“Sacrifice” has been an important concept in baseball since the 1880s and a Christian concept for far longer. The term came into English from Latin, via Old French, and is generally defined as giving up one thing to obtain another.
“Sacrifice” in Hebrew
The word “sacrifice” is sometimes used by English translators of the Hebrew bible, as when Noah performs a ritual action right after leaving the ark:
וַיִּבֶן נֹחַ מִזְבֵּחַ, לַיהוָה; וַיִּקַּח מִכֹּל הַבְּהֵמָה הַטְּהֹרָה, וּמִכֹּל הָעוֹף הַטָּהוֹר, וַיַּעַל עֹלֹת, בַּמִּזְבֵּחַ.
And Noah built an altar [מִזְבֵּחַ] to the LORD and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird and offered [sometimes: “sacrificed”] burnt offerings [וַיַּעַל עֹלֹת] on the altar.
The Hebrew word for “altar” “mizbeach מִזְבֵּחַ” is linked with “zevach זְבֵּחַ,” one word for biblical sacrifice. But the Torah also uses other words, depending on the purpose and disposition of the offering:
“minchah מִנְחָה” — “gift”
“olah עֱלָה” — burnt offering, from “going up,”
“sh’lamim שלמים” — “complete (or peace)” offering,
“chatat חטאת” — “sin” offering, and
“asham אשם” — “guilt” offering.
There are also offerings known by their content: “first fruits (bikkurim)” or “wave/sheaf (omer),” for example. Probably the most general term is “korban קָרְבָּן,” from the root for “becoming near.”
“Sacrifice” in Judaism?
A Jew’s obligations to oneself, to other individuals, and to the community are myriad. Here are a few of the most general:
- We are warned to be for ourselves as well as for others (Avot 1:14)
- We are told that “All Israel is responsible, one for the other [Kol yisrael arevim zeh bazeh]” (Shavuot 39a), and
- We are reminded that caring for the poor and practicing lovingkindness are among the obligations without limit (Peah 1:1).
Is “sacrificing” for the community or for a greater goal a Jewish notion?
Stay tuned and/or share your thoughts.