In Parashah Shemini, which we read this week, we continue our excursion into the sacrifices. The Temple is long gone, but we continue to make sacrifices.
The Hebrew word for “sacrifice” is “korban,” meaning closer. The sacrifices brought the Israelites closer to God, presumably, and presumably the Israelites were happy to sacrifice valuable animals and valuable grains to get closer to God.
The ancient Israelites brought sacrifices to get closer to God, but we modern Jews make sacrifices to keep the Jewish people alive. If keeping the Jewish people alive is getting closer to God, so be it. If your motivation is different, keeping the Jewish people alive lands you in God’s good graces.
There is no end to the Jewish, charitable organizations that need your sacrifices. There are HIAS (the Hebrew Immigration Aid Society), the New Israel Fund, J-Street. If you don’t like these organizations’ politics, you can give to the Zionist Organization of America or AIPAC. You can donate to Masorti (the Conservative Movement in Israel). There are seminaries that your donations keep alive: JTS, HUC, AJR, YU, the Rabbinical College of America, to name a few.
There are educational institutions. Every Conservative and Reform synagogue (except Avahas Sholom) has a Hebrew school, and Ahavas Sholom has an education fund that pays Ahavas Sholom members’ children’s tuition to another synagogue’s Hebrew school or a day school.
There is the Jewish Family Service. There is Congregation Ahavas Sholom. There is the Rachel Coalition. If you Google Jewish federations, you can see a list of the constituent agencies. Pick your favorite.
Sacrifice is a Jewish tradition. Preserve it.