Reflection for Today ▶️ ⏹️

Pure Heart 1 by Avalmaar,
...the value lies in the sacrificer making ready, ensuring the sacrifice is given with great care, and a clean heart.

And the Lord called unto Moses, and spake unto him out of the tabernacle of the congregation, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, If any man of you bring an offering unto the Lord, ye shall bring your offering of the cattle, even of the herd, and of the flock.
Leviticus 1:1-2

With little in the way of narrative, the Book of Leviticus represents a period of relative stagnation between the building of the Tabernacle and the departure from Mount Sinai towards Canaan. Leviticus is the book of the Levites, or in Hebrew, Torath Kohanim, the law of the priests; it consists mostly of complex rules of worship and obedience designed that God may live among his chosen people. It's difficult reading for the non-orthodox, and strange reading to anyone of this time, containing as it does seemingly bizarre laws about, for example, cleanliness, clothing, diet, sexuality, and above all sacrifice—not something we do a lot of in today's societies.

It is sacrifice that takes up the first five to eight chapters of Leviticus, and is the subject of today's reflection. Sacrifice can be, and often is seen as superstition, and dismissed accordingly, but in such dismissal we may lose something important. The act of making sacrifice is about maintaining, or getting back into right relationship with God, and therefore—God being among us—with one another. The term sacrifice, literally to "make sacred", is the Latin translation of the Hebrew term qorbān (something brought forward, an offering) and the tradition lives on today, although in a different form.

Sacrifice is gift-giving, either to show piety, gain favour, give thanks, or make amends. Today we give gifts for all the same reasons, and each in its way takes us towards right relationship, each "makes sacred" what was once profane. Humans are in complex relationships with one another, and it is common to disagree, argue, make assumptions, disdain, dismiss, resent or fall foul of another and generally stir up bad blood. We do this a lot, especially it seems in times of crisis when people take sides and engage in "othering". Such a situation is happening right now, across the world. All such behaviour is inherently profane as it takes us away from the sacred, from the awe of life, the wonder of our great interdependence. It is gifts that can move us back to the sacred. In gift giving, whether it be objects, words or actions, resistance dissolves and love is expressed by both the giver and receiver. Gifts heal, sacrifice realigns.1

The other aspect of gift-giving that's important is the thought and preparation of the gift, ahead of the giving. We must consider the needs and desires of the other, which will be different to our own. In making a gift we take time and care to perfect our work, in selecting a gift we spend time in comparing and choosing. Reading past the graphic detail of animal preparation and alter arrangement in Leviticus, we can see that the value lies in the sacrificer making ready, ensuring the sacrifice is given with great care, and a clean heart. We too need this preparation time, perhaps time to move from anger to forgiveness ahead of the giving, to ready ourselves, to steady ourselves, to give freely, opening ourselves to new possibilities..

1 To better understand the essential nature of gift-giving I recommend The Gift by Lewis Hyde, 1983
music Synagogue Chants, by Cantor Marcel Loánd