Step up with your offering
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TorahParshat Vayikrah

Step up with your offering

Leviticus 1:1 - 5:26

(File photo)
(File photo)

Hmmm. I did not realize that.

After you’ve read the Torah over and over, you learn added depth to the text, but as the years go by it’s hard to get surprised. And yet, as I read Vayikrah — again — a small commentary popped up.

In Leviticus 1:5 (Robert Alter translation) it says, “And he [an Israelite] shall slaughter the male of the herd before the Lord, and the sons of Aaron, the priests, shall bring forward the blood and cast the blood round the altar which is at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting.”

Offering. Blood. Altar. God. Tent of Meeting. So many good things to chew on (gross). But what caught my attention is the commentary that notes the Israelite doesn’t just walk the offering in: The Israelite has to prepare the animal, meaning he has to slaughter the animal and do his own butchering.

The Cohanim then lay out the parts about the fire.

Maybe some of you knew that already, but I have always been so focused on the big picture, the meaning, the values, the importance of the korban system that I hadn’t focused on the details. How exactly, step by step, do you get your animal presented to God? What are the specific procedures needed to get the animal from your enclosure back home all the way to the fire upon the altar?

Answer: There are many, many steps.

The steps to successfully accomplish this Jewish task take time and energy. They take thought and focus. They take desire and will.

The same thing goes on today. We cannot expect someone else to do all the work. We have help, but we need to start. Each brick-and-mortar institution in our community houses talents and capabilities. Every group that is renting space or meeting in living rooms does great things. But none of them will accomplish anything without the people stepping up and offering their time and energy.

Purim has so much to teach but none of it will happen if we don’t bake the hamantaschen with our kids, exchange Purim gifts with friends, break up the weekly routine to hear the megillah. Same for Pesach. Same for learning Hebrew. Same for inspiring our children. It doesn’t just happen. The infrastructure is there. People are here to guide and create and foster and encourage and teach, but it is up to the individual — it is up to you — to bring your offering. You have to do some of the work, too.

It’s a messy and unhelpful metaphor but you have to butcher the animal. Put a little more nicely: You bring you, and so many are ready to take it from there. PJC

Rabbi Larry Freedman is the director of the Joint Jewish Education Program. This column is a service of the Greater Pittsburgh Rabbinic Association.

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