Today, in the absence of the korbanot, the sacrifices that ascended to heaven as an appeasing fragrance to God, I stand upon a balcony in Jerusalem, looking out to the distant hills in the quiet of the late afternoon and humbly contemplate the still, small voice speaking to me from the constricted alef in Vayikra, reminding me of humility but also of my own significance as I offer instead of a sacrifice, the simple words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart.
But I have read of the awe-inspiring rituals by which we were once purified and cleansed, designed to make us whole again, as we walked away from the altar, elevated and profoundly touched to reenter our lives having made amends.
And I regret the absence of that ceremony, that I no longer disdain, having humbly understood the profound psychology it contains.
I imagine the sacrificial animal acting as my surrogate, its life force beating against my hand pressed upon its head, standing in for me my other less than godlike, less than human self.
I imagine I would have pitied it for dying for my sake, becoming the scapegoat for my guilt, and knowing for a certainty, that I would be there except for God’s grace.
But now, in the absence of the korbanot all I have to give are these whispered murmurings as I plead for blessings despite my offense, an envious thought, an unkind word, an angry response, and far worse than all of these, indifference when I should have extended my hand, exercised restraint and held my tongue, or in the service of justice stood up against the crowd and spoken out.
Perhaps I should gather a great bouquet of roses and jasmine, lilies and honeysuckle to perfume my prayers for the wind to carry on high to plead my case for me with a sweet scent at Heaven’s gate, hoping this will suffice to erase my slate from sins.
Meanwhile the turtledoves, sporting their red, iridescent feathers, that might have been my offering gurgle with joyful abandon in the caper bushes that sprout from the Temple wall for they have been spared and have nothing to fear from me or the supplicants, their notes wet with tears who have gathered here to press their prayers between the stones.
The writer divides her time between Jerusalem and Bar Harbor, Maine, she runs a kosher bed-and-breakfast with her daughters. Comments welcome: email@example.com
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