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Parashat Vayikra - 5774

My friends,

The last portion of the book of Exodus, which we read last week, described the completion and erection of the Tabernacle, and how a cloud descended and enveloped it. The Book of Vayikra (Leviticus) - the third of the Five Books of Moses which we begin this Shabbat - describes the various offerings that could be made by individuals, or on behalf of the community, in seeking G-d's forgiveness for sins and errors, committed knowingly or unknowingly. The Levites and Kohanim (priests) have the responsibility of administering the various offerings (Korbanot in Hebrew).

For us, the details of these offerings, from the slaughtering of the animal to the dispensing of the blood to the burning of the various parts on the altar, seem foreign to our thinking and understanding of what G-d requires of us. They remind us of a period long gone, since such a service ceased to exist with the destruction of the Second Temple in the year 70 C.E.

The Book of Vayikra contains more than a third of the 613 commandments found in the Torah - 248 mitzvot - and more than half of these Mitzvot relate to the Temple and the Levites and Kohanim. An important message for us today can be found in the Hebrew word for sacrifice - Korban. The root of this word is Karov, which means closeness. It is commonly translated as an offering or sacrifice, but the real meaning is to want to be close to G-d. By fulfilling Mitzvot, we are brought closer to G-d.

The medium of the Temple service has changed, but the meaning is still there. You can make a Korban, an act that can bring you closer to G-d, anywhere and anytime. Sometimes it takes special efforts or 'sacrifice', by doing what is the right thing. If it brings you closer to G-d, you have brought a meaningful Korban to Hashem.

Shabbat Shalom,