Some thoughts on sacrifice and Sefer Vayikra, massive HT to Moshe Halbertal’s terrific ‘On Sacrifce’
You might know the game Fruit Ninja,
My kids love it.
And now, and I kid you not, available on the Apple Appstore . Leviticus! (exclamation point)
Sharpen your knife and your priestly reflexes: are you ready for the Ultimate Rule Book? Leviticus!
Play the role of a busy priest working to keep God happy by sacrificing choice offerings of sheep, goats, and bulls with frantic speed and slicing precision. Combo your actions and the rewards get BIBLICAL! (capital letters, exclamation mark)
Three sacrificial services a day, seven days a week. Can YOU make it to Shabbat? Download Leviticus! (exclamation point) and start swiping to find out!
Leviticus! features global leaderboards, long term achievements, and high score announcements designed especially for Facebook bragging.
Cool in-app purchases coming soon!
It’s one response to the question Jacob wrestled with – what to do with the book of Leviticus.
Because it’s not obvious.
You know, I would probably download the game if I had an apple thingy.
But ultimately I need to find something else in all this apparatus and ritual other than a child-friendly slasher blood bath.
So that’s what I want to share with you.
Moshe Halbertal’s book On Sacrifice.
Halbertal’s opener is that there is an enormous difference between ‘sacrificing to’ and ‘sacrificing for.’
As Jacob discussed in his Devar Torah we all sacrifice for things.
And ‘sacrificing for’ something isn’t bad.
But it’s a transactional
When ‘sacrifice for’ something becomes part of a negotiation, a deal.
I’ll go without Starbucks coffee for the year to save the money to go on holiday.
I’ll go without the chocolate cake to lose the extra weight ..
That’s all ‘sacrificing for.’
That’s all fine, but makes us a penny counter, a calorie counter – doesn’t make us a human.
And Sefer Vayikra, the Book of Leviticus, isn’t about ‘sacrificing for,’ it’s about ‘sacrificing to,’ to God, a source of life, creation, possibility and love.
When we sacrifice to
We are not focussed on what get out the relationship.
When we sacrifice to
We are focussed on the relationship.
Halbertal suggests that this is the action of love.
When you do something for someone NOT because of what you get out of the deal.
That’s love – following Buber.
‘Sacrificing to’ isn’t like entering into a contract. It’s not like making a deal.
It’s giving a gift.
That’s the first point.
‘Sacrificing to’ is about love.
Interestingly ‘sacrificing to’ is based on a particular relationship with the one offering up the sacrifice.
Locates us before something we believe more important than we are.
When we train ourselves in sacrificing to, we train ourselves in acknowledgement that there is something ‘out there’ that is more important than we are.
When we ‘offer to’ we recognise our place in the world.
Recognise that our lives are dependent on grace.
Clues in the words.
Korban – come close – our goal
Minhah – set before – our position in this relationship
Like the satrap before the King.
Like a pauper before a billionaire.
Like a child before the parent.
When a poor person brings a gift to a rich person, sense of fear.
Need to do it right.
Care – rituals to safeguard it going wrong.
The greater the dis-equality between the giver and the receiver, the more careful need to be.
More ritual we would expect to see.
Certainly lot of ritual in Sefer Vayikra
Do it this way, then step over here, cut over there, rinse over here.
The greater the dis-equality between the giver and the receiver, the more humble need to be about what we bring.
Not going to impress with the quality of the gift – God is not going to be impressed with a piece of dead goat.
Or even a dead cow, of a herd of cows.
Only chance to impress is with the heart, the intention behind, the way the giving comes from a sincere place, and makes us more sincere – not more demanding.
Mothers Day – the cards don’t impress because of the quality of the artwork.
Impress and move us because of what says about the relationship.
And if the moment after giving, bratish behaviour – and never seen in either my house, or Ingrams, I’m sure, then the gift is worthless.
And even if perfect behaviour, one can never know.
Sacrificing to one mightier than I puts us in the mindset of knowing that it all depends on grace.
A poor person can’t bribe a millionaire.
A serf can’t buy the affection of the King.
Ultimately depends on grace of the more mighty in the relationship.
That’s the other point.
Reinforces our understanding of hierarchy in our relationship with God.
Or for those who can’t handle the God-language – the cosmos.
When we ‘sacrifice to’ develop our humility.
Recognise how much we depend on grace, the benevolence of the Cosmos beyond what we dare demand is our right.
When we ‘sacrifice to’ we build relationships, a relationship of love, we become people who love, who care who are desperate not to get it wrong.
Put this way, for me, this ritual reading of rituals of how to sacrifice to work.
Remind me of who I want to be as I stand before the world.
And the real question is, without the rituals, the bulls and the blood, how do I remain the sort of person prepared to offer ‘sacrifices to’
Because if I stop becoming that kind of person become calculating, arrogant and unworthy of love.
I think that would apply to us all.