12 Cheshvan 5782 / Monday, October 18, 2021 | Torah Reading: Vayeira
dot  Add to favorites   dot  Set as homepage  
    Create an account    |    Sign in
    My Account     Orders History     Help
  My Country:  
  United States   
   My Currency:  
  US Dollar   
Home Page Torah Portion Spirituality and Faith Foundations of Judaism Inspirational Stories Family & Daily Life Holidays and Fast Days Israel and Society
   Heart of the Parsha     Chassidic Pearls     Chana’s Blessing     Parsha Beams             
Jacob's Ladder  
HomeTorah PortionJacob's LadderGet Up! Stand Up! - Vayikra
  Advanced Search

Get Up! Stand Up! - Vayikra    

Get Up! Stand Up! - Vayikra

Of the 613 mitzvot that appear in the Torah, 246 of them appear in Vayikra, the book of Leviticus. Many of these mitzvot deal with...


Of the 613 mitzvot that appear in the Torah, 246 of them appear in Vayikra, the book of Leviticus.  Many of these mitzvot deal with the sacrifices that were offered in the Temple. But how is the mitzvah of sacrificing domestic animals relevant to a generation of Jews raised on tofu burgers and soy ice cream?  Although these mitzvot may appear, God forbid, obsolete, they serve to bring to light a better understanding of our relationship with the Almighty, and what it really means to live as a Jew.    
What is Spirituality?
Modern Jews have no problem understanding the mitzvot between man and man (visiting the sick, rejoicing with the bride and groom, etc.).  Many of the mitzvot between man and God, however, are more difficult to understand.  People think of spirituality as a personal affair for which a fixed set of laws could not possibly exist. 
We read in Vayikra, “The Kohen (priest) shall thus burn the entire animal on the altar as a completely burnt first offering, a sweet smell for God" (Vayikra 1:9).  Is sacrificing an animal more spiritual than meditating in some Asian country?  Does the Almighty really derive pleasure from this seemingly barbaric practice?  How could something so seemingly base and physical connect us to the Almighty?   
Before understanding why offering a sacrifice is the height of spirituality, we must understand the Jewish perspective towards spirituality.  In his classic book, The Gates of Repentance, Rabbeinu Yonah teaches that for a person to clean himself, he must first get out of the mud. In the same way that it is worthless to shower while rolling in dirt, it is also worthless to try to repent while acting in a way that leads to sin.  To change our life, we must first change our reality.  It’s hard to avoid speaking lashon hara, gossip, when one's friends speak badly about others.  To understand a Jewish concept, we must first attempt to “remove” ourselves from our western mode of thinking.
Obligations versus Rights
What is the western mode of thinking?  The Torah teaches that there are ways of viewing the world – based on Yitzchak's (Isaac) two children, Yaakov (Jacob) and Esav (Esau). In most cases, these viewpoints are diametrically opposed.  Esav’s ideology was transmitted to the Romans, and then to the western philosophers who rose after Rome’s demise.  American philosophy follows closely with Esav’s view on the world.  Central to western thought is the concept of individuals’ rights.  This is evident by the Bill of Rights, which guarantees American citizens inalienable freedoms. 
The tradition we inherited from Yaakov, on the other hand, is rooted in ‘obligations.’  We are obligated to each other and to the Almighty.  Instead of ten inalienable rights, we have six hundred and thirteen obligations.  Jewish ideology is antithetical to western culture; instead of concerning ourselves with what is rightfully ours, we are charged with focusing on our obligations towards others. 
Once we understand this concept, we understand why it is difficult for us to accept the idea of laws for spiritual growth.  The obligation to offer sacrifices is strange for those of us who assume we have a right to determine our own spirituality.  But we are obligated to serve God in the way He dictates. 
Sanctifying the Physical
Armed with the understanding that the Jewish approach to spirituality is rooted in God’s instructions rather than our desires, we can attempt to understand animal sacrifices.  Sacrificial offerings bring to light yet another stark contradiction between Jewish and non-Jewish philosophies.  Many ideologies shun physicality.  They assume the only way to achieve spirituality is through abstaining from this world as much as possible.  For this reason, many non-Jewish religious leaders will withdraw from physical pleasures, like food and marital relations.   
The Torah, on the other hand, teaches that since God made both the physical and spiritual realities, they are both sacred.  The physical world is man’s means to reach the Almighty.  Only through sanctifying the physical can we attain spirituality. 
