God Wants the Heart – Va-Yikra 5777

Vayikra wastes no time jumping into the thick of sacrificial laws.  Our prasha has five chapters, each outlining a different category of sacrifice – burnt offerings, meal offerings, peace offerings, sin offerings, and shame offerings.

After five rounds of strict laws concerning which animals are brought for what, how to clean them, how to properly deal with their blood, and who if anyone can eat them, our text dramatically switches its tone.  Turning with compassionate understanding, God declares, “But if his means do not suffice him . . .” (vayikra 5:7).  The Torah displays a radical acceptance that not everyone who wants or is obligated to bring a sacrifice has the financial capabilities to purchase a bull or even two pigeons.  

Moreover, the parsha makes no mention of one sacrifice being holier or more desirable.  God accepts wafers smeared in oil as equally as She does a full rack of lamb.  What matters is my motivations.  Did I give out of love or out of obligation?  Did I give from within my possessions, or did jealousy cause me to reach outside my means?  Did I look deep into my heart and give of the choices parts of my life, or did I simply offer that which is extra?

In our days, we no longer have sacrifices at the Temple (let it be rebuilt speedily in our days).  Yet, prayer has taken its place and so the Torah’s lessons remain relevant in our lives.  When I step into synagogue, do I do so out of obligation, or am I excited to sing before the Creator?  Do I mindlessly mumble words, or do I look into my heart and offer my deepest meditations to the One, The Only One?

As I embark on a six day silent meditation retreat, I hope to delve these questions.  I hope you will all join me in asking ourselves – what in my life do I have to offer?  For surely it is as the gemara says, ״רחמנא ליבא בעי״ – God wants the heart.

Shabbat Shalom

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