We are beginning of a new Book of the Torah. The name of the new Book is Vayikra, “And he called,” which is the first word of the parashah. We call the new Book in English Leviticus (that’s Greek), probably derived Levites, the priestly clan. Essentially, Vayikra deals with sacrifices.
The English word “sacrifice” means that you are giving something up. Ancient Israelites gave something up: a bull, or a goat, or dove, or a mixture of flour and something else. The Hebrew word for sacrifice, however, is Korban, which is derived from the Hebrew word “karov,” meaning “near.” The ancient Israelites sacrificed to get nearer to their God.
How do we get nearer to God when we donate to charity? Don’t we get nearer to God when we donate the Jewish institutions, Synagogues, day schools, Jewish Family Service, Mogen David Adom, or The Jewish National Fund. Do we get nearer to God when donate to secular charities? On Saturdays, I give a panhandler named Larry, on the exit from 280 to MLK Boulevard, a lunch (a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and a water bottle, and a banana, and cookies). I will ask him, when I see again, the name of his shelter. I will come to closer to God when I donate to the shelter, because I will contribute to Larry’s continuation of life.
Nowadays, in addition to giving money, we donate time and make organ donations. Middlesex County has a policy for county employees to donate their sick time (Twice, I have given sick time to ill colleagues). Many of us sacrifice our blood (Years ago, I donated platelets for a colleague, who had leukemia). A few of us sacrifice kidneys or bone marrow (I am on the register of bone marrows donors).
When we donate organs to another person to save his life, we get nearer to God. We sacrifice blood, platelets, kidneys, or bone marrow (Our blood, platelets, and bone marrow will be replenished, but our kidney will be forever gone). It is the functional equivalent of the sacrificing animals.