Better keep yourself clean and bright; you are the window through which you must see the world. -George Bernard Shaw
The Torah reading of Tetzava continues to elaborate the details of the construction and operation of the Tabernacle, what in a sense is meant to host a concentrated presence of God within our material world. The Bechor Shor on Exodus 30:1 explains that God doesn’t need such a domicile, nor the sacrifices, nor any of the Tabernacle activities at all. All of the rituals are meant exclusively for our benefit.
While it is difficult for us in our modern era to understand the power and effect of the sacrifices, the Bechor Shor implies that not only was the appropriate offering of a sacrifice somehow redeeming and effected forgiveness, but the penitent was able to also feel and know that he was forgiven. The feeling of forgiveness had a powerful cathartic effect on the penitent.
The Bechor Shor explains the impact of understanding that one was forgiven and how achieving some type of spiritual purity, as a result, gave tremendous encouragement to continue to align oneself with God’s commands. He compares such spiritual cleanliness to wearing white garments, quoting King Solomon who stated (Ecclesiastes 9:8) “Your clothing should always be white.”
When one’s garments are soiled, then the filthy person will rarely have objections to getting dirtier. Similarly, a sinner, believing himself to still be mired in sin, will be less hesitant to continue to sin, as the Talmud states “if a person sins and then does so again, it will then seem in his eyes as permissible” (Tractate Yoma 86b). However, a person wearing fine, freshly laundered clothing will be averse to getting them dirty. So too, a person who has sought forgiveness, a person who knows that they have gone through a spiritual cleansing process will hesitate before sullying himself again.
That was part of the purpose of the sacrifices; to cleanse our souls; to burn away the dross and filth of our actions and our spiritual beings and bring us closer to God. To give us freshly laundered souls that we will keep clean for as long as possible.
In place of sacrifices, today we have prayer. May we use the gift of prayer effectively.
Purim Sameach and Shabbat Shalom,
To my sister Zahava (JJ) Kahen for her inspired newsletter/blog/website venture for Jewish elementary school girls: https://www.homescool.info/ Especially suited for Grades 3-6, but can be enjoyed by all.