As we open the third book of the Torah, we now look at a new and different theme.
The Jewish People now have their commandments, and are busy immersed in an abundant set of laws and rituals. They need to learn a vast array of information in order to fulfil the specific requirements set out to them, and with care and attention they try to follow the word of God. But the biggest change they will now face is the implementation of the daily temple service itself.
In the idealistic times of old, it was the Temple that was the focus of our nation. On Pesach we ate the meat of the Pesach Offering there; after good fortune or even a sin one would bring a sacrifice, and on Yom Kippur all the action took place in the Temple.
Jewish People took great pride in this national meeting place and just by being there it could awaken in us much spirit and meaning. We can see this today in the reverence we show the Western Wall. The Kotel (literally wall) is all we have left of those sacred times, and provides much connection to our ancient past. This connection is imperative for our national survival, as the last remnants of the Temple Mount bridge the gap between modern times and over 2000 years of history.
In Vayikra we begin the explanations of The Temple sacrifices. These sacrifices would occur daily and like so many things had their own special laws and requirements. In Hebrew, we refer to them as Korbonot, or individually, one would bring a Korban and we translate the word to mean “sacrifice”. I would like to suggest that this translation does not truly represent what they were. A sacrifice implies one is giving something up. Even though this is literally what would happen, the word korban come from the root “KAREV” meaning to draw close. Visiting the temple and taking part in its rituals would in essence be drawing close to God.
Today we don’t have a Temple but our Shuls & Community Centres provide us with central meeting points and places to enact our Jewish rituals, and instead of the Korbonot we have our prayers. But the important thing is that it could not happen without our communities. We look to them for support, Jewish life, education, lifecycle events, the list goes on. Our local shuls have replaced the Temple and what it stood for, and we have an obligation to be a part of them for our Jewish continuity. By drawing close to each other we manage to get closer to our religion and God – being a part of our community is the most important thing that we do.