Tsav – It’s the Thought that Counts

Published on London Jewish News – 15 March 19

Tsav continues with communal Korbanot (Offerings) and concludes with the elaborate inauguration ceremony of the Mishkan and the esoteric induction of the Kohanim. Korban, from the Hebrew root word Karov, was an Offering intended to bind its giver closer to G-d.

Though not all Offerings were livestock – there were also birds and meal offerings – many involved a mix of kosher animal species. Yet some people ponder whether Korbanot still have relevance today.

As a means of addressing fallible human behaviour I believe they do. There are times when we’ve done wrong or harmed another person and we may seek forgiveness with a Sin offering (a gift and an apology). Equally, when experiencing the joys and blessings of life, we bring a Thanksgiving or Peace offering (or donate a Kiddush). Today’s acts may differ but our motivations are the same.

Over the millennia, G-d’s prophets challenged the behaviour of the Jewish people, explaining that more important than Offerings were the Intentions of our Heart. Halakha from this week’s parasha even tells us that certain inappropriate actions could disqualify a Korban; examples include Pigul – having the wrong thoughts at the time the Korban was being brought.

Following the Temple’s destruction, the prophets also explained that the Almighty treats our prayers as ‘Offerings of the Lips’. If so, prayers too may be subject to the same disqualifying Halakhot. How many times have I mumbled through a prayer service half asleep or too distracted by daily matters?

Whether or not we will still be bringing animal offerings in the time of the 3rd Temple, is unclear. But in contrition for inappropriate behaviour towards others or in thanksgiving to the Almighty, I believe Tsav teaches us by inference to work on making sure our communal prayers reflect as much focus and concentration as possible.