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“God’s Secret,” Rabbi Zecher’s Shabbat Awakenings

March 24, 2023 | 2 Nisan 5783

Welcome again to Shabbat Awakenings, a weekly reflection as we move toward Shabbat. You can listen to it as a podcast here.

Starting with this Shabbat, the real secrets of life are revealed. We roll the Torah scroll a little more and begin a new book in the Torah: Vayikra el Moshe… Adonai called to Moses and spoke to him from the Tent of Meeting. The Book of Leviticus has begun. What words would God utter to his faithful servant? What pearls of wisdom and guidance would usher forth? Just when Moses thought he might take a break and relax from all the work of building and dedicating the Tabernacle, the call comes in. It is very simple and straightforward: Offer sacrifices! Korban, the Hebrew word used to denote sacrifice means to draw near. This is how to get close to God.  Detailed and to the point, vivid and all-inclusive, the sacrifices have a designated method to them, a way to prepare and provide the choicest offering to the Eternal. It would necessitate time and preparation. In the traversing of the wilderness and in the settlement of the land, sacrifices would play a significant role in the life of the people and provide a well defined method of drawing closer to God as the acknowledged and accepted ritual.

And then it all changed.

The specific and detailed method of drawing near to God and to the community ceased to exist when the Romans in 70 of the Common Era destroyed the Temple, dispersed the Jewish people and ended the sacrificial rituals as they knew it. The desire to grow closer to the Divine remained, however. Instead of the offering of sacrifices, the Talmud states that prayer, study, and deeds of loving-kindness would serve in their place. The story does not end there however, for we would miss the point if we simply acknowledged these three areas of Judaism as a replacement.  Leviticus reminds us that the way of drawing near to God has a method of preparation. It takes time and understanding of the process.

All of our actions of studying, praying, and performing acts of loving-kindness require the same kind of attention, respect, and mindfulness as the sacrifices. When we can be conscious of those actions and bring intention to them, then we are in on one of God’s secrets about the universe.  The way we conduct our lives and our religious actions actually matter to God and therefore matter to us as well.  The details of sacrifices articulated in Leviticus serve as a metaphor and a reminder: approach our lives and the way we live them with the utmost significance and respect.  And then, only then, can we achieve the highest standard to be a holy people, grounded, connected, and aware of what can be possible when we pay attention to prayer, study, and the way of loving-kindness.

Shabbat is a great time to practice.

Shabbat Shalom.

Originally shared on March 16, 2018

  • Join us at 6:00 p.m. for Qabbalat Shabbat as we welcome Artist-in-Residences Kol Sasson. Gather with us onsite or online on ZoomFacebook Live, or stream on our website. Let’s celebrate together. The service will be preceded by a Shabbat Mishpachah family dinner at 5:15 p.m. and followed by a community oneg.
  • Tot Rock Shabbat gathers online at 5:00 p.m.
  • Torah Study gathers at 9:00 a.m. onsite or online (via  Zoom, on Facebook Live, or via Temple Israel’s livestream), followed by an oneg to connect with friends and community.
  • Melaveh Malka Concert with Artists-in-Residence Kol Sasson gathers onsite at 7:00 p.m.
  • Gather online to say goodbye to Shabbat with a lay-led Havdalah on Zoom.

Rabbi Elaine Zecher