices, which have already been discussed in Parashat Vayikra, only one parasha earlier. So, why are these laws repeated? A simple answer is that anything repeated must be important. But can it really be that knowing exactly when and how to offer sacrifices is so crucial to our lives that the Torah needs to hammer these points home so repeatedly?
The answer is yes, only not in the most obvious way. I believe that the intent of the repetition here is to push us to notice the intrinsic order of the ritual process. Each person in the community is able to offer something, from the Cohen Gadol (High Priest) to the most common Israelite. At the same time, everyone gets to eat some of these sacrifices. Some sacrifices are wholly burned, others are eaten by the priests, or the people who offered them, or even the whole community together. By sharing what resources they had, the community was able to make sure everyone had food to eat, and through sharing they connected with God.
While we may not sacrifice animals on the altar of the Temple, we must remember that it is one of our duties to create a system in which everyone sacrifices something so that everyone has something to eat. Around the world, over 900 million people are undernourished, more than 100 million children, and almost 15% of the households in America do not have enough to eat every day. Many of our CSAs have a built-in component where extra or left-over food is donated to local food banks and other emergency food distribution centers – and this is just one way in which we can fulfill our duty of making sure everyone has something to eat.
Scott Shafrin is a student at the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies in Los Angeles. He is currently residing in Jerusalem and studying at the Conservative Yeshiva.
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