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March 15, 2016 / conservadox

Dvar Torah- Vayikra

This week’s Torah portion begins an extensive discussion of sacrifices.  What was the point of all these dead animals? Arama focuses on offerings related to sin.

One obvious rationale is atonement.   Arama points out that it is impossible to compensate God (who by definition does not particularly need humanity, and is thus unable to benefit from human acts) for anything.

Arama has an alternative, at least in the context of sin-related offerings. He writes: “the animal sacrifice is required … because of what this does for [the sinner] not becuase of what it does for G-d.  [The sacrifice] demonstrates the extent of God’s kindness.  He does not shut the door in the face of the repentant and the remorseful.  The whole legislation demonstrates that God has waived some of His claims on man.”

In other words, the purpose of sacrifice is to make people feel like they’ve been forgiven.

What about offerings unrelated to sin?  Arama gets deep into the weeds of symbolism (more so than I want to discuss), but he summarizes by stating that sacrifices “help man to perfect himself through appreciation of the why, where, how and what he is instructed to offer.”  I think this makes sense in the medieval context, when people studied the details of the Torah.  But I am not really persuaded in the context of the rough-and-ready frontier society of pre-First Temple (or even First Temple) Israel, where books were few and far between.

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