It seems strangely ironic that we begin sefer Vayikra – a new book of the Torah – during the current situation, as this country and parts of the world are in virtual lockdown.
The opening chapters of Vayikra deal predominantly with the sacrificial order in the Temple, the offerings that were to be brought by people in different circumstances.
At present, we are being forced to make a sacrifice of a different kind, to forgo our usual rights to freedom of ovement and social interaction and instead remain isolated to stop the spread of the Covid-19 virus.
However, without a Temple for more than 2,000 years, it is hard for us to fully comprehend the true nature of sacrifice and that is why there is a debate amongst our sages as to whether, when the Temple is rebuilt, the sacrificial order will be restored.
In fact, the Midrash teaches that in the time to come, all sacrifices will be annulled, but the sacrifice of thanksgiving will not be. All prayers will be annulled, but the prayer of gratitude will not be. Clearly, thanksgiving and gratitude are timeless and if any good is to emerge from this crisis then it will be the appreciation of the blessings that we have in life.
This idea is encapsulated by the Hebrew word for ‘sacrifice’, which is ‘korban’. At its root is the meaning of ‘drawing near’ and ‘approaching’ as the person making the sacrifice is drawn closer to those from whom they were previously distanced.
During this period of enforced distance, we have to prepare ourselves so that when we emerge from isolation and return to normality we understand how the willingness to makes sacrifices is the foundation of every relationship that we have.
- Rabbi Chapper serves Elstree & Borehamwood shul