adapted from Meta-Parshiyot by R David Wolfe-Blank and The Living Torah by Aryeh Kaplan
I am the daughter of two Hungarian Shoah survivors. My maternal grandfather, Yaakov Grosz z”l, was a soldier for Russia at the end of World War II. It is known amongst those who did survive that Russians did not treat their Jewish comrades well. My Saba, (Grandfather) Yaakov, perished during the war, no one can say exactly when, how, or why. He was in his 30’s. In this way, his fate is linked with the sad fate of many Russian soldiers being exploited today. This post is in memory of my grandfather Yaakov Gross z”l, may his Neshamah have an aliyah.
THIS WEEK’S TORAH PORTION
Vayikra details the series of sacrifice offerings brought by individuals and community representatives to the Mishkon.
- The Olah (elevation) sacrifice, burnt offering, was offered by a person who felt guilty over a wrong that had been done. By means of bringing this sacrifice, the person manifested a gift to be closer to God and release the feeling of guilt.
- The Minhah (gift) sacrifice, flour offering, was to make amends and could not afford (or chose not to) bring an animal sacrifice.
- The Sh’lomim (peace) sacrifice, a peace or thanksgiving offering, was to express gratitude and appreciation and make connection to God.
- The Hata’at (sin) sacrifice was for someone on who committed a sin accidentally, found out about it after the fact, and wished to make amends to their God.
- The Asham (guilt) sacrifice trespass offering was for someone who inadvertently used something for their own benefit intended for use only by the holy sanctuary.
The first three sacrifices are voluntary and the final two offer expiation for a sin or trespass.
ANIMAL SACRIFICE AT THE MISHKON
The goal of sacrifice at the Mishkon was a combination of celebration, apology, and expiation. Sacrifice provided access to The Holy One of blessing, in the ancient mind. If people wanted to meet with God, they could do so reliably by means of offering a sacrifice at the Temple.
The word in Hebrew for sacrifice is Korban, קרבן (KRB is the root and it means “close”.) The Korban, then, brings one close to Source.
In ancient Israel sacrifices were done daily at the Temple. When the temple was destroyed, the first rabbis replaced the sacrificial system with prayer service. In this way, the practice of sacrifice remains alive, though dormant, in the substructure of Jewish life.
Fascism is rearing its ugly head. Putin’s regime’s demonstrates utter contempt for Ukraine’s democratic government. He has filled the streets with Russian military, shooting homes, businesses and and even a maternity hospital. They are shutting down the infrastructure – like water and electricity bit by bit. No place is safe.
Putin has brutally attacked a peaceful sovereign country. He has selfishly interrupted lives and dreams of millions of people. Putin has no concern for the wellbeing of Russian people or loss of life.
The posture in life is dynamic. Only a month ago, challenges of passing legislation in a harshly bifurcated government system loomed large as did images of Covid vaccinations, and related death tolls. Today is day 16 of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
TIME TRAVEL HUNGARY 1972
I had the privilege of visiting Hungary in 1972 with my parents and brother. It was my parents, both Shoah survivors, first time returning to the country in which they were born. It was not their home. Hungary was under Russian occupation at the time. My parents spent a year preparing to return to their homeland. They purchased suitcases and lovingly filled them with American products like jeans, chewing gum, cigarettes, cotton tea shirts… meant to delight the relatives. These small items, mostly taken for granted in the US both today and then, were very valuable in Russian occupied Hungary. The value for these items was shockingly high and black market developed. I was saddened at the unfairness of so many people, experiencing lack unnecessarily.
I was 11 years old on my first trip to Hungary. When we arrived, the landscape was shockingly gray. There was no color in the streets, or on the people. The sidewalks were peppered with buildings that looked like a bomb had hit them, and the ruptured remains were left behind. The quality of available products was low. People were desperate. First for products from the western world and even more so the people wanted out of the soviet bloc deeply.
There was a doctor I was quickly introduced to who said he wanted to marry me. He was serious. Several women had sons they wanted me to meet and would hand over photographs. It had nothing to do with me, these people were looking for a way out.
The inappropriateness of the meeting is glaring. The sad truth is that people were searching for a way out. And they were afraid of afraid of speaking truth. The fear of the soviet regime was intents. I met the doctor in Los Angeles many years later. He found a way to get here, bless him.
The events in Ukraine have a resonance similar communist Hungary in the 1970’s.
Please, Holy Parent, save Ukraine and all of us from Putin and his regime’s self serving interests.
