Parshat Vayikra

Torah Reading for Week of March 22 – March 28, 2009

“The True Sacrifice”

by Rabbi Mel Gottlieb, PhD
AJRCA President

‘Adam Ki Yakriv Mikem Korbon L’Hashem’ (Vayikra 1:2)

This passage, if translated literally, in the order in which the words occur in Hebrew would read: “A man that offers of you a sacrifice unto the Lord.” According to the sense of the verse, it ought to read, ‘Adam Mikem Ki Yakriv Korbon L’Hashem.’ “Any one of you that brings an offering unto the Lord.”

The literal interpretation of this verse is especially apt in our days. The word ‘Mikem’ – of you – must be especially emphasized. If a man wishes to bring a true sacrifice to G-d, he must put part of himself into the offering. Our Torah being a code and a way of life, never limits its demands and teachings to the mere enunciation of desirable principles and objectives. In addition to the ideal a detailed program of action is chartered, to describe in concrete and practical terms the way that would lead to the ideal. This often demands an earthy, relational response to the people and causes that require our very souls, even if it becomes painful or frightening. The Torah suggests that it is this behavior that draws us close to G-d and to our fellow human being.

The Chumash describes the land of Israel and the Torah of Israel in many glowing terms. One of the favorite descriptions found in our Chumash for Eretz Yisrael and Torah is their comparison to honey. We speak of the land of Israel as ‘eretz zovat chalav u’dvash’ –“a land flowing with milk and honey,” and of the Torah as m’tookim midvash v’nofet tzoofim – “sweeter than honey.”

Honey, of course, is made by the bees who flit about from flower to flower, gathering the rich nectars, colors and flavors. And science informs us that the bee, in order to produce honey, must add to this collection of ingredients which it has gathered from all other places an acid ingredient which comes from the bee itself.

This is a lesson from the comparison of Israel and Torah to honey. In our devotion to Torah, to Israel, to every great and noble cause in life there is a demand for sacrifice. Whether it be virtue, religion, friendship, the affection of husband and wife or lovers for one another, filial and parental love, devotion among brothers and sisters, in all we are asked to bring the korban– mikem– to give a little bit of ourselves. For in the actual personal service we find the real ‘mikem.’

Korban – sacrifice– means to draw near. True sacrifice makes us close to the ideal, to the values which we hold so dear. How can you really draw near to G-d and to your fellow human being? Adam Ki Yakriv Mikem Korban– by giving a little of yourself!

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