Rabbi Thomas A. Louchheim
Reconnection May Lead You to Inner Peace
Next week we begin a new book of the Torah, Leviticus. The portion provides the instructions on five types of sacrifices to be offered in the Tabernacle for God. The Hebrew word for “sacrifice” is korban, literally meaning “bring near." In English these are two different things. When we hear the word “sacrifice” we think of giving up something for a greater good. In biblical times it represented something you give up for God. It was a contribution, a gift, a presentation made to God. For the modern reader (you all qualify), bringing an “offering” would seem to be a more “whole-hearted” gift.
The zevach sh'lamim, the “peace (or ‘well-being’) sacrifice”, is distinctive in that after the person brings this sacrifice, a festive meal is eaten by him and his guests after the prescribed portion has been offered on the altar and a share has been given to the priests. The name of the offering has been of some interest to scholars. Zevach means “slaughter”, and sh'lamim is associated with the word shalom, “peace.” So, the sacrifice has been connected to the broadest sense of “wholeness, happiness, health.” On the other hand, we might want to connect this to the same root shlm (shin/lamed/mem), meaning “to repay, make good.” Rashbam (c. 1085 – c. 1158) seems to connect these two ideas by commenting that everyone’s well-being is increased by such a sacrifice: the sacrificial parts go to God, the breast and thigh to the priests, and the rest of the meat is eaten by the one who brought the sacrifice. This contribution to God “brings us near” to God, is shared by others, and all benefit from this transaction.
Friends, we live in a world where we are always in relationship with others. Our own happiness and well-being is often tied to how others relate to us and we to them. For those of you who are in a constant state of balance, well-being, and happiness, and are at one with God in all manners of your spiritual being, mazel tov to you! For most of us, however, there is some reconciliation to do (sometimes on a daily basis).
For those who seek an inner peace, balance, and sense of well-being, this requires effort today, as it did for our ancestors. When you feel you are falling to pieces, you can experience a sense of renewal, reaffirmation when you make an effort at re-connection. Often, when your world seems to be falling apart around you, the best solution is to bring yourself to God and to others. The sharing will renew you and bring you back into balance. Also, when we allow others in to share with us, in an effort to bring us back to completeness, we allow them to do their sacred duty of healing our souls, r'fuah sh'leimah (same root, by the way – shlm).