In this week’s Parsha, Parshat Vayikra, G-d calls on Moses and tells him the laws of animal and bread sacrifices. There are many sacrifices mentioned in the Torah such as the Mincha (flour offering), Shlamim (peace offering), Chatat (sin offering), and Asham (guilt offering). Many of these sacrifices were instituted for the Jewish people to show their gratitude and commitment. Jewish philosophy has many different explanations of sacrifices: Maimonides has suggested that animal sacrifice would prepare Jewish people for other, elevated forms of sacrifices. Philo of Alexandria found symbolic meaning in each of the different sacrifices. Kabbalists understood that each sacrifice had a deep mystical meaning that may not be readily apparent to the casual learner. Finally, many Reform scholars were uncomfortable with the mention of animal sacrifices and sought to remove much of the liturgy and teachings about sacrifices from our prayer services and rituals
What is the main lesson we could learn from Parshat Vayikra? Sacrifices were not simply an act of bringing the animal or flour offering upon the altar. It required one to look deeper and with great understanding to recognize why they were bringing that sacrifice. What was actually being sacrificed? What was the symbolism of that sacrifice? This ability to look deeper and with greater understanding is also extremely helpful in today’s times as well.
Maimonides writes, "Any tragedy and distress that happens to a community is also an invitation to Teshuvah (return), such that when bad things happen, you resolve to come closer to G-d." Rashi (Rabbi Shomo Yitzchaki) points out that there is a difference between things that happen by chance and things that are in some sense a call from G-d to come closer to G-d. Perhaps, the current pandemic and the constant need for quarantine and isolation is the opportunity to listen to our mind, soul, and heart to hear G-d's very quiet call. G-d might be asking us questions such as, is there someone I should call to check up on? Is there someone I should help? Is there someone I should thank? Is there a prayer I should be saying? Is there a text I should be learning? Is there a mitzvah I should be doing?
Right now, Estonia, where I am from, is experiencing very hard times. We have one of the highest rates of infection per capita in the world. We are currently in our second lockdown and home again. Right now, is the time for us to listen to our minds. I have been asking myself, is there something that I have been avoiding until now because I was too busy, and now in this silence again, I am able to hear? This is what the sacrifices in Parshat Vayikra are all about. Sometimes you have to sacrifice something in order to see something new, something that you previously could not see, but now is right in front of your eyes. Sometimes the really difficult times are the times of greatest growth. We don't see so at the time, but when we look back, we can see what we really experienced during those times.
Read commentary on this week's Parsha from BBYO teens around the world.
All views expressed on content written for The Shofar represent the opinions and thoughts of the individual authors. The author biography represents the author at the time in which they were in BBYO.
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