Let's consider the role of wine in Jewish observance.  Many modern non-Jewish ideologies view wine negatively for its potential to destroy.  Jews realize that although wine can be used to destroy, it also has a sublime ability to help us feel more connected with the Almighty.  For that reason, we make Kiddush on wine. Through imbibing of a physical substance, we achieve spirituality.  
In the same way, when we offer an animal to the Almighty, we are elevating a physical beast to the sublime height of a korbon (a sacrificial offering), which is entirely holy.  Through offering the korbon, we demonstrate that our connection with God is rooted in our ability to elevate the physical.  If a cow or sheep can achieve the holy status of a korbon, how much greater heights can we attain through overcoming our base nature and elevating ourselves to be servants of the Almighty. 
The concept of being a “servant” carries with it many negative implications. After all, if all we do is focus on what we owe others, who will look out for us?  But living a life of obligation offers a greater potential for self satisfaction than focusing on our rights. 
Successful Marriage
This can be illustrated by understanding the Rambam’s advice for a successful marriage.  He says a wife should treat her husband like a king, while a husband should love his wife as much as he loves himself, and honors her even more than he honors himself.  According to Western philosophy, each party focuses on its own rights: the husband has the right to be treated like a king while the wife has the right to be respected by her husband more than he respects himself.  If either party does not perform their duty properly, they violate each other’s rights.  Yet, when either party ‘stands up for their rights,’ or demands justice, the gap between them is widened.  Today's high divorce rates attest to this attitudes destructive influence.
The Rambam, however, points out that in a good marriage both parties focus on their obligations, rather than on their rights.  By focusing on our duties to our spouses, rather than what our spouses owes us, we strengthen our marriages.  Marriage is not a competition. It is partnership that benefits both partners.  We can get more out of a human relationship by being selfless, and all the more is this reflected in the relationship between man and the Almighty.
God does not derive pleasure from the korbon's smell.  When the Torah states that the korbon makes a pleasing odor for God (Vayikra 1:9), it is teaching us how to relate to God.  The Almighty is perfect.  He doesn’t need our prayers, good deeds, and roasted animals.  All the mitzvot done for our benefit, as it states, "God commanded us to perform all these decrees, to fear God, our God, for our good, all the days, to give us life, as this very day” (Devarim 6:24).
The Chofetz Chaim explains that by acting according to God’s will, we merit Divine help.  By performing the mitzvot, we earn a life of meaning.  It is impossible for us to understand why certain physical actions are pleasing to the Almighty.  It is logical, however, that the Creator understands His creations in the most intimate and complete way possible.  Although we cannot possibly understand God, we know that everything He does is for our benefit.  By viewing the world from a Jewish perspective, we gain insight on how to live in the most healthy and beneficial way.  By modeling our actions on His, and striving to live according to His will, we allow ourselves to plug into the reality of the universe.  May each of our actions bring more Divine light into this world, as each of us contribute to the nation’s mission of being a "light unto the nations."  

New Comment    New Comment
   See More Articles By Jacob Rupp
   Read more about Jacob's Ladder

Top of article    Top of article       Email This Article    Email This Article          Share to Facebook       Print version    Print version

 Join the distribution list Join the distribution list
If you would like to receive other related articles or Breslev.co.il features via e-mail, please enter your e-mail address here:


 Related Articles Related Articles

Yitro: Becoming One               Tetzaveh: Something Wicked               Pekudei: Vote of Confidence
 Yitro: Becoming One  Tetzaveh: Something Wicked  Pekudei: Vote of Confidence

  0 Talkbacks for this article     

Add Your CommentAdd Your Comment    Add Your Comment    

In Honor of:    In Memory of:
Like What You Read?
Help Breslev Israel spread the light of Rebbe Nachman
across the globe, and be a partner in making a better world.
Click here to support Breslev.co.il
 Products of the Day Products of the Day
Back  1 2 3  Next
Back  1 2 3  Next
 Most talked about Most talked about
Up  1 2 3  Down
 Most read Most read
Up  1 2 3  Down
 Facebook Facebook
 Mailing List Mailing List
Subscribe Here:   


open toolbar