Drash on Parashat Tzav 2019
Rabbi Dr Orna Triguboff
Emanuel Synagogue, Woollahra, NSW
Sacrifice and Joy
This week’s Torah reading discusses the role of the priests with regards to sacrifices of animals and grains in the Sanctuary.
The voice of the prophets is brought in to remind us that, even in ancient times, the emphasis needed to be on doing acts of kindness and compassion rather than dwelling on the external façade of ritual detail.
Amos the Prophet said in the name of God,
“Even though you bring Me burnt and grain offerings, I will not accept them…But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never failing stream.”
Jeremiah the Prophet passed on the word of the divine:
“I am God, who practices kindness, justice and righteousness on the earth; it is in these things I delight.”
The sacrifices were important however they needed to be done in the right spirit, with authenticity. They needed to be done by people who were genuinely endeavoring to bring goodness into the world as well as performing rituals.
This is connected to the importance placed on intention behind actions and the importance of backing up good intentions with actions in the world.
The word for sacrifice in Hebrew, korban, is connected to the word for closeness, karov. The sacrifices of ancient times were designed to give people a way to experience closeness with the divine. Sacrifices were also an opportunity to give something up – an animal or part of a harvest – and in so doing, renounce ownership of something. Rabbi Jonathan Sacks explains that this was and is an opportunity for each person to understand the ephemeral nature of ownership and that we are “no more than trustees or guardians” of the things we “own” individually, as a nation and as a species.
After the Temple was destroyed, other forms of renunciation were substituted: giving charity, learning and praying are all opportunities to become closer to the divine if done with a pure intention. However, “closer to the divine” does not just mean feeling holiness, it means bringing holiness and goodness into the world, each person in their own way.
This week we are invited to consider the sacrifices we make in our lives to improve the world and ourselves.
Purim, the festival of joy is upon us and the whole Hebrew month of Adar, is considered a month of increasing our joy (Talmud). This year, Adar continues till 6th April. During this month we think about what truly brings joy to our lives. What are the things that bring us happiness in a wholesome way. This is the month to increase that wholesome joy, knowing that these are probably things that bring more joy to our environment too.
In the words of the Psalms: “serve God in joy” – ivdu et haShem be-simcha (Psalms 100:2). Shabbat Shalom.