Tzav: Sacrifice

Rabbi Menachem Creditor
2 min readMar 25, 2024

Parashat Tzav, the second Torah portion in the book of Leviticus, introduces us once again to the ancient systems of sacrifice, a topic that may seem distant and complex to some, graphic and gory to others. What inner message might we access, beyond the surface textual layer?

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, may his memory be a blessing, highlighted the rise and fall of civilizations in a comment he offered on Tzav. He particularly noted the tragic turn of the Mayans, who resorted to human sacrifice in times of turmoil, forsaking reasoned solutions for mystical beliefs. When the world became too heavy to bear, they placed their future on the altar.

Contrastingly, the Jewish journey has seen a different trajectory. Following the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE, our forebears, led by the wisdom of early rabbis like Yochanan ben Zakkai, embarked on a transformative path. Unable to continue offering traditional sacrifices, we adapted, engaging in profound discussions and finding new avenues to connect with the Divine.

Today, we witness sacrifices of a different nature. Our brave children, the young women and men in the Israel Defense Forces lay their lives on the line to safeguard our people. They epitomize sacrifice, all-too-often paying the ultimate price. Sacrifice takes various forms, encompassing learning, prayer, advocacy, defense, and yes, even wielding weapons when necessary. Where our ancestors offered animal sacrifices, today we fulfill our covenantal obligations and secure our collective destiny by giving of the self in immeasurable ways.

We do not sacrifice the future when burdened by harsh reality. We instead offer up of our selves, transcending the current moment’s adversity through timely commitment, to ensure a future for our children and theirs.

We Jews are a resilient people, shaped by history and undeterred by the trials of the present. Let us approach our responsibilities wholeheartedly, infused with love, guided by the knowledge that our mindful sacrifices propel us and our descendants towards a brighter tomorrow.