A Drash for VaYikra 5768 (2008)
by Marc Mangel
Today we begin the Torat Cohanim – the priests’ book, with a focus on the sacrifices (Karbanot). I have brought and left at the back a sheet describing the different sacrifices and their purposes.
The root of Karban is Karov – close. The purpose of the sacrifices was to get close to God.
Today to get close to God, we have to give of ourselves in the same way that at the time of the Temple we needed to bring the sacrifice to the Cohen ourselves. (Ch 2, V2)
Judaism is a religion of action. When the Temple existed, the action to get closer to God was to bring sacrifices. Today, the action is doing the mitzvot. Indeed, a mitzvah is a commandment that is also a blessing.
There are two kinds of actions we can take. First, we can do mitzvot that relate to God – lighting Shabbat candles, putting on tefillin, eating Kosher food. Second, as we have read and we will read again many mitzvot deal with our interactions with people. These are not just social ordinances; they are routes to closeness with God.
In his book on the Ramchal, R. Abraham Twersky tells the story of a shop-keeper who still had his tallit and tefillin on when a customer came into the shop to order a kilo of flour. The owner thought “Now I can perform the mitzvah of giving an honest measure!” When the customer started to haggle over price, the owner said “You must come back; I do not do business in my tallit and tefillin”.
Every moment our behavior can take us closer to God. Every moment can be a mitzvah moment, if properly understood.