Special needs adoption from a Jewish perspective.

Special needs adoption from a Jewish perspective.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Torah Connection - Vayikra

OK, so I am several weeks behind.  This is going to be tough.

Almost three weeks ago we started the book of Leviticus with Parshat Vayikra, wherein the various sacrifices are described.  Here is a good introduction into how these could possibly be relevant to us today.

A few highlights:

  • The Hebrew word for sacrifice - "korban" - literally means "coming closer".  The sacrifices were intended not primarily to take away from the people in a punitive fashion, but to provide a means for coming closer to the Divine.
  • Both rich and poor alike were expected to bring sacrifices "from each according to his ability".... a poor man's handful of flour was no less worthy than a rich man's bullock.
  • Kings and priests were expected to atone for their sins, just like everyone else.  There was no assumption of divinity or sinlessness for either political or spiritual leaders. Here was the origin of "equality before the law".
I noticed something in this analysis, though, that I want to expand on:

Never in Torah is there any notion of G-d "eating" a korban. They are called a "re'ach nikhoach," which could be translated "pleasing smell," but "re'ach" can mean a spiritual uplift as well. There is certainly no physical benefit or need fulfilled. The idea of a korban is that it is pleasing to G-d when we express a desire to make ourselves godly at the expense of our physicality. This can be expressed in our deeds, in our charity, and, yes, in the korbanos.

This reminded me of a conversation I had recently about Genesis, of all things.  It was concerning the names of Adam and Eve.  In Hebrew, Adam is not only the word for "man", but is related to the words for "earth" - "adama" and "red" - "adom".  It is therefore a name rich in symbolism, highlighting man's connection to the earth from which he was fashioned.  Eve's name - "Chava" - doesn't seem to connect to anything, but is explained as being "Mother of all life".  It has been suggested that a transcription error may have changed Chaya (Chet-Yud-Heh) to Chava (Chet-Vav-Heh).

It seems to me that this could have been a similar slip, or at least a biblical pun.  The word for "spirit" is "Ru'ach" (Reish-Vav-Chet), while "smell" is "Re'ach" (Reish-Yud-Chet).  Thinking of it this way paves the way to seeing the appropriateness of substituting prayer (spiritual offerings) for animal sacrifices (yummy bbq odor...).

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