Good Morning and Good Shabbas everyone I am Zara Tonkil and in celebration of my Bat Mitzvah I will be saying my dvar Torah on my portion, which is Vayekra. I want to speak about the sacrifices we made 2000 years ago and the ones we make in the 21st century. Such sacrifices include the ones we do when we want to repent, or the sacrifices we make for our family and friends.
While we were studying Vayekra we talked about many different things. The types of sacrifices for different people and why they occurred, and we asked why Hashem even cares if we did or didn’t? All very interesting topics. I’d like to share my thoughts and views on some of these topics
To begin with, times have changed significantly since the days the Torah was written. Firstly in this day and age we do not conduct animal sacrifices as our beautiful beit hamikdash was destroyed and a holier place for sacrifice could not be found. AND PROGRESSIVE JUDAISM HAD BEGUN. An alternative place for sacrifice had to be found.
As for the sacrifices, well there are MANY, MANY types of sacrificial offerings but unfortunately we do not have long enough to talk about them all today. However I have chosen to talk about two themes that come out of the sacrifices mentioned in my portion.
Firstly, we have the idea of T’shuvah - where you say sorry for something you have done wrong. In the times of the Torah we would have sacrificed either a female sheep or goat, unblemished or in perfect health and condition, or if you could not afford it you could have sacrificed 2 turtle doves both of which are unblemished, 1 for a burnt offering the other for the sin you have committed.
However, I DON'T think everyone LOVES the idea of de~livering an animal and having the priests throw it into a fire, but apparently hashem really loves smelling things like that, If G-d likes the smell of THAT then He or She should love when we bake. I can just imagine him or her up in heaven thinking, wow these smells are so much better than the ones 2000 years ago!
Anyway, in the 21st century we would apologise deeply for the sin we have commited, or if it was something between us and Hashem, we would pray, fast, or both. Fortunately many of us follow and observe and believe these customs and rituals and believe that Hashem really is listening to us while we pray or fast on days such as yom kippur.
Secondly, we have the holiness of our relationships with each other. We spoke about examples like breaking promises or stealing or losing someone else’s property. These acts were a HUGE problem back then and still are now.
In the days of the Torah, for you to be forgiven you would have to return or repair that item or pay the amount that it was worth and add a fifth part to it. You would then have to bring to the priests a ram without blemish or an equivalent as a reparation offering. The priests will then sacrifice that ram and the person who did that will have no further guilt and will be forgiven.Hashem really cares about our relationships with people because part of Him or Her is inside all of us.
Then there was the idea of Toch’cha - giving feedback. I know I sometimes become a little bit offended when someone tries to give me feedback and I try so hard not to get upset over it. If emotion does come over me , the first thing I would do is apologize. I know almost everyone likes to GIVE feedback but loathes receiving it. In the lesson from the days of the Torah as above, I now recognise that such a gesture borders on offering a type of sacrifice and know or feel that it should at least be heard.
The last couple of weeks leading up to my bat mitzvah were just full of feedback and I’m pretty sure I did a good job receiving it, because if I didn’t I don’t think I would have done what I did today. So I think we can all be a bit more open minded when it comes to constructive feedback and know the difference between criticism and constructive feedback.
I remember just a couple of years ago thinking, this day will NEVER come. And then I went through this panic stage about a month ago where I was completely terrified. Fast forward to today where I’m nearly finished this lovely service, I was still shaking and still nervous before this started. However, I’m so lucky to have my loving friends and family here today to celebrate this simcha with me and support me.