Torah Portion: Tzav (Command) (Leviticus) Vayikra 6-8
Haftorah Reading: Jeremiah 7:21-9:24
Tonight we read the Torah portion Tzav or Command. This Torah portion continues with the details of sacrifice and ends with the setting apart of Aaron and his sons for their ministry in the Mishkan.
First I want to remind us of several Hebrew words that will help us in our understanding of the purpose of sacrifice. No doubt this is a difficult subject for us to grasp, filled as it is, with death and blood. However, these words should help us in our understanding. The first word is Korban. This is the word from which we arrive at our English word sacrifice. However, to give us insight into our English translation we must understand the Hebrew meaning. This word means to come close, so the meaning to us then is to sacrifice is to draw close to G-d. Which brings me to my other word we need to be aware of in our portion. Since the book of Vayikra/Leviticus is about sacrifices more than any other topic it will help us to look at the word used to give us our English word L-rd. When we read Vayikra we notice that L-rd is the word most often used. In fact it is used 209 times and the word for G-d is used only 5 times. The word G-d is only used when speaking about some other people rather than Israel. The Hebrew word translated as G-d is Elohim. This word is used in the story of creation in Genesis 1 and 2. It is the word used to describe the justice side of G-d. The word used here in our portion and through out Vayikra translated as L-rd, is the four letter Name of G-d. This name is always used to express the qualities of love, mercy and grace of the L-rd.
This name should give us a much deeper insight to the subject of sacrifices. Sacrifices were to express our love of the L-rd and His corresponding love for us. Sacrifices, portrayed in the scriptures, had a much different purpose than they had in pagan societies that surrounded Israel. The nations brought sacrifice mainly out of fear of their god. They brought them sometimes as a bribe or to appease their god as if to say, “I did this sin so I am bringing this animal to get by with the thing I have done.” Maybe god would look the other way.
We even see this in the prophets when they chastised Israel. Sacrifices brought for any other reason than to express the person’s love for G-d and their desire to restore that relationship were not received by the L-rd. This all brings me to my subject for our meeting. We are willing to make sacrifices for the things we love. For Israel as a nation of farmers and shepherds, they looked on their sacrifice as a symbol of their love of the L-rd. To love is to be thankful, to love is to want to bring an offering to the Beloved. To love is to give.
This is true in many aspects of our lives. A happily married couple is constantly making sacrifices for each other. Parents make sacrifices for their children. People love their community, country and make sacrifices for them. To love is to sacrifice. Sacrifice is the super glue of relationships. It bonds us to one another. In our world today this idea of sacrifice is not at the top of the popularity list. Self interest has largely replace the concept of sacrifice. We see this everywhere but surely nowhere as strongly as in marriages. Throughout the western world people are getting married later in life, if at all. Over half of all marriages end in divorce. Children are left to deal with the affects of a broken home. When sacrifice as a principle of society falters, the society eventually falters and fails.
Marriages fail when partners are unwilling to make sacrifices for one another. Our faith falters when we lose the concept of sacrifice. We see it throughout scripture in both the Hebrew scriptures and the Messianic writings. Sacrifice is the bedrock of who we are as the grafted in people of G-d and it must also be the bedrock of our personal relationships. Romans 12:1-2