Bulls and Lambs

March 15, 2013 2:17 am 0 comments

A lamb. Photo: Wikipedia.

Not only animal rights groups have difficulty with this week’s Parsha (bible portion). Many if not most people in our modern era have a problem with the whole concept of animal sacrifice, which is a major theme of the third book of the Torah, Leviticus.

But I have no wish to enter into a rationalization of biblical morality. The second verse in the book lends itself to some interesting homiletic interpretation, which makes it quite clear that the Torah’s focus on sacrifice is not so much on the animal on the altar as on the owner who is offering it.

Adam ki yakriv mikem korbon – when a man will bring an offering from among you to G-d, from the animals, from the cattle or from the flock shall you bring your offering. Now, clearly, the language here is rather strained. In fact, most translators have edited the text to read more smoothly – when a man among you will bring an offering, clearly an improvement in the flow of the verse.

Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, in his classic Likutei Torah, insists, however, that the Torah’s syntax is deliberate. When a man will bring an offering i.e. he will want to come closer to G-d – the Hebrew word korbon has in it the root of korov to come close – then he must know that mikem korbon, the offering must come from you, from the animal within you.

Every one of us possesses animalistic tendencies and these must be consumed on the altar of G-d. We are obliged to slay our inner animal and humanize ourselves by working on developing our character traits until the beast within us has been neutralized – and better yet – sanctified.

What exactly does this mean? The verse continues, from the cattle or from the flock shall you bring your offering. Cattle – some individuals may behave like a raging bull, goring and trampling on everyone and everything in its way. He is the proverbial bull in a china closet, stomping, aggressive, domineering, bullying, and utterly insensitive to people’s feelings.

Others might be like the flock – the meek, little lamb that timidly follows the crowd. She has no opinion of her own; whatever the last person she spoke to said becomes her opinion for the moment. She has no backbone, no sense of self or self-respect. She stays with the flock at all costs lest she be labeled a ‘black sheep.’

Still others might be moody and temperamental, changing colors and character traits from day to day. One minute they might be like the raging bull and the next the docile lamb.

So the Torah teaches us to be Adam, a human being of human – indeed G-dly – character. Be a man not an ox, a lady not a lamb. Be a mentsch; behave like a mature, refined person not like a vilde chaya. Examine your own behavioral tendencies; check out your inner feelings and dispositions. Are you satisfied with yourself as a human being? Are those around you happy, or do you intimidate them with your temper tantrums? Are you mature and mild-mannered or do you suffer from road rage even when you’re not in the traffic?

Searching our souls and our inner psyches for unacceptable behaviours and then doing something about it is what we mean when we say to bring the animal up on the altar of sacrifice. It is the animal within each of us. The true and ultimate sacrifice is the sacrificing of self.

Excerpted from the book From Where I Stand by Rabbi Yossy Goldman. Available at leading Jewish booksellers.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Arts and Culture Blogs 10 New Hollywood Movies That Aim to Show Support for Israel (SATIRE)

    10 New Hollywood Movies That Aim to Show Support for Israel (SATIRE)

    Ten major film studios are currently in production on projects that promote a decidedly pro-Israeli narrative. In famously liberal Hollywood, such a development has left mouths agape and set tongues a wagging. Since the Jewish State began defending itself from the thousands of rockets that Hamas has hurled at it – as well as ongoing terror attacks and murders, the overwhelming number of Tinseltown’s producers, directors, actors, and studio moguls have remained indifferent to the plight of millions of Israeli [...]

    Read more →
  • Featured Israel Sports So Close: Israeli Judoka Loses Crown in World Cup Final, Finishes With Silver (VIDEO)

    So Close: Israeli Judoka Loses Crown in World Cup Final, Finishes With Silver (VIDEO)

    Israeli Judoka Yarden Gerbi (63kg), 25, of Netanya, on Thursday lost the final round at the Judo World Cup, and her world title to Clarisse Agbegnenou of France, at a match held in Russia. “I have mixed feelings,” Gerbi told Israeli Army radio. But, “I shouldn’t assume that I’d win the world Judo championship twice in a row,” she admitted. Gerbi won gold in Rio De Janeiro last year. “When I made my decision, I knew it was going to [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Jewish Identity Surviving the Holocaust by Hiding Their Faith (REVIEW)

    Surviving the Holocaust by Hiding Their Faith (REVIEW)

    “Jews Out!” was just the name of a child’s game that three little girls played in World War II Europe. But all is not as it seems because the three girls were Jewish, but hiding their true identities. In award-winning author R. D. Rosen’s riveting non-fiction work, Such Good Girls, “Jews Out!” wasn’t a game; it was a struggle for survival. The girls, Sophie, Flora, and Carla, grew up at a time and a place that did not allow them [...]

    Read more →
  • Music Personalities Twenty Years On, the Real and Radical Legacy of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach

    Twenty Years On, the Real and Radical Legacy of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach

    JNS.org – “He was part hippie, part yippie, part beatnik, and part New Age,” wrote Elli Wohlgelernter in a Jerusalem Post eulogy in 1994, following the Oct. 20 passing of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach. Twenty years later, more robust accounts of Carlebach’s life have come to the surface. Earlier this year, Natan Ophir published the book Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach: Life, Mission & Legacy. This past summer, Rabbi Shlomo Katz’s The Soul of Jerusalem hit the shelves. But even the authors will admit [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Music Beatlemania Invades the Gaza Strip (SATIRE)

    Beatlemania Invades the Gaza Strip (SATIRE)

    As Hamas loses its grip on power in the Gaza Strip as a result of war, poverty and disillusionment, the Islamist terrorist group has developed an ingenious way to raise the morale of the 1.7 million Palestinian Arabs it was elected to serve. While currently focused on delivering a rocket into every Israeli home, Hamas has not left its own people behind. To gently wipe away the tears of children strategically placed inside kindergartens as human shields, the Hamas Interior Ministry [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Spirituality/Tradition Removing Jesus’ Jewish Identity From Artwork

    Removing Jesus’ Jewish Identity From Artwork

    In a strong statement that challenges the historic divide between Christianity and Judaism, Pope Francis recently proclaimed, “Inside every Christian is a Jew.” But if you look at Renaissance artworks that depict Jesus, you will not find any evidence of a Jew inside the Christianized Jesus — even though the Gospels in the New Testament tell us that Jesus was Jewish to the core. Getting that point across to the public is a daunting task, as I learned in interviews I [...]

    Read more →
  • Music Personalities Recycling His Roots

    Recycling His Roots

    JNS.org – Having started his career playing on his family’s pots and pans, Jewish musician Billy Jonas has maintained this homemade performance ethic while spreading his messages of simple living and environmentalism to a shared home throughout the world. After beginning in the kitchen, Jonas soon moved to the music room, where he picked up the piano, guitar, and trombone. These days, the multi-talented multi-instrumentalist plays on with pretty much anything he can find, including cans, bottles buckets, and other recycled-object [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Personalities Jewish Renewal Movement Founder’s Insights Form a New Guide for Senior Living

    Jewish Renewal Movement Founder’s Insights Form a New Guide for Senior Living

    JNS.org – Sara Davidson’s The December Project is a new book that should be read by all senior citizens, and by those who hope to live a long life, for it raises a question that most of us have not been taught how to answer: What should we do in that final stage of our lives? Many of us continue working past the traditional retirement age of 65, not because we need the money and not because we find the [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.