Immediately after Simchat Torah, we begin the cycle of reading through the Torah with Sefer Breishet and conclude once again on the following Simchat Torah with V’Zot HaBracha. When we begin, the narratives of Creation, Noah, the three Patriarchs and four Matriarchs accompany us through our weeks as we delve into the nuances of the Torah’s words. We then read with anguish as the Jews are subjugated under Pharaoh as their slaves,Moshe, Rabbeinu, the plagues, the Exodus, the splitting of the Reed Sea (no, that is not a typo), the Golden Calf incident and the commands to build the Mishkan/Tabernacle with all of its appointments.
And then, we begin to read the Book of Vayikra and the early Parshiot dealing with various forms of sacrifices, and SO many people “shut down.” You hear comments like: “How boring…sacrifices?” … “Catch you when we get to more interesting Parshiot” and “How in the world is this even relevant to my life?!”
And while sacrifices of the animal or any other type are perhaps not as “exciting” as reading of the wonders of G-d in Egypt, the truth is that in a certain respect, the section on the sacrifices is even more amazing.
In all of the narratives thus far we have seen the interaction of our patriarchs and matriarchs with G-d. We have witnessed His power in Egypt; we have read with awe (and very little TRUE understanding) of the Creation of the Universe. Perhaps, at this point in the Torah, one may feel that the contact between Man and G-d is limited to specific moments: He appears to great people; He saves His people; He creates Universes, and so on. But what about ME…what about the “average person on the street.” How are WE to “meet G-d.” How are we to have a relationship with Him. And how does that impact on my relationships with my fellow man?
And this is the message of the early part of Sefer Vayikra. Each and every one of us can indeed forge a relationship with the Creator. While in the time of the Bet HaMikdash, we gave of ourselves through the animal sacrifice (which stood in OUR place for expiation) , today we give of ourselves in other ways. When we extend ourselves for our fellow Jew, when we give of our time, our resources, our knowledge–we are giving of ourselves; and Hashem WANTS that as it helps to forge a greater relationship not only with our fellow man but with Him, as well. Just as the sacrifices in the time of the Torah served that function, today we have different means (until we bring sacrifices again) to achieve that closeness with G-d.