BURNT OFFERING: A print from the Phillip Medhurst Collection of Bible illustrations at St. George’s Court, Kidderminster, England.
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
This Shabbat, we begin reading the third of the five books of the Bible: Leviticus. This book is also called “The Torah of the Kohanim (Priests),” since it essentially deals with halachot (Jewish laws) pertaining to the priests in the Temple, and one of the main subjects is sacrifices.Many people interpret the Hebrew word for sacrifice, korban, as surrendering something for the good of God, a sort of ritual of exchange whereby man gives his god an animal or some food item and through this concession he appeases his anger and pleases his god. In Judaism, this interpretation is rejected for a simple reason: God, the Creator of all, and the All Powerful, does not need a thing; He does not ask humans to give up anything for Him or lose anything for Him. The Jewish interpretation of the term korban is from the Hebrew root of the word that means “to get closer.” Through the act of sacrificing, a person (Jew and non-Jew alike) comes closer to God. The sacrifice is an expression of a close, intimate relationship between man and God.