VaYikra - Weekly Torah Portion

On this Shabbat we begin the read of the book of Leviticus, VaYikra, and we shall learn quite a lot about offerings and the sacrifice of animals. “When anyone of you brings an offering to the Lord, you shall bring your offering of livestock from the herd or the flock.” There is also another option, “if his offering to the Lord is a burnt offering of birds, then he shall bring his offering from the turtledoves or from young doves.” When we look at today’s Jewish world of all its colors that kind of service to God cannot be found anymore. It does not mean that we should refrain from some kind of involvement of offerings but they have to be presented differently, giving that is not self-serving, may be but for the satisfaction it may bring about. As this is the very season where the Reform Movement’s Keren BeKavod conducts its Passover food drive. You can call in Israel 1-700-50-19-19 or 054-779-1191 and make your donations. The cost of a food package for Passover is NIS 180. The fund will distribute gift cards, food packages, and toys to hundreds of families of all walks of Israel’s diverse society and who have been impacted by the coronavirus. There is no need to call for a priest to “slaughter the bull” and there is no need that he “shall arrange them on the wood which is on the fire that is on the altar.” Just a brief phone call and you have helped a family, or two or more. Any donation of any size shall be more then welcome.

Already during our prophets’ times, the worship by offering of sacrifices was not their cup of tea to say the least. The prophet Isiah had some more to say about it as we read in this week’s Haftarah. “Yet you have not called on Me, Jacob; But you have become weary of Me, Israel. You have not brought to Me the sheep of your burnt offerings, Nor have you honored Me with your sacrifices. I have not burdened you with offerings, Nor wearied you with incense. You have not bought Me sweet cane with money, Nor have you satisfied Me with the fat of your sacrifices; Rather, you have burdened Me with your sins, You have wearied Me with your wrongdoings.” It is not a complaint about the refraining from making sacrifices, rather it is a complaint that it was done without intent of repentance but may be more of an intent to repeat. The prophet reminds that, “I, I alone, am the one who wipes out your wrongdoings for My own sake, And I will not remember your sins.” It is not the offerings served one after the other, side by side, that annul the sins. It is not what a person does externally but rather the internal change in behavior is what is required.

This Tuesday Israelis will make their offerings and sacrifices at the ballots. There will have to comprise between competing values and cast but one ballot in a sealed envelope hoping that by the end count the result shall be better than that which we have experienced three elections in a row. In a democratic country, certainly a Jewish and democratic country, it is of high importance to go out and cast a vote – it is the only way we can influence the election’s results. One may think that a single vote is meaningless among millions of votes of voters. Maybe it is time to return to the teachings of the Babylonian Talmud, Kiddushin, where we learn that a person must always see himself or herself as if half innocent half guilty. By doing one deed of righteousness the entire verdict tils to being innocent, and one more bad deed goes into the other direction. Rabbi Elazar quoting rabbi Shimon says that this applies to the entire world and this way a single person can tilt the world’s verdict in either direction, and hence the responsibility to do good. To paraphrase on this, it is essential to go and cast your vote as even a single vote may tilt the results one way or another. It is really not much of a sacrifice of us to go and perform this civil duty of which much good may result.

However, it is a season of giving and therefore it is important for me to tell you that after seven years of moving between places, Kehilat Shoham, that is a young and vibrant congregation under the leadership of Rabbi Rinat Tzfania, received a place of its own. To make it a home for the congregation a funding drive has begun so that the necessary renovations can promptly begin. Please consider making some of your season’s donations towards this important effort. In addition, of course continue to think of making your donations to Keren BeKavod as well as the Natan Ya Congregation. The Israel Reform Movement and its congregations throughout the country are your way in instilling our common values in the country, we change its landscape daily promoting Judaism that embraces pluralism, tolerance, acceptance and that broadens it ranks continuously.

Shabbat Shalom and wishes for Good Health.

Reuven Marko, 19 March 2021, 7 Nisan, 5781

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