A Life for a Life

[First posted on The Times of Israel: http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/tzav-a-life-for-a-life/]

Ibn Ezra Leviticus: Tzav

A Life for a Life

“Behold, I do not give lectures or a little charity. When I give I give myself.” -Walt Whitman

How does a person show thanks? How does one repay an enormous debt of gratitude? How can “thank you” be meaningful?

Why, by bringing a sacrifice, of course.

At least that’s what they did in the old days. By slaughtering and burning an animal upon the altar one could give thanks to God for saving one from trouble. Ibn Ezra (on Leviticus 7:12) says that a sacrifice was the appropriate method of giving serious thanks. Anything less than that just didn’t show enough appreciation to God.

On Leviticus 8:23, he takes the concept of an animal sacrifice another step. The truth is we should be ready to lay our lives on the line for God (when called for). We should be able to give our life in His service. A significant demonstration, beyond mere lip-service was the offering of an animal. A life for a life. The animal being sacrificed was really a substitute for ourselves. It was taking our place on the altar. We needed to imagine, visualize and believe that it is our body being offered. By strongly identifying with the animal and understanding that it is dying instead of us, we can ennoble both its death and our lives.

That is a serious thank you. However, in our days we need to find less destructive and fatal forms of thanks. We have to find some other way to give of ourselves.

Shabbat Shalom and Chag Kasher Ve’sameach,



Thanks to the leadership of both the Kehila of Uruguay as well as the Yavne school community of Montevideo for their extraordinary hosting. Here my thanks are a mere dedication, but I look forward to the opportunity of showing more significant thanks.

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