Larchmont Temple Chevra Torah

Questioning faith in the parsha



Larchmont Temple—Har Chayim

The F*-WORD…[F _ _ _ _]…Questions, Conflicts & Connection of FAITH


VaYikra—Leviticus     1:1-4


HOW is the initial call to “korban” a model for our approach to God?




v.1             The Lord called to Moses and spoke to him from the Tent of Meeting saying

RASHI…The other sections do not begin with a “call” preceding speech, but at this point Moses could not go into the Tent, thus drawing near to God, without specifically being called. [Exod 40:35ff]

In this instance, God’s Voice proceeded directly to Moses’ ears without the rest of Israel being able to hear it.  “to him,” and not to Aaron…One might think that the sound of God’s Voice might have been audible to all, but, as Numbers 7:89 specifies, Moses would hear The Voice addressing him…”  In our case, however, the sound was even more limited.  It could not be heard throughout the Tent, but only “from above the cover atop the Ark of Covenant, between the two cherubim.”  …In keeping with this we find that during the 38 years when Israel was ostracized, Moses had no private communication with God—from the episode of the spies right up to the time “when all the warriors among the people had died off.” [Deut 2:16]  Only after that does Moses again say: “The Lord spoke to him saying,” [Deut 2:17]  So Moses understands, it is for their sake that He speaks with him.

RAMBAN…Moses, knowing that God enthroned on the cherubim was inside the Tent of Meeting, was afraid to go in unless summoned, just as at Sinai, “He called to Moses from the midst of the cloud.” [Exod 24:16]  Once called, however, Moses could now enter the Tent freely at any time.  As SIFRA says, Aaron fell under the prohibition “Do not enter,” but Moses did not.

S’FORNO… The Lord always called Moses, as in Exod 24:16, “from the midst of the cloud,” which he could not enter without permission.  This took place on the day when Moses finished setting up the Tabernacle.  From this first day on, however, Moses could enter the Tabernacle so long as he stayed outside the curtain of the shrine.

v.2             Speak to the Children of Israel and say to them:

When any of you presents an offering of cattle to the Lord, from the herd or from the flock shall you bring your offering.

RALBAG“Adam”—That is, the name of the species—male or female, all may bring…

B’CHOR SHOR“Adam”—Gentiles included!  “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination” [Prov 21:27]  but this distinction applies only to the Israelites.  As for gentiles, every offering is accepted in order to bring him under the wings of Shechinah.

S’FORNO… “Any of you,” that is “who brings forth an offering with contrite spirit.” [Ps 51:19] God takes no pleasure in fools who bring an offering without submitting themselves to God’s Will, particularly those who engage in idolatry privately but offer to the Lord publicly…

RASHI… Literally, “you”—plural—shall bring forward your offering.  This teaches us that two or more people may combine to present the offering.  That is, the olah can come as voluntary offering of the entire community.

RAMBAN…As RASHI explains, individuals may combine to present a free-will offering, and according to him it makes no difference whether its is given by ten or ten thousand; by more than one is a public offering…

ABARVANEL…  Since they had taken so much trouble in constructing the Tabernacle and would be paying for the sacrifices, God wanted to honor them by directing the first commandment about the korbanim to them, not to Aaron and his sons.

ALTER…”takrivu et karbanchem”—The verb “hikriv,” throughout the text, has the technical sense of “present” in the sacred space of the cult.  The cognate noun, “korban—offering,” is distinctive of Leviticus.  Exodus concludes with a notice of God’s relationship with Israel in the Wilderness, indicating how He led the people on its peregrinations with the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night.  Now, the Tabernacle having been completed, attention is turned to how Israel is to pursue its relationship with God by offering sacrifices—“korbanim”—to “bring them close.”

v.3      If his offering is an olah, he shall make it a male without blemish, bringing it to the entrance of the tent, for acceptance before the Lord.

