In the list of general obligations that closed the previous post, the concept of “sacrifice” per se does not appear. This raised the question for me: Is “sacrificing” for the community or for a greater goal a Jewish notion?
A few notes from a brief further exploration:
The substantial entry on “sacrifice” in the Jewish Encyclopedia, as a central example, focuses on the ancient system of ritual and interpretations, through the ages, of that system. Only three paragraphs in the 15,000-word article speak of non-ritual understandings of “sacrifice.” These are based on ancient ideas that study, prayer, and good deeds replace the Temple sacrifices.
“Sacrifices are alive and well” in My Jewish Learning begins with the origin of the term :
The term “sacrifice” comes from a Latin word meaning “to make something holy.” The most common Hebrew equivalent is korban, “something brought near,” i.e., to the altar. (The Torah: A Modern Commentary, edited by W. Gunther Plaut, UAHC Press, 1981, p. 750)in terms of “making something holy,” saying that the “most common Hebrew equivalent is korban, “something brought near,” i.e., to the altar. (The Torah: A Modern Commentary, edited by W. Gunther Plaut, UAHC Press, 1981, p. 750)
In this piece, originally published by the Union for Reform Judaism, Deborah Gettes concludes:
Whether we have sinned or not, whether we have done so intentionally or unintentionally, we still have the desire to move closer to God, to offer our own korbanot. To do so, we must put forth the effort to show kindness, compassion, generosity, and goodwill even if that is not easy. At the same time, we must put forth the effort to study Torah and attend worship services. As Pirkei Avot states, Mitzvah goreret mitzvah: The more good we do, the more good we do. This is really a model for life. Sacrifices are alive and well: They just have to be slightly redefined.
“Prayer is the heart…of significant living,” Gettes notes, quoting Rabbi Morris Adler.
This brings me back to the “heart map” and prayer as an avenue to making Judaism’s “counter-cultural” message and covenant a part of our being. In particular, it puts me in mind of one comment incorporated into the map:
“Why fixed prayer? To learn what we should value…” (a teaching from Rabbi Chaim Stern included in the 1975 Gates of Prayer and in newer Reform prayerbooks.)