Blog Tsav Adar II 16th 5779 בלוג צַו, ט”ז אדר ב’ תשע”ט

This second portion of Vayikra continues the Korbanot, the offerings. It begins in the parashat Vayikra with the calling of the individual where each one was called by their own name, allotting to them a place of importance. Next, in this parashat Tzav, we see the calling of the Cohanim, the Priesthood who would be responsible to lead and to instruct the people on how to bring the offerings that would keep them on track. Israel would need to be weaned from their pagan ways which had brought them into mental and emotional slavery apart from their physical slavery; now they would have to learn to be free body and mind, before they could enter the Promised Land.

Many portions in the Prophets speak against the sacrifices or offerings and in Jeremiah 7:21-16, the Creator said that He didn’t ask the people to bring Him sacrifices. Then why does it seem that this is exactly what He is asking them to do here in this Book? The Creator was speaking to a very specific people, at a very specific time who understood things very differently than we do today. He was redirecting them away from the pagan sacrifices to their gods in order to turn their attention toward Him. The offerings were meant to rebuild the broken relationship with the Creator by us acknowledging where we stand in relation to Him. The term, bechirah chofshit, free will plays an important role in this. The Creator never imposes Himself upon us rather He steps back so that we could come to Him. The offerings were voluntary but once they decided to bring an offering, there would be a specific way to do it.

How many of us can say that we are totally free from the ideas imposed upon us growing up; concepts, religious or otherwise that we are holding onto which blind us from the Truth? That’s why it is so important to see how the Creator instructed the priests and showed them exactly what to do. In that way the people would not bring the offerings wherever or in whatever manner they believed to be right. Our God is a God of order, not chaos; He is a God of freedom, which is not the same as being libertine. What are these passages trying to tell us for today? If we do not follow His order, we fall into moral chaos. Why was the Creator so demanding with the Cohanim? The more that is given to us, the more responsible we are. The higher our position, the stricter our ethical behavior needs to be because so many people are focused upon us. The higher position does not make us better, we simply carry more responsibility.

I repeat…first, we are given faith by the Creator and faith combined with action produces trust. Many of you say that you believe in God but how many of you actually trust Him? Next, we are given free will with which the Creator allows us to make our choices, good or bad. There are those who say: How can I believe in a God who allows so much pain and suffering in this world? Let me ask you this, why are we pointing our fingers at the Creator and not at ourselves? Injustice is not done by the Creator; we are the ones who are unjust. He doesn’t kill; we do. We blame guns for the killings but who is holding the guns?

Free will is followed by our intention. Here is why the Korbanot are so important. The Creator gave Israel the opportunity to bring the offerings to Him to show them that they, who are human and have free will, would bring offerings, which have no free will, to Him. Humans have the capacity to think while the animals do not have the ability to choose wrong from right. We were coming from paganism where the sacrifice of animals was done as an appeasement to their gods. Our God doesn’t need appeasement. It also had to be a willing offering, not coerced out of fear. The key word is “willing”. The offerings were brought by the person who realized that he had done something wrong. That had cut him off from a relationship with the Creator, one that needed to be reestablished. The offerings were brought for involuntary or unintentional errors only. There was nothing we could offer for voluntary errors.

In first Samuel 15:22 it says, “Is the LORD pleased with burnt offerings and sacrifices? No! He is pleased with obedience to His voice; obedience is better than sacrifice, submission better than the fat of the animals. Rebellion is a sin of sorcery, presumption the crime of idolatry.” Doing things our own way is like sorcery, hocus-pocus and presuming that we are better than anyone else making ourselves godlike.

To understand the offerings, we need to know that He wants us to be responsible for our actions. In Psalms 51:18-19, these are the words of King David after he had sinned with Bathsheba, he was destroyed from within and wanted to mend his relationship with the Creator. “For You do not delight in sacrifice, or else would I give it; You have no pleasure in burnt-offering; the sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.” How much clearer can he be?

Is our God a God of wrath whose blood-thirsty nature can only be satisfied by the killing of innocent animals? Is that your God? Is He the God who would never forgive us when we come to Him willingly with an open heart, begging Him to hear us, and only accepts the sacrifice of someone or something else so that we can go free? Instead of us being responsible for what we have done, someone else pays for your sins? It’s very easy to accept hocus-pocus religions but instead let us follow the way that the Creator has set down for us. We have conscience and we are responsible for our actions. If the Creator has told us what to do, let us be obedient to Him and not follow what the world is telling us.