April 11, 2024
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April 11, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Parshat Terumah begins a series of five parshiot dedicated to planning/building the Mishkan. Towards the end of our parsha, we read about the altar, on which—at peak seasons—100s of sacrifices were offered daily.

“To sacrifice” means to give up something of yours, for the sake of a higher cause, thus coming closer to Hashem. Indeed, the Hebrew word for “sacrifice” is korban. The root is “karov” meaning “close.” But, how do I get closer to Hashem through the killing of an innocent lamb?

Maybe, this shows I trust Hashem to fill the loss caused by giving up some food (meat), drink (milk) and clothes (wool or leather), thereby achieving a higher level of belief—binding my thoughts and actions to Hashem.

But, there’s something deeper here. Visitors to the Mishkan experienced intense spirituality. The grandeur, the harmony, the swiftness of the worshipping Kohanim and the unity with Jews from abroad in times when international travel was rare, the closeness between them and Hashem.

In 1980, I was a nine-year-old student in fourth grade. My teacher wished to clarify the issues we were studying in class—the korbanot—by inviting a local shochet, with his lamb, to the sandbox in our school’s backyard. I will spare you the gory details. Suffice it to say that several of my classmates turned vegetarian that day. However, the dominant feeling I vividly remember was my awe and amazement at the swiftness of the transition from life to death! A minute ago, that cute lamb was grazing grass—moving about and making gentle sounds—now, it’s just a pile of meat and bones! Where—for heaven’s sake—did its life go?

The sacrificing of an animal offered our ancestors a moment of reflection. The owner of the animal would stand nearby, observing the kohen shecht it with one quick, swift painless motion. Witnessing this sudden loss of life would cause those involved to reflect on how frail and temporary their own life might be.

And if life is so feeble, it should not be taken for granted! Nobody can guarantee I’ll wake up tomorrow to enjoy another day in Hashem’s world (real “life insurance” doesn’t exist), so I thank Hashem for each moment of life! Indeed, for as long as I live, I should strive to make the best out of my life—giving to others and doing good deeds. These simple thoughts work wonders to bring us closer to Hashem.

Here in Israel, many feel that Hashem has “shifted historic gears” over the past 10-15 years, moving the pieces on the global chessboard with greater resolve. Israel’s growth in multiple fields simultaneously, the unforeseen collapse of several Arab countries around us, the strengthening of political, military and commercial ties between Israel and India, Russia, Australia and the UAE, the global recognition of Israel’s assistance to African countries—all amount to us wondering what amazingly good things Hashem still has in store for us in the immediate future. Suddenly, a sovereign Israel with the Beit Hamikdash as its spiritual heart doesn’t necessarily sound like a futuristic scene.

I do not know whether the Mikdash will include animal offerings to bring us closer to Hashem, or will “clean” tefillot do the trick. Either way, may we merit building it soon, in unity and peace!


Rabbi Hillel Van-Leeuwen is the Head of Leadership Development at World Mizrachi.

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