"And that which is left thereof shall Aaron and his sons eat; it shall be eaten without leaven in a holy place; in the court of the tent of meeting they shall eat it" Leviticus 6:9

By Rabbi Miriam Berger, March 16, 2011

Parashat Tzav continues to explore the themes of sacrifice, describing in detail how the burnt offering, meal offering, guilt offering and peace offering were to be carried out. Since the destruction of the Temple, our prayers and liturgy have come to replace sacrifice. Even the structure of our prayers, such as the place of Musaph, seeks to mimic the Temple's sacrificial rituals.

Our concept of prayer often makes us forget the definition of the English word sacrifice. While the different biblical offerings, each with their own name, involve something to be consecrated for God, sacrifice in English implies a wider sense: to give up something that is valuable to you in order to help another.

The minchah, the meal offering, is a perfect example of the combination of both of definitions, since the offering to appease God ended up feeding the priests and therefore kept the Temple cult operational.

Our Shabbat Amidah, shortened by the removal of petitionary prayers, reminds us of the different uses of prayer: it is not always about looking for what we want but to do with the greater value of nurturing a sense of community. But as more independent minyanim spring up, and more people opt not to make one congregation their home but rather pick and choose from across communities and often across denominations, our sacrifice substitutes, our collective prayer experiences, are no longer a straightforward means of building a community: we are forced to begin to define community very differently.

Last updated: 12:07pm, March 16 2011