Shabbat Shalom: What Sacrifice Gives Us
By: Dan Leshem
Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) Director
This week, as I have for many weeks past, I have lived with one foot in Colorado and the other in Israel. Or rather, I have had one foot in many Israels—there is the Israel where I formed so many childhood memories and where my family continue to live contemporary lives of meaning and purpose, the Israel of the politicians and news programs, the Israel which is the Jewish refuge and hope against those who hate us, the Israel of longing that we highlight during Passover as we pray to celebrate “next year in Jerusalem,” and so many others. Over the past few months, all of these Israels—each of which contains an essential piece of my identity—have held me suspended between my daily life and my eternal self. I didn’t know what to hope for, so I lived with the fear of what I, and Jews everywhere, stood to lose.
The one thing that inspired me was to see the hundreds of thousands of Israelis from across diverse political, social, and economic strata hold hands in solidarity as they marched to ensure that the Israel of their hopes and dreams would endure. It did not matter that they disagreed on their vision for the ideal Israel, since they were united by their conviction that there was too much that could be lost if the country did not change course. In the first weeks, news reports were shocked by the turnout and participation even during the week, on working days. Eventually, the protests turned to general strikes, and it became clear that work was secondary to the duty people felt to stand up and stand together for the dream of a better Israel.
In this week’s Torah portion, we read about the laws of sacrifice. Interpreting the role of sacrifice in Jewish life, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks of blessed memory asks “What could sacrifice possibly mean in a religion in which God is the creator and owner of all?” What does it mean to give something over to the creator to whom everything already belongs? He concludes that we “love what we are willing to make sacrifices for.” In other words, we made sacrifices not because they were meaningful to God, but because they are meaningful to us—sacrifices give us a way to cultivate and celebrate our gratitude and love.
This week, therefore, ends differently than it began. Israelis from across the political spectrum found the strength to sacrifice for something we all love—the land of Israel, the dream of Zion, and the citizens who are stakeholders in the Jewish future. I am profoundly inspired by what they gave over, by what they sacrificed, in the shared hope for a better future. Let us be worthy of their courage.
Shabbat Shalom, Colorado.
Please email Dan Leshem at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions or comments.