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Elul 14: Sacrifice

by Hillel News |Aug 28, 2015|Comments

First Blast: Text

וְאֶזְבְּחָה בְאָהֳלוֹ זִבְחֵי תְרוּעָה

And I will offer in His tent sacrifices with joyous sound


Second Blast: Commentary

Malbim, a 19th century commentator, notes that normally a victorious fighter offers a sacrifice of thanksgiving accompanied with t’ruah, some kind of joyous, loud cry (see Numbers 10:9). Yet in this case, the victory comes through being in God’s tent. Therefore, dwelling in God’s tent is itself the victorious war cry that accompanies the sacrifice. The earthly impulse to celebrate victory gives way to a spiritual seeking, giving a different frame to the sacrificial act. The sacrifice transforms from a thank you gift to God to an expression of closeness. 


Third Blast: Practice

Even though they are central in the Bible, today sacrifices seem at best irrelevant and at worst alienating to many modern Jews. Yet, the sacrificial system is rich in possibilities for metaphorical understanding, as the following song by Rabbi Elazar Azkari (16th century Eretz Israel) expresses:


בִּלבָבִי מִשְׁכַּן אֶבְנֶה לְהַדַר כְּבוֹדוֹ, וּבְמִשׁכַּן מִזְבֵּחַ אָשִׂים לְקַרְנֵי הוֹדוֹ,

וּלְנֵר תָּמִיד אֶקַח לִי אֶת אֵשׁ הָעַקֵדָה, וּלְקָרְבַּן אַקְרִיב לוֹ אֶת נַפְשִׁי הַיְחִידָה

Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh l'hadar k'vodo, uv'mishkan mizbeach asim l'karnei hodo, ulner tamid ekach li es esh ha'akeidah, ulkorban akriv lo es nafshi, es nafshi hayechida.


In my heart a sanctuary I shall build, to the splendor of His honor, And in the sanctuary an altar I shall place, to the rays of His glory. And for an Eternal Flame I shall take for me the fire of the Akeidah [Isaac's near sacrifice]; And for a sacrifice I shall offer Him my soul, my one and only soul.

Listen here to learn to melody and sing it.


Double Portion: Something extra for Shabbat

Our verse deals with the aftermath of war, and, as the Malbim suggests, transforms the normal practice in light of spiritual concerns. Likewise, our parsha (Torah portion), Ki Teitzei, begins with the law of the captive woman, which prohibits soldiers from taking wives from the defeated nation immediately, proscribing a month for the woman to mourn and for the man to reconsider and set her free. This law represents relative progress in a world where immediate consummation of such relationships was common.     


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  • Elul
  • Meyerhoff Center for Jewish Experience
  • 2015

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