This week, we read Tsav, which includes the instructions given to Aaron and his sons, on how to perform 5 kinds of ritual sacrifice. We read similar instructions last week, in the Parashat Vayikra which discusses what to do when a person brings an offering to God. This week, the language is more serious and demanding. These are the laws of sacrifice as God tells Moses to command Aaron and his sons. Here the language is more specific, the demands are higher. The sacrifices are discussed in terms of kodesh kadashim, the holiest of the holy, and they are listed in order of their degree of holiness.
The first of these offerings (or korbanot) is the “whole burnt offering” or torat ha-olah. It is important to note at this time that the word korban, offering, or sacrifice, comes from the same Hebrew root as l’hakriv, which means, to draw near. These ritualized sacrifices were the peoples way to draw nearer to God.
Words are important here. The word used when Abraham was told to go to Moriah to offer his beloved son Isaac was olah, or sacrifice.
On Moriah, God’s messenger stopped Abraham, from killing his son as a sacrifice to God.At the last minute a substitution was made, and a ram was offered in place of a child. After that one incident, other korbanot were prescribed. Rams, oxen, doves, grain, and oil, to name a few. The practices became more and more ritualized, and were finally formalized here in the Book of Leviticus.
Never in all of the instructions regarding offerings to God are the people asked to sacrifice their children. Nowhere does God ever ask that humans ever be sacrificed in his name.
As a matter of fact, in Deuteronomy, chapter 12, where we once again are given instructions for offerings, we are warned against copying the rites of the nations who were in the land before us. It states, “You shall not do so to your God, for everything that is an abomination of God, that He hates, have they done to their gods: for even their sons and their sons and their daughters have they burned in the fire for their gods.” It seems pretty clear here that human sacrifice is not what God wants.
In Jeremiah 32 we are told that the Israelites were once again drawn to the sacrificial practices of those around them, and built alters to give their sons and daughters to Molech. While that may sound attractive to those of us with teenagers, our God did not command it , and considers it an abomination, worthy of punishment. God has given his instructions on sacrifice, and he does not want our children.
Again and again, in the writings of the Prophets, we are warned about the punishments God will mete out if children are sacrificed in his name.
Let’s fast forward to 2004. Today on Palestinian Authority TV, a popular music video, broadcast during a show called “The Childrens’ Hour” states, “How sweet is the fragrance of the shahids, how sweet is the scent of the earth, its thirst quenched by the gush of blood, flowing from the youthful body.” Shahida, is the Arabic word for “death for Allah.” Millennia after Abraham is told not to sacrifice his child, his descendants are doing exactly that.
Once again, people who consider themselves “children of God” are worshiping at the alter of human sacrifice. Mothers, like Reem Reyashi, who’s goals to kill and be killed, are greater than their obligations to, and love for their children. Parents, who’s belief in a deity who thirsts for human blood, out weighs their desire to protect their offspring, Fathers who rejoice in the deaths of their children who blow themselves up in the hopes of taking a few Jews with them. Mothers who cry upon hearing of their childs death, not because they have lost a child, but because the shahid is to be envied, because they believe that angels in heaven are ushering the martyr to his wedding.
Religious and political leaders in Palestine are teaching their followers that they are born for the very purpose of dying for Allah, and the people are buying this message. A message that specifically contradicts the wishes of God.
In a day and age where human sacrifice is deplored by all civilized peoples, children, and adults alike are being called by their leaders to kill themselves in the name of the God.
Remember, korban is the word for sacrifice. It is derived from the word for “draw near”. We can be drawn nearer to God by worshipping in many ways. We are given instructions to do so in this week’s portion, and in many other places in the Torah. But, nowhere, does God ask us to give up our lives, or the lives of our loved ones for his sake.
And let us say, Amen.