Posts Tagged 'Sacrifices'

Sacrifices of Israel

Like most years as I am getting ready for Yom Kippur I try to think through and make sense of the liturgy. And as always, I get stuck at the Avodah, which retells the Temple Yom Kippur sacrifice. It is hard to imagine being into it even if I was actually at the service in the Temple. Thousands of years later and in a synagogue which does not resemble the Temple it is really hard to relate. It seems that I am just out of touch with the sacrifices.

This past Sunday I read in the New York Times of the passing of Haim Hefer.  He was one of the great song writers from the founding of  the State of Israel.  Curious to learn about the impact that he had on Israeli music I looked into some of his writings. I was amazed to see how many of the songs that I took for granted as always being there were actually penned by him. I believe the most famous of these was Hafinjan. Please feel free to watch this classic video:

I always thought it was simply a song about a coffee pot until I read the lyrics. There he wrote:

The cool wind blows,
we’ll add a chip to the campfire,
and thus in scarlet
it will rise in the flames like a sacrifice.
the fire flickers,
its song rises up
the coffee pot spins, spins around.

The fire will whisper to the chip,
our faces grow so red by the fire
if more fuel is prepared for us
from every broken branch stub in the garden,
every tree and log
will sing so softly
the coffee pot spins, spins around.

When looking at the lyrics we see that this song was not written as a simple song of the Founding Fathers of Israel to sing around the camp fire. In a profound way Hefer was evoking the Temple sacrifice. Over time the fire which was “like a sacrifice” made their faces grow “red by the fire”. Hefer was not just playing with the language of the Temple in the reestablishment of a Jewish State, he was pointing us to the huge sacrifice made by that generation.  We need to make sure that we do not take their sacrifices for granted. Unfortunately for many of us it is as hard to relate to the sacrifices of that generation as the sacrifices of the Temple.  This Yom Kippur I will try to rekindle my connection to all of the sacrifices of Israel.

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Closer to Revelation

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


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