Zav and Parah
Sacrifices - What Gives?
"Give Aaron and his sons this command: These are the regulations for the burnt offering: The burnt offering is to remain on the altar hearth throughout the night, till morning, and the fire must be kept burning on the altar" (Vayikra / Leviticus 6:2 [English 6:9]).
Last week I mentioned how the concept of sacrifice is far removed from most of us. The offering of animals, grain, and so on is not something that we are involved with on any regular basis to say the least. I explained however that sacrifice is a central element of the Torah, and one that has continuing relevance to us today.
There are many things that may be learned through the study of the different kinds of sacrifices and offerings. I would like to look at one very basic concept that I hope will help us better relate to God and to life.
The sacrifices prescribed by the Torah for individuals were of things that people themselves owned. When someone sacrificed something, they gave of what they themselves had. In fact provisions were made for the poor, so that they too could give of what they had. One could not borrow something to sacrifice or offer something on behalf of someone else.
And so when an offering was made, the person was giving back to God something of what God had first given them. Whatever benefits were derived or obligations met as a result of a particular offering the person acknowledged that God had a right to what they possessed.
To grasp this concept causes us to relate to things in the way we were meant to. We tend to think that our possessions are for us to do with as we please. Our society highly regards those who have the greatest amount of possessions. We tend to think that it is those who surround themselves with a great many things, who are the most well off. Yet we often fail to see that the more we think we need possessions, the more they possess us.
The sacrifices of the Torah loosens our grip from the things we own. To take some of what we have and release it to God helps us to realize that we do not depend on what we have as much as we thought.
When we give to God some of what we have, we realize that God has a right to what we own. If God has this right, then he has a right to it all. Anything we have obtained in life was given to us by the Creator. As wealth moves from hand to hand, it all has its origins in God himself. The way we hold on to things, one would think that we ourselves created them.
By calling for sacrifice, God is actually making a claim upon more than the things we have. He is claiming us. The whole purpose of the Torah was to bring people back into right relationship with God. What happened in the Garden of Eden was a misuse of something that God had provided. Our first parents failed to accept that we had no right to do with the creation as we pleased. We are still having trouble learning that lesson.
God wants us. He wants us to give ourselves to him. He is not really interested in our tokens. His goal has always been to bring us back to himself.
God knew the only way to do that was through sacrifice. Our offerings never made much of a difference. So God Himself sent his Son, the Messiah. God gave of what he had so that we would give ourselves to him.
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