This week’s Torah portion Vayikra describes korbanot, offerings, to bring to the altar of the sanctuary. The purpose of these offerings included “olah”, to be elevated, “sh’lamim”, to bring well-being and wholeness and “chatat”, to atone for inadvertent mistakes. In short, these offerings were a way to restore ourselves to a pure and true relationship with our Source. In fact, korbanot comes from the root kerev, which means “to draw near”.
Nowadays thankfully, we would never sacrifice an animal as an offering (which was the local custom of all the tribes at that time, not just Israelites). So how can we re-think this ritual? The Ramban (Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman) says that we should imagine ourselves as the sacrifice instead of the animal. As extreme as this may sound, to me it means that we should bring our complete selves to our Source as a way to draw near. Not just a part of ourselves that may feel content or close to God already, or a part of ourselves that may already trust implicitly in a Higher Power.
Can I imagine bringing all of myself- my doubts, my anger and my fear- to God? What about my deepest misgivings or regrets? If I share these with God, it will be a korban, a way to draw near. In our tradition, we have permission to bring it all to God. Abraham our forefather audaciously argued with God to save Sodom and Gomorrah. I can approach God with my full range of emotions as well, though I would need to create the conditions within and without that would help me bare my heart. I might want to be in a solitary place in nature, or conversely with a trusted friend(s). I could speak out loud, write a letter to God, make art or create a dance-offering. In this sharing, whether I was by myself or with a supportive friend(s), I would become true and real with God. What is hidden inside of me is what is keeping me from feeling close to and supported by my Source. When I bring all of myself to God, that is my korban.
May we all be blessed to bring our full and complete selves to God, and in so doing find the closeness we long for.
I am a Rabbinic Chaplain in the Jewish Renewal tradition who brings a light-filled and joyful Judaism to others who want to experience the beauty of Jewish spirituality.