Monday, March 11, 2013

Reaching For Something Higher Than Yourself - Parshat Vayikra




This week, we begin the Book of Leviticus. Its not one of the most glamorous books of the Torah. It’s mostly about sacrifices, skin diseases, and the rules about being a Priest.  It’s called the Holiness Code, and gives us a guide for our ethical and ritual obligations. It’s about Mitzvot and responsibilities. Leviticus is like our own personal GPS, the guidebook to life.

We begin the Book with Parashat Vayikra.  Vayikra begins by describing the instructions for offering sacrifices.  We wonder, how does this relate to us today?  Thank goodness we don’t practice anything even remotely similar to this. But, even though we no longer practice ritual sacrifices, we have found other ways to become closer to God and to achieve holiness, because that was the whole point of ritual sacrifice.

In ancient days, sacrifices were offered at specific times. Today, we offer prayer at fixed times, so that we specifically set aside some time out of our day to try to achieve that closeness to God.  Even more than prayer, performing acts of lovingkindness and doing acts of community service can help us continue to be a nation that pursues justice. Sacrificing doesn’t mean to give something up. It means to be generous, and to live with an open heart, and going beyond what you ever thought you could do. This is true holiness.

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