What Sacrifice Can You Make? By Eve Levy
This week, I did something that was slightly out of my comfort zone. I took part in a 15k run. I am not a runner and I do not particularly enjoy running. I told my husband I would run it with him, just to get him off my case.
To make matters worse, I live in Portland, Oregon, and it rains a lot here. When my friend gave us a lift at 6:30 a.m., in the pitch dark, with freezing rain falling in sheets, I said, “Surely the run has been cancelled due to the weather!?!” He chuckled to himself and gave me the all-too-familiar, “This is Portland. We don’t let a little ‘mist’ get in our way.”
For some of you, running 15 kilometers might not be a big deal, especially if you enjoy running. But not me. So why did I do it? Simple. My husband really wanted me to do it with him. He loves running. He is 6 feet tall and it comes naturally to him. He gets a real adrenaline rush from his runs, and he had been asking me to join him for months. I heard a voice in my head chanting the JWRP definition of love like a mantra: “What’s important to you is important to me.” I knew this was important to him, so gave it my all. And, I thought to myself, how hard can it be?
This week, we start the third book of the Torah, Vayikra. In this book, there is a lot of discussion about offerings. In Hebrew, we call them korbanot. The root (shoresh) of the word korbanot is karov, which means "to come near." Korbanot were meant to draw us closer to our Creator, to strengthen and renew our relationship with Him. When we had the Tabernacle in the desert and the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, we would bring various offerings (animals, birds or flour and spice offerings) and the Kohain (priest) would bring it to the altar on the person’s behalf to atone for their sins. It was a wonderful thing.
Today, without a Holy Temple, we do not bring physical sacrifices of any kind. Instead we offer up our prayers and our good deeds, our mitzvot.
To get closer to someone or repair a situation in a relationship, we sometimes have to sacrifice. And, the more we give, the closer we can get.
The word sacrifice has negative connotations in today’s society. We guard ourselves and protect ourselves from being taken advantage of. We are careful not to let ourselves become a schmatta (a rag) by letting people walk over us. We are taught to live for ourselves and not for others. To make it in such a cutthroat society, we would need to grab and take what is “rightfully” ours, and not worry about the rest of the population.
I would venture to say that doesn’t sound too appealing to most of us. But, even so, how much can we truly say we sacrifice of ourselves for others? And, what about for G-d?
Before we get to that question, here’s another: What does it mean to sacrifice for G-d? He needs nothing. He is all-powerful. What can we possibly give G-d?
On many Jewish holidays we give something up for G-d. On Yom Kippur, we give up our food as we fast. On Sukkot, we give up our homes as we step into our sukkah, our temporary dwellings. And, on Chanukah, what do we give up? Um, maybe we give up our diets as we enjoy all those deep fried foods. On Passover, we give up eating bread and all leavened foods for an entire week. On Shavuot, some people give up their sleep, as there is a custom to stay up late, or even all through the night learning Torah. We know how to make small sacrifices for G-d.
I will tell you about a teeny tiny sacrifice I made for G-d.
A few months ago, I was shopping at Nordstrom Rack. I was looking for the perfect dress to wear to a gala I had coming up. I picked up this beautiful lace number in my best color and made by my favorite designer and the price was right! (This does not happen every day and I was ecstatic!) I tried the dress on, looked in the mirror, and frowned. It was really nice, but it looked pretty skimpy. It was way too short, way too tight, and it kind of screamed for attention. Not the look I was going for. For a split moment, I felt slightly disappointed as I hung the dress on the hanger. Yes, even rebbetzins wrestle with dressing modestly at times! I was having a real inner struggle. This dress did not represent me well. It screamed, “Look at my body," but left very little space for showing my true soul. I carried on browsing the aisles, and eventually I found an even nicer dress that was much more “me.”
I think of this little sacrifice that I made for G-d that day in the Nordstrom Rack changing room. No one was there with me. No one cheered me on. But, I felt proud of myself. I gave something up for the sake of Heaven. It was an amazing feeling.
We can all make little sacrifices to G-d and to the people we love. We expect so much in life, but it’s a two-way street. We can ask ourselves what little thing we would be willing to give up for a larger cause.
The 15k I ran this week with my husband left me sore and soaking wet from the rain. It took me a few days to recuperate. It was a true sacrifice, but it was worth every bit of effort. It brought my husband and me to a closer place, and after all, that is what making sacrifices is all about.
Eve is a JWRP City Leader from Portland, Oregon.