HOW TO HELP?
Let’s look at this through a lens of sacrifice in honor of this week’s Torah portion.
SACRIFICE IN March 2022
In light of current events many individuals and communities are making sacrifices in support of the Ukrainian people. In honor of this week’s Torah portion let’s look at this through the lens of sacrifice.
UKRAINIANS – INVOLUNTARY SACRIFICE
Over 2,500,000 Ukrainians have fled the country since the invasion started. The Ukrainian people are proud and are defending their way of life, liberty, culture, and community. Every male between the age of 18-60 is required to stay in the homeland and fight. Women are choosing to stay as well.
RUSSIAN PEOPLE – INVOLUNTARY SACRIFICE
SACRIFICING LIFESTYLE – The west is responding to the assaults with severe sanctions and The Russian people are feeling pain. It is sad because they are not complicit. It is a result of their government’s aggression.
Funds are not flowing and conveniences people have grown accustomed to are no longer available. Think about iphones or Netflix and how people have grown accustomed to them. It is a big loss for some. Credit card companies, media companies, finance, and so many more have pulled out or initiated stopping business with Russia. Click here for a list of companies: https://www.nytimes.com/article/russia-invasion-companies.html
SACRIFICING TRUTH – All independent news outlets in Russia have been shut down by the government. As a result, all news that presently gets to the Russian people comes from Putin’s Kremlin. It is akin to a mass hypnosis. When people hear something over and over, we tend to believe it, even if it is false.
It has been reported that when several people living in Ukraine call their parents in Russia, to let them know what is going on, the Russian families insisted that there is no war. This, while their Ukrainian relatives are seeking from Putin’s military.
COMPANIES AND CORPORATIONS -VOLUNTARY SACRIFICE
As a result of pressure from investors and consumers, many Western companies have started to unwind their investments, close stores, and sales channels in Russia. The hope is that the cries of the people will put pressure on Putin. Click here for a list of companies standing with Ukraine by no longer doing business in Russia. https://www.nytimes.com/article/russia-invasion-companies.html
These companies and corporations are sacrificing revenue generated from sales in Russia.
WESTERN ALLIES – INVOLUNTARY SACRIFICE
The cost of gasoline in the US has risen significantly since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. People depend on gas to get to work and day to living. Consequently there will be an increase in expenses for many that will result in short term hardship for some. There are work arounds that require creativity and/or funding, like car pooling and electric vehicles to minimize the impact.
Overall, it is an small inconvenience relative to what Ukrainians and Russians are experiencing. Despite small inconveniences that may result, everyone can help simply by being supportive. We can model graciousness and help others get comfortable that it is a right thing to do. Every day we can settle and rest in a comfortable home is a blessing.
WESTERN ALLIES, VOLUNTARY SACRIFICE
Ukraine’s people need help to keep their country another day.
Giving Tzedakah is a big mitzvah.
Here is a link to Jewish organizations to support Ukraine: https://forward.com/fast-forward/483037/how-to-help-ukraine-jewish-community-odessa-dnipro/
Here is a link secular organizations that support Ukraine: https://www.msnbc.com/search/?q=DONATE+UKRAINE#gsc.tab=0&gsc.q=DONATE%20UKRAINE&gsc.page=1
TAKE THIS TO ANOTHER LEVEL
You can enhance the Mitzvah of Tzedaka by means of the sacrifice rituals in this this week’s Torah portion. Adding a personal element of ritual to your sacrifice (gift) like the Olah (elevation), Minhah (gift), Sh’lomim (peace), Hata’at (sin), or Asham (guilt) (explained above) can initiate a psycho-spiritual process to call in healing.
Today, I offer Tzedakah as The Sh’lomim (peace) sacrifice, to acknowledge gratitude for life, health, and the weekly respite that is the sacred Shabbat. May this “sacrifice” play a role in cultivating peace in Ukraine and in so doing may peace resonate into my home, relationships, communities, and Earth.
VAYIK’RA CORRESPONDS TO G’VURAH IN NETZAH
This week we start a new book, on one hand. G’vurah brings control and a sense of power into the area of Netzah, driving it toward its mighty feats of endurance, using repetition to drive home its goals of victory. Netzah points to action, and Vayikra brings us to the culminating purpose of the Mishkon, cultivating the Eternal (Netzah) Divine Presence. The nature of Sacrifice can help us understand why this Torah portion introduces G’vurah into this new cycle. Surrender and sacrifice are actions related to G’vurah.