Animal Sacrifices, Modernity and Character

There is a saying: The road to hell is paved with good intentions. I don't know if I accept that, but I do believe that the road to heaven is NOT paved with good intentions. It is paved with good deeds. Intentions without deeds are sterile and irrelevant. Deeds are where the magic is.

With that as an introduction, let us look at one particular sacrifice called a "Shelamim." The Shelamim is translated as a Peace Offering, and according to most opinions, is not brought as a result of sin and brings no atonement. Instead, it is brought as a celebratory sacrifice. One who is successful in business, has enjoyed a personal milestone or just wishes to bring a sacrifice will bring a Shelamim.

According to Rashi, the great commentator, the Shelamim is so called because it brings peace to the world. That seems to be quite a claim .. and a stretch. Certainly it is a good deed, but how does it affect the world?

On a similar theme, there is a saying we repeat in our Sabbath prayers: Torah scholars increase peace in the world. What does this mean, how is this so?

I believe the answer lies in the interface between thoughts and deeds. The successful businessman did not have to bring a Shelamim. Yet he did. Why? Because he realizes that thoughts without deeds are sterile. They wither and die, like a flower that was never watered. The wise one realizes that to keep the blessings in his life, he must utilize them, and to keep the inner happiness in his life, he must express it. And that, of necessity, affects the rest of the world.

You see, a person who brings a sacrifice as thanks for his good fortune has internalized the importance of sharing. He shares his joy with God, with the Kohanim who get a portion of the offering, and with his friends and family. The quantity of meat from the sacrifice that must be eaten within two days time requires him to share the feast with others.

By sharing his fortune, he sends good vibes out into the world and inspires others to share as he does. That is the core of the saying about Torah scholars as well. They, by their example, inspire others to follow it. That is the way the world is changed.

The Book of Leviticus is also known as Torat Kohanim, the book about the priestly class. The founder of that tribe was Aaron, Moses' brother. About Aaron it is said in the Ethics of the Fathers, "Be (his) disciple. Love peace, pursue peace. Love people and bring them close to Torah." It is not enough to love peace, one must pursue it. It is not enough to love people, one must bring them close to Torah.

Thoughts and feelings are not enough. Deeds are required. That's how the world gets fixed.