SARNA…The olah was a signal to God that His worshippers desired to bring their needs to His attention; its purpose being to secure an initial response.  God is perceived as “breathing in” the aromatic smoke of the olah…Before God could be expected to accept the invitation of His worshippers, it was necessary to have an indication of His readiness to be present…As I Kings 18:24 puts it, “The god who responds with fire, that One is God.”




“A person among you who brings a sacrifice to God….”

This means that a person has to offer to God mikem—from his innermost desire and strength. 

It is as if your own will, your desire to bring it, becomes the sacrifice itself, and somehow,

through the sacrificial offering, you are able to bring all of your being and doing close to God.

Now we understand the force of “mikem”—implying that this is accomplished by means of

submerging oneself into the larger totality of the Jewish people, seeing yourself as simply

“mikem”—among the many.

R’ Larry KUSHNER…The SeFAS EMES is interested in how the Torah provides us

with an opportunity to learn more about ourselves through our approach to God.

When we bring sacrifices, so long as they are “mikem”—we are alos presenting ourselves

before God.  That is why we do not send them with anyone else.  That is the ultimate sacrifice.

It is not that God cannot pierce our inner selves.  Rather, the burden of the SeFAS EMES’s

teaching is that through this process, God is providing us with a way to pierce ourselves

and reveal our inner truth for us to see.

But we can only accomplish this, says our teacher, if we submerge ourselves into the totality…

the secondary meaning of “mikem”—perceiving ourselves as part of the collective of the

People Israel.


Rabbi Bradley SHAVIT ARTSON…

At the center of this central book lies a preoccupation with animal and vegetative sacrifice, which is far from the worldview of most contemporary Jews, and for that matter, most contemporary Americans. When we think of religious devotion, we tend to picture silent meditation, appreciation of nature, perhaps even a commitment to ethical living. But the connection between killing animals and serving the Lord escapes us completely.

To understand our own sacred heritage as Jews, to appreciate the religious perspective that emerges from the Torah, the Talmud, and most later Jewish writings, we must come to an understanding of the centrality of Temple ritual and sacrifice.

Objections to animal sacrifices readily abound: It’s bloody, it’s barbaric, it is too physical, too particular, too ugly. Sacrifice is violent, uncontrolled, and primitive.

All true. But so is life.

And it is precisely in that paradox that we can first recognize the power, if not the aesthetics, of sacrifice.  Life is not neatly packaged, fully controlled, or completely comprehensible. Life includes tragedies of staggering proportions, disappointments of trivial pettiness, jealousies, violence and rage.

Each one of us is made up of many layers of feelings, drives, and convictions. Only the mot superficial layer of our personalities is verbal, cheerful, and polite. The deeper layers of the human psyche are nonverbal, contradictory, and impulsive. They include drives toward lust, anger, gratification, jealousy, and safety.  Each of us embodies the person we were at every previous stage of development, all previous ages we have ever lived.

All of these competing levels and drives require some mode of expression. If we attempt to deny them, and consequently to stifle them, they will erupt in destructive or inappropriate ways.  For Judaism to be able to assist us in living, it must reflect all of life. Judaism must be the haven in which we can safely channel and express the entire range of human impulses and drives, confront our own subconscious, relive our own past, face and share our deepest anxieties. If it cannot be at least this, then it is nothing.

Sacrifice horrifies and stuns precisely because it embodies so many subconscious drives and terrors. We need not reinstitute sacrifice to be able to benefit from recalling this ancient practice in the safe context of a worship service. Are you afraid of death? Confront it by reading about sacrifice. Are you ridden with guilt? Represent and conquer your guilt in the Yom Kippur ritual of the scapegoat and sacrifice.

Our ancestors turned to animal sacrifice because they saw in it a way to express deep rage, feelings of inadequacy, guilt. They could use the rite of sacrifice as a means of facing their terror of death and the unknown. They could, through sacrifice of animals, see their own frailty, their own mortality, and their own bloodiness….In our age, a period of sanitized religion and everyday violence, escalating drug abuse and rising poverty, the practice of our ancestors has something yet to teach.

[The Bedside Torah, , Shavit Artson, Contemporary Books, pgs 168-169]


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