Monday, April 30, 2012

Half Man, Half Beast

Acharei Mot- Kedoshim
Vayikrah 16:1-20:27
13 Iyar 5772 / May 4-5, 2012

Half Man, Half Beast
by Laura W, MH London Alumna

Once again, at the beginning of this week’s Torah portion, the priests in the sanctuary/Temple are commanded by H-shem to,

“…go out unto the altar that is before H-shem and make atonement for it; and you shall take of the blood of the bullock, and of the blood of the goat, and put it upon the horns of the altar round about. (Verse 18 )”

There are two main schools of thought regarding this practice. Sefer Hachinuch explains that individuals bringing an animal sacrifice for a sin understand that they personally should have been sacrificed as punishment for the rebellion against G-d, but G-d mercifully accepts the sacrifice in his or her place. [1]

In Chassidish thought [2] on the other hand we see that an animal sacrifice is used as a response to the moment of sin when our ‘animal’ nature takes over.

Animal sacrifice in this case represents an existential metaphor for our spiritual development. Sacrificing animals in the Temple  represents the way in which a person sacrifices their own animal-nature and in a sense makes their own body a Sanctuary that is able to receive the Divine Presence.

According to Yogic thought [3] there are 4 primitive urges programmed into our mental-physical experience. These are Sustenance (food), Sleep, Sex, and Self-preservation. They give rise to emotions, drives and other urges and affect our behaviour and our relationships, both with ourselves and with others.
My blessing to you this week is to recognise the Torah as a process that helps us observe our behaviour, and for H-shem to gives us the strength of character to bring a sacrifice in order to regulate ourselves and direct these urges to a higher purpose.  So when you feel one of these 4 animal urges take hold. Stop. Take a breathe. Listen to the message. Then act.

[1] Wikipedia
[3] Mika Hadar


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