In this week’s Torah portion, we read of the many sacrifices that G-d commanded the Jewish people to offer in the Holy Temple. One might ask, what need does He have for these offerings? Does the Almighty feed on animals? We can see G-d’s response to this preposterous claim in psalm 50 where G-d states that all the fowl and the animals of the earth belong to Him. He rhetorically says, “Will I eat the flesh of bulls or do I drink the blood of he-goats?!” In that case, why does He request that we bring Him sacrifices? Perhaps an even stronger question; if G-d is Almighty and Omnipotent, what need does He have for anything from lowly man? He is Perfect in the highest sense of the word. Surely He lacks nothing and requires nothing.
I once saw a fascinating study that was conducted. Romantic couples were split up into two groups. One person sat outside under an umbrella while their partner went indoors with the experimenter. Both were given a survey to assess the level of love or affection that they felt for their partner. Afterward, the experimenter asked the partner who was indoors to write something that they loved about their significant other on a poster. Without saying a word, they were then asked to go outside and show the poster with the compliment to their partner under the umbrella.
Next, the experimenter asked the person indoors to go deliver to their partner whatever drink they most enjoyed and to return without saying a word. Subsequently, they were asked once more to go outside and give a little gift to their partner and return without saying a word. At the conclusion, both partners were given the same survey to assess the level of affection or love that they felt for their significant other. The study found that those that were seated outside under the umbrella and were continually receiving felt no change in affection or love for their significant other. However, the partner that was continually giving felt an increase in affection and love for their significant other after the experiment.
Make no mistake, G-d certainly lacks nothing. Nevertheless, G-d recognizes that man has a great capacity for love that can only be realized by allowing Himself to receive. Therefore, G-d has commanded man to not only give something to Him, namely sacrifices, but also to give to each other. In this way, G-d gives us all the push we need to draw closer to Him and to one another through growing more and more in love.
Indeed, in Hebrew, the word for “sacrifice” is “Korban” from the word meaning “to draw close.” Nowadays, when we no longer have a Temple, the sages tell us that prayers take the place of the sacrifices. Through dedicating our time and energy to G-d and to others through acts of charity and kindness, we draw closer to them, and our capacity to love expands. Therefore, through acts of giving, we are able to break down barriers and build bridges. Ultimately, through our giving we grow in love and come to build the great unity that is necessary to truly transform this world into a Heaven on earth.
– Rabbi Liad Braude