Across Israel, Meir Panim responds to the growing needs of the country’s 1.75 million impoverished residents through various food and social service programs.
Then Noah built an altar to the Lord and, taking some of all the clean animals and clean birds, he sacrificed burnt offerings on it. The Lord smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart, “Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood…” Then G-d blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them… “Everything that lives and moves will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything… Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of G-d has G-d made man” (Genesis 8:29-9:6).
According to Rabbi Albo, the passage’s logic is clear. Noah offers an animal sacrifice in thanksgiving for having survived the Flood. G-d sees that humans need this way of expressing themselves. They are genetically predisposed to violence (“every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood”). If, therefore, society is to survive, human beings need to be able to direct their violence toward non-human animals, whether as food or sacrificial offering. The crucial ethical line to be drawn is between human and non-human.
The permission to kill animals is accompanied by an absolute prohibition against killing humans (“for in the image of G-d has G-d made man”). It is not that G-d approves of killing animals, whether for sacrifice or food, but that to forbid this to human beings, given their genetic predisposition to violence, is utopian. It is not for now but for the end of days. Meanwhile, the least bad solution is to let people kill animals rather than murder their fellow humans. Animal sacrifices are a concession to human nature. Sacrifices are a substitute for violence directed against mankind.
The worst form of violence within and between societies is vengeance, once described as “an interminable, infinitely repetitive process.” Hillel said, on seeing a human skull floating on water, “Because you drowned others, they drowned you, and those who drowned you will, in the end, themselves be drowned” (Avot 2:7). Sacrifices are one way of diverting the destructive energy of revenge. Why then do modern societies not practice sacrifice? Because, argues the contemporary thinker Rene Girard, there is another way of displacing vengeance. As Girard writes:
“Vengeance is a vicious circle whose effect on primitive societies can only be surmised. For us the circle has been broken. We owe our good fortune to one of our social institutions above all: our judicial system, which serves to deflect the menace of vengeance. The system does not suppress vengeance; rather, it effectively limits itself to a single act of reprisal, enacted by a sovereign authority specializing in this particular function. The decisions of the judiciary are invariably presented as the final word on vengeance.”
Not only does Girard’s theory reaffirm Rabbi Albo’s view. It also helps us understand the profound insight of the prophets and of Judaism as a whole. Sacrifices are not ends in themselves, but part of the Torah’s program to construct a world redeemed from the otherwise interminable cycle of revenge. The other part of that program, and G-d’s greatest desire, is a world governed by justice. That, we recall, was His first charge to Abraham, to “instruct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just” (Genesis 18:19).
Have we therefore moved beyond that stage in human history in which animal sacrifices have a point? Has justice become a powerful enough reality that we no longer need religious rituals to divert the violence between human beings? In his book, The Warrior’s Honor (1997), Michael Ignatieff tries to understand the wave of ethnic conflict and violence (Bosnia, Kosovo, Chechnya, Rwanda) that has scarred the face of humanity since the Cold War’s end. What happened to the liberal dream of “the end of history”? His words go to the very heart of the new world disorder:
“The chief moral obstacle in the path of reconciliation is the desire for revenge. Now, revenge is commonly regarded as a low and unworthy emotion, and because it is regarded as such, its deep moral hold on people is rarely understood. But revenge – morally considered – is a desire to keep faith with the dead, to honor their memory by taking up their cause where they left off. Revenge keeps faith between generations…
About the Author: Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, former chief rabbi of the British Commonwealth, is the author of many books of Jewish thought, most recently The Great Partnership: Science, Religion, and the Search for Meaning.
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When Mr. Fine received the translation he was disappointed. The translation was passing, but lacked the power and command of language in other translations he’d seen.
Question: When performing a mitzvah, what is more important: doing it right away – “zerizim” – or doing it with a large crowd – “berov am”?
Lulav, Sukkah, Shofar
‘Beautification is Not an Obstruction’
Tosafot (Sanhedrin 12a) offers a scriptural reason: to ensure that Adar will remain the twelfth month, as it is referred to in Megillat Esther (3:7).
The lulav symbolizes the backbone, the etrog, the heart, the hadas the eyes, and the arava the lips moving in the service of God.
The presence of a sacrifice in these covenantal experiences can be looked upon as a celebration of this glorious moment of meeting between God and his people.
Chazal tell us that Moshe functioned in many different capacities. For example, at various times he was considered a king and the equivalent of the Sanhedrin. He was also a kohen gadol, as evidenced by his role during this seven day period.
Born in 1933, Sheldon Adelson was the son of Ukrainian immigrants. His father drove a taxi and his mother ran a knitting shop. He grew up in one of the poorest sections of Boston. But even as a young boy he showed great ambition, first selling newspapers on the street corner, and then running his first business at the age of twelve. He went on to build over fifty businesses, eventually owning the Venetian Sands Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. He became a very wealthy man.
So this is what she got herself into: serving chicken soup and getting bits of rent on random days. She couldn’t say it wasn’t worth it, as she was earning both a chesed and a little bit of cash.
If a korban chatas cannot be brought as a nedavah, how can one read the parshah of the korban chatas if he is not certain that he is obligated to bring one?
Rabbi Almosnino’s reading of the Biblical text might be compared with the way a prominent lawyer would read the most important contract of his career.
One can sigh with relief when the divorce is finalized but the heart is full and it aches with pain. Yes, there were conflicts. Yes, there was a cold war that made for a frigid atmosphere in the home. But loneliness is a very difficult thing to bear.
Sometimes, like the tamei individual who must stay away from the Mikdash, we have our limits and disabilities, and we must remember not to attempt those goals which are beyond our reach.
Such a misunderstanding would render our words worthless, for we would not be declaring that Hashem is truly the Master of the Universe.
Operating the crane is Joe. Joe is overweight and a chain smoker. Another worker approaches Joe and says, “Joe, look at you! 80 pounds overweight, smoking two packs of cigarettes a day. You must do something about your health. Go the gym, work out, and get in shape.”
Nasi is the generic word for a leader: a ruler, king, judge, elder, or prince. Usually it refers to the holder of political power.
Vayakhel is Moses’ response to the wild abandon of the crowd that gathered around Aaron and made the golden calf.
Sometimes, despite your best efforts, you fail. Such is life.
In Judaism, monarchy had little or no religious function.
So long as every crisis was dealt with by Moses and miracles, the Israelite default response was complaint.
Two laws have to do with the Israelites’ experience of being an oppressed minority:
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