Parshat Vayikra: Showing Commitment Through Sacrifice


This week’s parshah is about sacrifices. Something that specifically caught my interest was this line: “No meal offering that you offer to God shall be made with leaven, for no leaven or honey may be turned into smoke as an offering by fire to God.” This made me ask myself: Why are we allowed to sacrifice creatures that God made, yet not honey? Honey would probably be a more pleasing odor to God than the smell of burning one of His own creations.

Ethan Sugerman (Irvin Simon Photographers)

Rabbi William Friedman from JTS offers two answers. One reason is because the poor cannot afford expensive bread with honey and leaven, so God is making it easier for the poor to offer sacrifices. Another reason is that when you put leaven or honey into bread, it makes the bread mold, and the bread lasts for no more than a week or two.

But when you don’t add honey or leaven, it lasts for much longer. As many of you know, matzah lasts forever. When you burn this unleavened bread, it is a symbol of how the covenant with God will last forever.

I also have my own thoughts. When you sacrifice an animal or a piece of bread, you are giving up a full meal to show faith in God. Honey cannot serve as a meal, and it will be replenished much faster than wheat or animals. These sacrifices are you giving up something that would have helped you and that you cannot get back easily to show that you trust that God will keep you alive and sustain you.

In modern times, we do not sacrifice animals or bread. But we can sacrifice things personal to us to help someone in need. We can give up a day to help a family member; we can give up a small portion of our food to help a homeless person; we can help a friend by giving them school supplies that they don’t have. Sacrifices like these are examples of mitzvot bein adam l’chavero, or mitzvot between a person and another person, instead of a mitzvot bein adam l’makom, or between a person and God.

However, both of these kinds of mitzvot show commitment towards God. Even though sacrifices today are not done how they were in Leviticus, there are still many ways to show our connection to God.

Ethan Sugerman is a seventh-grade student at Krieger Schechter Day School.

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