This week’s parshah is “Vayikra,” which means “and He called”. It begins in Leviticus 1:1 and ends in Leviticus 5:26.
Vayikra begins with and is mostly about G-D giving Moses commandments about sacrifices. It reads a bit like a bullet pointed list, and it can be hard to find meaning in parshahs like this. The sacrifices were done at the Holy Temple, which unfortunately has long since been destroyed. The challenge for us in modern times is finding the meaning in these parts of Torah. How can we relate to a time when our ancestors sacrificed their animals to the Temple when we have neither livestock nor a Temple? Is there any way to?
First and foremost, it is important to understand what a sacrifice truly is. When the ancient Israelites sacrificed their animals, it was a very big deal. When our ancestors were all pastoral and living off the land, animals became their business and source of their livelihood. Therefore, it is the ultimate donation to sacrifice your animal to G-D at the Holy Temple rather than selling, using or eating it.
When the ancient Israelites would go to the Holy Temple for their sacrifices, they would not only have the animal ritually slaughtered but also would eat the offering with the priests. In this way, what would otherwise have been a regular family meal turned into something much more elevated. The meat they would have had at home, probably talking about something unproductive or mundane, became a ritual meal. The same meat was being eaten but the meal became an elevated practice.
From this, we learn the true meaning of sacrifice. A sacrifice in the Jewish sense is not about giving something up, it is instead about taking your instincts and using them to do good. Just as our ancestors elevated their meals, we should be finding ways to elevate our lives.
The Jewish prayer services that we do today correspond to the sacrifices which were commanded of our ancestors. There were three daily sacrifices, plus an additional sacrifice during Shabbat. Because of this, Jews pray three times a day and include an additional fourth set of prayers on Shabbat. Just as the ancient Israelites sacrificed their animals, we sacrifice our time. But this does not mean giving up our time, just like our ancestors did not give up their animals. Instead, this means we are elevating our time by way of prayer. The introspective power of prayer leads to a more meaningful day, a day where your mind is focused on the important and holy aspects of your life. While the “sacrifice” is different now, the purpose remains the same. We are using our time in a better way, a way that pushes us to reflect and express gratitude, a way that allows us to look past the things that don’t matter and truly focus on the things that do.
Hadass Galili is a senior studying political science pre-law at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnist do not reflect those of The Post. Do you agree? Tell Hadass by tweeting her at @HadassGalili.