Call to prayer for awakening
Torah Portion: Tzav (Command) Vayikra/Leviticus 6:1-8:36
Haftorah Reading: Jeremiah 7:21-9:24
Today I would like to begin by asking each of you to do something that I believe is very important. Please pray for yourself, your family and people around you. This crisis we are all facing calls out for a spiritual awakening. It calls for G-d’s people to pray and seek the L-rd. Repentance and forgiveness is called for now.
This Shabbat is called Shabbat Hagadol or the big Shabbat. It is named this because it is the last Shabbat that comes each year before Passover. Passover will occur this coming week on Wednesday evening at sundown. Our world stands in need of G-d’s deliverance now. I got an email this week from one of our friends who stated she is considering putting a red cloth or string on her doorpost on Wednesday before Passover begins. I think, in the unusual times we are in right now, this is a wonderful idea. I believe it would remind us of G-d’s deliverance of His people many years ago, a statement that we are covered by His blood and a prayer for His deliverance today.
My plans for what I was going to teach today changed as I progressed through the week. I will still bring our portion into what we study however, the final point has changed. As you know, if you have read this portion, it begins with Moshe going over the list of offerings to be brought before G-d in the Tabernacle. The first one mentioned is called, “the burnt offering.” The Hebrew name will help us understand this offering more deeply. In Hebrew it is called the “Olah” offering. It is or was one of the most frequent offerings brought by the people. Olah means to go up. It is the same word used today for new immigrants going to Israel. This offering was left on the altar until it was completely consumed. Nothing but ashes remained. In a way it was to represent the person bringing it. It was symbolic of the dedication of that person to G-d. It meant the person offering the Olah offering was dedicating themselves completely to G-d with nothing held back.
When the Temple was built in Jerusalem these offerings took place there. Of course, later in history the Temple was destroyed by the Romans. This occurred in 70 CE, about forty years after the death and resurrection of Yeshua. The Jews of the time were faced with a huge problem. What would they do now that there was no Temple for their sacrifices? The answer to this problem was truly revolutionary. Based on verses in the Prophets and other books such as Psalms 51:17 and Hosea 14:2-3 to name a few, the people found a way to continue their worship even though there was no Temple. In fact, verses like these showed the people what was really important. G-d’s desire was for a broken and contrite heart and for a people who cared for the poor and beaten down.
This ability to grow and adapt allowed Jews and Judaism to grow and continue where many other cultures and faiths passed away over time. I share this because I believe our faith, our way of life, faces a threat today, not unlike other faiths over the pages of history have faced. This crisis allows us the opportunity to truly be the light we are called to be. It allows us to bring our Olah offering to the altar, to be able to make a difference around us where we are. I believe we are the hope of our country now. Hysteria can cause people to sink to the lower levels of behavior. We see all around us rumors and hatred beginning to appear.
We, as G-d’s Olah offering, can make a difference. Our future as a country may depend on it. As we look back over Israel’s history we see the importance of memory, of remembering who they are, of finding ways to keep their history alive. In studying history we can recall civilizations that melted away over time but the Jewish people are still here. They found ways to remember who they are as G-d’s chosen people, ways to bring their faith into their everyday life even when they had no country.
This situation we are in now must not strip us of our ability to reach out to those in need, those who are frightened, or sick. Pray that the Father will show you what you can do. Bless you all with wisdom and understanding, with calmness in the storm and allow G-d to use you in such a time as this.