This week we begin the third book of the Torah, Vayikra, which means “God called.” This book of the Torah talks about how our ancestors praised God by sacrificing animals in the Temple.
I believe that the Israelites brought sacrifices because they thought they needed to express thanks to God, thanks for everything that He did and also make requests for a better life.
Why did we sacrifice to God? Did God need our sacrifices? God didn’t need our sacrifices to use them for anything, but the people needed them in order to feel God’s nearness.
In the opening verse of the Haftarah, God recognizes that the Israelites have brought sacrifices but have not yet honored God. He does not want the people to feel burdened with sacrifices meant simply as an atonement for sins they may have committed. Instead, God wants the people to understand the wrongs they have committed against others and to repent and to do better. God tells the people to think not only about what happened in the past but also about a new relationship with God.
Today, we don’t sacrifice, but we pray. I believe praying is very important, because it’s a personal time to thank God for something or to ask God for something based on whatever is going on at the time. Also, we are commanded to perform mitzvot for people and in our relationship with God. It is important to volunteer and to help organizations that are dedicated to the needy, because not all people in the world are as fortunate as we are; by helping other people, we can thank God for everything we have.
For my bat mitzvah project, I am asking for donations for a family shelter called Night of Peace. This is a shelter for women and children that provides care and a warm and safe place to sleep.
The Hebrew word sacrifice, korban, means to come closer. This relates to my bat mitzvah project, because the closest person to a child is his mother. In this way, I am helping to bring children and their mothers closer to one another. By helping to create closer relationships between people, we can also help ourselves become closer to God.
Anya Litofsky is a seventh-grade student at Krieger Schechter Day School.