Parahat B’Shalach Commentary

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Parashat Vayikra (Leviticus 1:1 – 5:26)

The Stone Chumash makes the following observation regarding offerings to Hashem (God):

Throughout the Torah, only this Four Letter Name of God — the Name representing his Attribute of mercy — is used in connection with offerings, never the name Elohim, which represents His Attribute of judgement (Sifra). Ancient idolaters believed that animal offerings were needed to assuage the anger of a judgmental, bloodthirsty god. This is totally foreign to Jewish belief. The Torah teaches us that offerings are a means to draw closer to HASHEM — the Merciful God (R’ Hirsch).

“[T]o assuage the anger of a judgmental, bloodthirsty god,” versus “to draw closer to HASHEM.”

The former scenario sounds very much like I have heard sacrifice characterized in Christian circles: God was mad, and heads were going to roll, so the Israelites could keep him at bay by whacking a few lambs. Finally Jesus stepped into the picture and gave God what he really wanted, so now we can all live in peace.

For example, the MacArthur Study Bible has this to say about Lev. 1:9, which speaks of “a sweet aroma to the LORD” (NKJV): “[T]he costly ritual recognized God’s anger for sin committed (cf, 1:13,17).” Nowhere in the verse, or its cross-references, is any mention made of “God’s anger.”

How much different is the notion of sacrifice as a means to draw closer to God! And is that view so much removed from New Testament theology?

[R]emember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ (Ephesians 2:12,13).

Christian theology sometimes suffers from an underdeveloped understanding of the role that the Temple service played in the worship of the God of Israel. This is perhaps why the Apostle Paul’s intention to offer sacrifice in Acts 21, and mention of sacrifices being offered during the Messianic Era (i.e., the Millenium) in Ezekiel 43-46 has the potential to generate much discussion among Christians. Jesus did it all for us so we don’t need none of that, presents a simplistic understanding of Jesus’s fulfillment of the Laws of God in general, and the Temple service, in particular.

I would challenge Christians who might be stuck in fire-insurance soteriology to move beyond this and ask themselves how they might be “brought near [to God] by the blood of Christ” (Ephesians 2:13).