By Hazzan Jacob Sandler.
Chodesh Tov! Today marks the beginning of the Hebrew month Nisan – a name that actually came from the Babylonians. The original Hebrew name of this month was Chodesh Aviv – the month of Spring. With it comes the two-week warning that Passover is on its way, and in exactly 2 weeks, we’ll be gearing up for the second seder and the start of the counting of the Omer.
It’s a new month, and a new season. It’s also a new book of the Torah: Vayikra/Leviticus. The Book and parasha which bears his name speak to us about how to worship God. What offerings to bring, and when. We learn how to use that Mishkan, the portable sanctuary, the completion of which was one of the moments the Exodus was complete, as Rabbi Freedman taught us last week.
The korbanot (offerings) we read about and recall from both Tabernacle and Temple times, have long since been replaced with prayer services. Offerings of words rather than animals. Pleasing odors have been replaced by pleasing voices, and it is our prayers that bring us closer (karov) to God, ourselves, our Jewish community and the world. Karov – closeness is famously the Hebrew root of the word Korban, often translated as sacrifice or offering. A Korban is more deeply understood as a means by which we draw closer to God.
And how fitting that these Korbanot are elucidated in the Book of Vayikra which translates to “He called.” Two letters are shared in the root Vayikra (and He Called) Kuf-Resh-Alef and Korban (offering) Kuf-Resh-Bet. Calling out to one another, calling each other in, also draws us closer to each other. This connection is famously played upon in the Ashrei: Karov Hashem lechol Kor’av, lechol asher yikra’uhu be’emet – God is close to all who call Him; to all who call out to Him in truth. When we call out to God with honesty, sincerity, and integrity, we can draw closer to Hashem. So while the next few weeks will surely be filled with details about what and how to offer animals to God, I encourage each of us to consider the intentions behind these offerings, and examine how our words, our prayers, our songs can be offered up and draw us nearer to who we want to be, and nearer to God.