We learn this week about the animal sacrifices that were offered in the ancient temple. In Hebrew, the word for such a sacrifice is Korban. It is derived from a word that means “to draw near.” So was the sacrifice a means of drawing near to God; a means of expressing thanksgiving or atonement or devotion to God.
In the year 70, Israel was conquered by Rome and the Temple was destroyed. In a very significant rabbinic account of that period, a group of rabbis were leaving Jerusalem, and as they were looking upon the burning Temple, one rabbi declared: “Woe unto us, for we have lost our means of drawing close to God.” He was talking about the end of animal sacrifices which could be offered only in the temple in Jerusalem.
And it was in the answer that one of our rabbis gave that we had the emergence of a renewed form of Judaism;one which has enabled Judaism to survive throughout the centuries. The rabbi declared that “now that the Temple has been destroyed, we have a new and higher way of drawing close to God, and that is through acts of loving-kindness!”
We all have asked the question: “What role does God have in our world?” “What does God do?” While I believe that God “enables” us to be human in the highest sense,Judaism has always maintained that we are “partners” with God in causing the divine to be felt in our midst. That means that if Divine ends are to be met in this world, if the hungry are to be fed, if the weak are to be given strength, and if the lonely are to be comforted, it will be because we have used our God-given abilities to reach beyond ourselves to make this a kinder and better world.
We no longer have animal sacrifices with which to “draw close” to God. Only human actions of kindness and caring which cause God’s presence to be felt in our midst.
OUR UPCOMING GALA WILL AFFIRM THAT TRUTH. WE WILL HONOR SOME OF THE PEOPLE WHO HAVE LED AND INSPIRED US TO REACH BEYOND OUR OWN WALLS. I HOPE THAT YOU WILL JOIN WITH US FOR A VERY SPECIAL EVENING WHEN WE AFFIRM THAT WE ARE ALL HAVE THE CAPACITY TO CAUSE THE DIVINE TO PREVAIL.
Rabbi David Greenberg