Ahavas Sholom – an Historic Landmark and Sacred Space

Newark's Last Remaining Synagogue born of the Great European Migration at the turn of the 20th Century

145 Broadway, Newark, NJ 07104
Phone: 973-485-2609 | Email: cahavassholom@optimum.net


Rays of Torah, March 29, 2024

To Dine with God and Man
Parasha Tzav, Leviticus 6:1—8:36
Submitted by Rabbi Eliyahu (Elijah) Collins

Did you know that the last seven parashiot are exclusively devoted to delineating the laws of sacrifice, the designated officiants for this practice, and the construction of the sacred environment that would facilitate the service? In keeping with the Torah reading weekly schedule, there was only a slight deviation from these matters, in Parasha Ki Tisa.  In fact, the book that we are currently reading, commonly referred to as Leviticus in the English and Greek vernacular, and Vayikra in the Hebrew language, was also dubbed Torat Kohanim, which means teaching or instructions for the priest. Recognizing that the maintenance duties for the tent of meeting were assigned to the tribe of Levy, the impact of our transition from aquarian lifestyle to advance technology, and above all the absence of the temple, we often find it challenging to see the relevance of learning about sacrifices and offerings in modern times.

There is an endless well of exoteric and esoteric meaning that can be gleaned from the study of the offerings and sacrifices. Some of the immediate considerations might be its enforcement of human accountability, lessons regarding causality, impact of human behavior on environment, and the process of atonement and character refinement. Each of the offerings identified were purposed with fulfilling the Creator’s ultimate desire “that I may dwell in the midst of them (Exodus 25:8).” The sacrifices served as a vehicle to evoke the presence of the Creator in each phase of our life and human experience. Whether we were overwhelmed with guilt or gratitude, rich or poor, in good health or battling illness, fearful or optimistic, we could keep the Creator in the foremost part of our conscience by inviting Him to share in our plot in life. Through honest communication, emoting, and the cathartic experience created by the rituals, man had a way to share not only his life with his Creator, but also time and space. If there is one driving force behind the sacrificial practice, one could argue that it is to sustain man’s relationship with his Creator and his fellow human beings.

Each sacrifice had its own set of laws and requirements that distinguished it from the others. The who, what, where, when, and how of sacrifices varied based on the specific situation. However, there is one sacrifice that appears to be in a class of its own for multiple reasons………. The “Shalamim or Peace Offering. Regarding this offering we are instructed as follows: “But if the sacrifice of his peace offering be for a vow, or freewill offering, it shall be eaten on the day that he offereth his sacrifice and on the morrow that which remaineth may be eaten. But that which remaineth of the sacrifice until the third day shall be burnt in the fire” (Leviticus 7: 16-7). This is amazing and quite unusual. All other sacrifices were to be consumed the same day, and their flesh was designated for the priest and his sons, excluding the “Olah” or burnt offering, which no part was allotted for human consumption. The ordinance of the peace offering not only provided an additional day to enjoy the sacrifice, but it is also the only offering the layman or non-priest could eat. It was the opportunity for the person presenting the offering, their family, and the priest to enjoy a sacred meal before the Creator with gratitude, joy, and unity. This token of peace between the Creator, man, and community was so important that the general boundaries regarding time and access for the sacrifices were extended.

The Shoresh or root word for Shalamim is Sha’lem. This is where we derive the word “Shalom.” Sha’lem can be defined as peace, whole and unity. The Sha’lem or peace offering “is meant to restore peace between us down here and our Father in heaven (Daat Zkenim in Leviticus 7:11).”

All relationships, whether between Man and his Creator or man and man are tenuous at best. They are not static, but transitory. Through the process of time, apathy, and lack of investment they are subject to fall into decay and disrepair. Their health and vitality can only be maintained through conscience effort. Many things can cause a fracture in our relationships. Sometimes it’s a lack of communication, miscommunication, failure to consider the impact that our behavior has on others, or the absence of shared time and space. Relationships can also whither because of unwillingness to exercise forgiveness, holding grudges, and refusal to seek compromise. If we are not careful, we can allow small slights to erupt into bitter feuds that extend decade after decade, severely hampering our family and community ties. When these things prevail in our life, we don’t feel “Sha’lem” whole or complete, but forlorn.   

Sha’lem is an essential aspect of Jewish life.  We greet and depart with a request for each other’s wholeness, “Shalom.” The Sh’ma which proclaim G-D is One is the strongest declaration of our faith. The priestly blessing which the Creator commands to be recited at communal gatherings ends with a request for the Creator to grant peace. Therefore, if you feel estranged from your Creator or fellowman, take the initiative. Find the courage to start that difficult conversation, make the call you have been putting off, extend the apology and accept accountability. Hardening of the heart happens every time we resist the urge to pursue reconciliation. The more we ignore our inner voice to make amends, the lower its volume becomes, and the less frequently we hear it.

“These are the precepts whose fruits a person enjoys in this world but whose principal remains intact for him in the world to come. They are: honor due to father and mother, acts of kindness, early attendance at the house of study morning and evening, hospitality to guest, visiting the sick, providing for a bride, escorting the dead, absorption in prayer, bringing peace between a man and his fellow, and between a man and his wife-and the study of Torah is equivalent to them all” (Talmud Shabbos 127A).

The Creator has set the table and extended the invitation for us to commune with Him in peace. We need only accept the invite and extend it to others.

Shabbat Shalom!