The Inherent Need to Sacrifice

The Torah reading this Shabbat is Parashat Tzav – Leviticus 6:1 – 8:36. The name of this portion of the Torah in English would be “Command”. This Torah portion continue the topic of the sacrificial services of the priests.

The Haftarah, that is, the portion of the reading from the prophets, is Jeremiah 7:21 – 8:3, 9:23,24. The text that we read from the New Testament is from the book of Hebrews 8:1-6.

Many rabbis and pastors find it hard to connect with these ancient texts that deal with ceremonies and practices of animal sacrifices. Because, in reality, the Jewish people and the nation of Israel has not practiced animal sacrifices (at least not officially) since the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in the year 70 of the common era.

Even if some group will decide to restore the sacrificial cult in some kind of temple or tent of meeting it would be near impossible because priests have to be from the family of Aaron and the tribe of Levi. And today there is no documentation of who is either from the tribe of Levi or from the family of Aaron.

However, if we dig a little deeper into the text of Leviticus we can find some some very important principles and instructions that will enrich our lives and our faith even if we don’t have physical sacrifices of animals on a Kosher altar, by Kosher priests and Levites.

The first thing that this Torah portion is addressing is the clothing of the priests. For me this is an important topic. Those who are going to be serving God had a special code of dress.

The material of their clothings was specified – linen. They had a hat, and they had to change clothing when they moved from one type of service to another type of service.

I think that these instructions of God to the children of Israel after they got out of Egypt and received the Torah in Mount Sinai are important. Because what you wear for each occasion is a reflection and a delineation of the different space and service.

Today with the electronic tools that each one of us carries we have lost the borders of time and space, and we have made everything flat and equalized. By elimination of the importance of space and time, everything is the same and there is no holy space, nor holy time, nor holy occasion where you have to be dressed accordingly.

Especially when we are going to a place where we expect to show our devotion, and worship the Creator of the Universe and our Lord and Savior Yeshua, and fellowship with fellow saints and disciples of Yeshua. Should we not give that time and that space an honor that is deserved to our Lord, to God’s Word, to the Holy Spirit that should be present in the midst of our worship?

To be a priest and a servant of God you had to know the seriousness of your position. You had to delineate the time and place, and honor it with being dressed in the same way that you would prepare if you were going to have a meeting with the prime minister of your country, or with a famous Hollywood actor or director.

I see the communities of the Orthodox Hasidic Jews in Jerusalem. Each Hasidic court has their own style of clothing: hats, socks, shoes, and special Shabbat and holiday clothing.

Even the kind of rope/belt that they use around their long coat (kapote) has to be the same like their rabbi wears. They know by the clothing that their neighbors where to which Hasidic group they belong.

I don’t think that we ought to go fully and copy or follow or teach that as Jewish disciples of Yeshua we ought to have that kind of strict dress code. But I do think that when we go to worship we ought to give the proper respect and honorable attitude expressed in our dress and in our conduct.

After all, we are all a kingdom of priests and a holy community. I personally would be happy even if the young people would come to the fellowship dressed honorably and modestly.

By modestly, I don’t mean that the ladies ought to be dressed like the orthodox women in Mea Shearim in Jerusalem, but just modestly giving honor to the Lord and to each other.

The second big issue in our Torah portion, that also connects with the reading from Jeremiah 7:21 – 8:36, is the issue of the sacrifices themselves. We must put the sacrifices and their practice into perspective.

All religions, ancient and modern, pagan or true worship of the Lord, have some kind of sacrificing practice. Sacrificing to the object of your worship is a universal practice.

However, in the Word of God, sacrificing to God is not the main and most important from of worship and demonstration of worship and appreciation and gratitude to our God.

The reading from the prophets this Shabbat is from Jeremiah 7:21-24:

“Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: ‘Add your burnt offerings to your sacrifices and eat meat. For I did not speak to your fathers, or command them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices. But this is what I commanded them, saying, “Obey My voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be My people. And walk in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well with you.” Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but followed the counsels and the dictates of their evil hearts, and went backward and not forward.’” – Jeremiah 7:21-24

The idea that sacrifices are not the main interest of God from His children is a wide idea that is found in the prophets, and in the writings, and even in the New Testament. In chapter 1 of the prophet Isaiah, in Hosea chapter 6, and even in the book of First Samuel 15, when Samuel states that hearing (obedience) is more important than sacrifices.

But, let us not belittle sacrifices, because the way that we express our love for anything is by how much we are willing to give and sacrifice for the people and the things that we love!

Here are the words of the apostle Paul and his description of what love is:

“And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.” – 1 Corinthians 13:3 [NKJV]

Our need to give and sacrifice and bless others and bless God is a built-in need, an instinct! However, if it is not done with love, in place of it becoming a blessing to others and to us, it becomes an abomination.

The Lord bless us with the desire to sacrifice our time and talent and money for the Kingdom of God, with love and gratitude that we have such an opportunity to express our love for the Lord and for each other, and the people and objects of our faith.

This article originally appeared on Netivyah and is reposted with permission.