Unless otherwise noted, "This week's Parsha" comprises articles taken from contributors to the Chabad.org website. We show the original author's name here, so that proper attribution is given. For the sake of brevity, footnotes cited in the original author's writings are omitted from this website. If you need to see the citations, please refer to the original articles on the Chabad.org website.
Sickness stalked the streets of Vilna in 1848; an epidemic had struck, and dozens of townsfolk had succumbed. Every house was filled with the dead and dying. Depression and despair were rampant.
In times of sickness and sorrow, the mind craves answers. People want to know why things are going so spectacularly wrong, and if there is anything they can do to change the situation. People look for someone to blame.
In the process of the Tabernacle's inaugural, the Torah describes an interesting scene: The time had arrived for the newly appointed high priest, Aaron, to bring his first offering to G‑d -- but he stood on the side, reluctant to assume his duties.
His brother, Moses, came over to him and said: "Aaron! Why are you fearful? L'kach nivcharta -- you were chosen for this!"
The holy Baal Shem Tov, founder of the chassidic movement, took these two words, "l'kach nivcharta," and shined a deeper light into them:
One of the most difficult elements of the Torah and the way of life it prescribes is the phenomenon of animal sacrifices -- for obvious reasons. First, Jews and Judaism have survived without them for almost two thousand years. Second, virtually all the prophets were critical of them, not least Jeremiah in this week’s haftarah. None of the prophets sought to abolish sacrifices, but they were severely critical of those who offeredNone of the prophets sought to abolish sacrifices them while at the same time oppressing or exploiting their fellow human beings. What disturbed them -- what disturbed G‑d in whose name they spoke -- was that evidently some people thought of sacrifices as a kind of bribe: if we make a generous enough gift to G‑d then He may overlook our crimes and misdemeanors. This is an idea radically incompatible with Judaism.