parsha of the week: rabbi avi billet

Thinking Vayikra: Today, we are the sacrifices


How does the opening of the book of Vayikra, which we begin this Shabbat, relate to us today? Our service is not the Service of the Temple, it does not include sacrificial lambs and goats and bulls.

The portions that speak of the animal sacrifices have much to teach in the homiletic sense, but as far as practical use — if we don’t have the Temple Service, the Mishkan rules are not practical to our lives.

And yet, when one sees what is happening in the world with respect to how Jews are treated, one can’t help being drawn to the first verse in Vayikra, Chapter 3: “If one’s sacrifice is a peace offering and it is from the cattle, he may offer either an unblemished male or an unblemished female before G-d.”

A little over a month ago, President Obama spoke at the Islamic Society of Baltimore and said the following: “We have to be consistent in condemning hateful rhetoric and violence against everyone. And that includes against Muslims here in the United States of America.”

In an article responding to the president’s speech, Dennis Prager addressed that quote, saying, “Two facts are relevant here. One is that religious hate crimes are exceedingly rare in America. The other is that in 2014, the last year for which we have data, Jews were targets of hate crimes four times more frequently than Muslims.”

President Obama also said, “There are Christians [not Jews?] who are targeted now in the Middle East, despite having been there for centuries, and there are Jews who’ve lived in places like France for centuries who now feel obliged to leave because they feel themselves under assault — sometimes by Muslims.”

Beyond ignoring the targeting of Jews “in the Middle East” (perhaps because it is politically incorrect to note how Jews are the victims of terror in Israel on a regular basis), Prager noted that the president mentioned the many Jews in France who are attacked “sometimes by Muslims.”

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