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    Ritual & repentance – Tzav

    This week’s Torah reading with its details of the Temple sacrifices reminds us that when the Reform movement began it attacked Orthodoxy for allegedly performing rituals by rote without any spiritual purpose.

    The allegation was appealing to those who found the commandments too demanding and looked for a way of life that could brush aside the traditional sancta such as kashrut, the Shabbat laws, tefillin and others.

    The suggestion that Orthodox Jews carry out these commands as an end in themselves is unfair and incorrect. The Orthodox keep the mitzvot lovingly as symbols of their yearning to come close to God.

    The accusation was foreseen long ago by the rabbinic sages. Rabbah says that anyone who imagines he can bring a sacrifice and go through the motions without repenting of his sins and seeking God’s forgiveness is merely a fool. The Midrash even quotes God as wondering why they bring sacrifices if their hearts are not in it (Yalkut Shim’oni).

    Another Midrash says that anyone who has a proud heart and doesn’t believe in the action he is performing is insulting God.

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