This week we start reading Veyikra, the book of Leviticus. It is choked full of rules regarding sacrifices. You could understand why it seemed strange to learn the Midrash when it said:
Rav Assi said that young children began their Torah studies with Leviticus and not with Genesis because young children are pure, and the sacrifices explained in Leviticus are pure, so the pure studied the pure. (Leviticus Rabbah 7:3.)
I understand why people might think that the story of Genesis is too nuanced to be a young child’s initiation to learning. But, just because we are not starting off with the Garden of Eden does not mean that we should start off with all of the blood and gore and guts of Leviticus.
The word “korban” (sacrifice) derives from the word that means “that which is brought close.” Bringing a korban was not just the process of giving something up to the Tabernacle or Temple, but the process of becoming closer. Maybe this is what we need to be teaching out children.
Education is not about the blood of the sacrifices or for that matter any of the data. It is about relationships and making those connections. Education is not just about knowledge; it is about wisdom.
As the Jewish philosopher Franz Rosenzweig said, “it is learning in reverse order, a learning that no longer starts from the Torah and leads into life but the other way around: from life…back to the Torah.” Revelation is not limited to something that might or might not have happened long ago at Sinai, but it is something that is happening in the learning experience itself today. So too korbanot, this drawing near, is not limited to the sacrifices, but needs to be about making connections. Now more than ever relevance is a prerequisite to revelation.
– This blog post is written in honor of the wedding of Daniel Infeld and Rachel Ross