The Value Of Animal Sacrifices
The institution of animal sacrifice allows us to confront our deepest subconscious urges and needs.
Sefer Vayikra, the Book of Leviticus, is at the center of the Torah, not only spatially, but also spiritually.
More than any other single book, Vayikra sets the tone and establishes the central themes of biblical and rabbinic Judaism throughout the ages.
Establishing a Sacred Community
The central focus of Vayikra is on establishing a sacred community--"a nation of priests" whose daily deeds perfect the world under God's rule. By establishing an ideal community, Vayikra recognizes that deeds speak far more eloquently than words, that living in a holy community can provide a sense of God's presence far more pervasive than more ethereal approaches. So far, so good.
Few modern Jews would have any problem, at least in theory, with those general remarks. Our problem starts when we examine how Vayikra defines the detailed practices of a sacred community. What kind of deeds and activities create the core of Vayikra's vision?
At the center of this central book lies a preoccupation with animal and vegetative sacrifice, which is far from the world view of most contemporary Jews (and most contemporary Americans, for that matter).
When we think of religious devotion, we tend to picture silent meditation, appreciation of nature, perhaps even a commitment to ethical living. But the connection between killing animals and serving the Lord escapes us completely.
To understand our own sacred heritage as Jews, to appreciate the religious perspective that emerges from the Torah, the Talmud, and most later Jewish writings, we must come to an understanding of the centrality of Temple ritual and of sacrifice.