Tsav – Beyond Sacrifices

This parasha continues the laws and descriptive details of the sacrifices. They are the elevation offering, the peace offering, the meal offering, the inauguration offering, the sin and the guilt offerings, the feast-peace offering. The sacrificial service was to take place during the day, and was not valid at night. R’ Eli Munk wrote that the human spirit is alert in the daytime and this is when man exerts his full strength in the struggle for existence. Man is called on to serve G-d at this time of moral strength with whole-hearted devotion. This contrasted with the pagan practice of worship at night when people feel weak, and when twilight and shadows envelop creation.


From Judaism’s perspective, the Divine service is based on the fear of G-d but is radiant with confidence and serenity. R’ SR Hirsch wrote that Judaism is eager for clarity and joy, and its synagogues are flooded with light.


R’ Jonathan Sacks wrote that during Roman rule the Jews had to think of alternatives to the sacrificial services. The substitutes they found included acts of kindness, hospitality, Torah study, prayer, teshuvah, and fasting. R’ Sacks asked that given the emphasis on sacrifices, how did Judaism survive without them? He answered that the leaders (prophets, sages, and thinkers) realised that the sacrifices were symbolic enactments of processes of mind, heart and deed which could be expressed in other ways as well.


R’ Sacks wrote that the Jews did not abandon the past, but still constantly refer to sacrifices in prayer. Jews did not cling to the past and take refuge in irrationality. They thought through the future and created institutions like the synagogue, house of study, and school, which could be built anywhere and sustain Jewish identity even in the most adverse conditions.

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