This Shabbat we are starting a new book, Vayikra – Leviticus, in which its main topics are regarding the priests and sacrifices. The first two chapters of this book detail the various sacrificial laws – a phenomenon that sometimes creates reluctance in the eyes of the modern reader, in a world where sacrifices are so foreign. However, we can learn and adopt the relevancy of such practices, even to this day.
For example, let’s look at the ‘Ola’ sacrifice. This sacrifice is not eaten, neither by the priests nor by the person who brought it. It’s all burned on the altar. This sacrifice represents a person’s desire to connect and immerse himself in God’s holiness – a desire which still exists in the heart of spiritual people and still vibrant in the nature of human beings.
But what can a person do if he doesn’t have the financial capability to invest and bring an impressive animal for sacrifice? The Torah gives him an option to bring another sacrifice called “Minha” that is coming from vegetable origin. In this case the offering is described as follows:
“And NEFESH (soul) that will SACRIFICE an offering of Minha to God“.
What is the meaning of the word “Nefesh” in the context of offering a sacrifice?
In Talmud, Rabbi Yitzchak explains that God considers and praises the sacrifice of the poor who can’t bring an animal for offering, but just a bit of flour and oil will be the same as if he had sacrificed himself.
The meager sacrifice of the poor who cannot bring an impressive animal and might feel worthless compared to the other donors whose monetary capacity is much stronger than him, has much more value in the eyes of God.
Rabbi Yitzchak learns from the terminology “Nefesh” that the value of the sacrifice is not limited to its monetary value. The value of the act is measured by the good will behind it and not by other parameters.
The poor who made an effort and brought a gift to the temple from his little money, his sacrifice may be more valuable than the relatively impressive offering of the rich man whose financial situation is not affected by this sacrifice.
Even today we can see, on many occasions, that devoted people are giving donations and doing much more, above and beyond their average capability. On the other hand, some well-off people, but not too devoted or committed to God, keep their wealth in their pocket without the ability to open their heart.
Rabbi Refael Cohen