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Vayikra and Tzav: The search for righteousness through sacrifice.

In Our Lives:
Sacrifice. What does the word even mean? In today’s definition, is a sacrifice more similar to a compromise or a selfless act of justice? What do we ‘sacrifice’ these days? We may find giving up our most valuable possessions of our time, food, money, goals, or our own needs may feel sacrificial. If this is the case, are sacrifices even quantifiable?

When it comes to self-sacrifice there are those who keep everything to themselves and look out for only his/her self. Then there are those who are too giving to the extreme that they forget even their own needs. Both for the self-centric and the extreme giver, I often think we need guidelines for how to maintain a healthy balance of the sacrifices we each make in our lives in order to maintain a caring community and larger global society while still fulfilling our own needs.

When learning a Jewish practice called Mussar I engaged with rituals/ mitzvot (teachings) such as patience, and equanimity. The main idea was that each of us has an inclination towards good and an inclination towards evil or yetzer hatov, and yetzer hara. By engaging with this Jewish social justice practice of Mussar, one could balance between the two inclinations. This was done by asking yourself the question; ‘how am I serving the other?’ This question allowed me to consider the struggle of the other and to self-evaluate my reactions by accounting for how the other may or may not feel cared for in the situation. What is the other person’s burden? Just in asking yourself this questions requires a more sympathetic approach, and the ability to best serve the other.

From the source:
As we turn to a new book of Moses, Leviticus, we learn from the past two weeks torah portions (Vayikra, and Tzav) the value of sacrifice in biblical times. I dare to say the language surrounding the meaning of a sacrifice has changed quite a bit from what it is today. The torah shows the ways in which Jews became closer to G-d through the acts of these animal offerings. Today, instead of object sacrifices, we may offer our evil inclination as sacrifice. We may sacrifice this innate selfish or evil impulse in the hope of achieving either connection with G-d, our people, or in a broader sense in our goals of achieving global justice. A commentator on Vayikra states, “Those individuals who perform a single mitzvah draw themselves and the entire world toward righteousness.” Another commentator citing, “ When we want to draw close (l’hitkarev) to G-d, we must offer something of our own, that is, our ‘evil inclination.’” [1]

May we each continue to sacrifice for others in our lives in the hope that our actions will bring us closer to a more just, and righteous world.

[1] Comments this week come from The Torah A Women’s Commentary edited by: Tamara Cohn Eskenazi and Andrea L. Weiss (pg. 588)

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