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Health, Nutrition & Torah: Vayikra

| March 17, 2010

The Text:

“If your offering is a burnt offering from the herd you shall make your offering a male without blemish.”

The Context:

A person can offer a blemished animal, an animal that is unfit in the sight of God, but it does not disqualify the human who offers it.  The offering should be unblemished to discourage people from bringing their lame and sick animals and as a sign of respect for God’s altar.  The process of sacrifice symbolizes that for God we should always bring our best.  The same should be true when we reach out to our fellow human beings.  The donations we provide shouldn’t only be the leftover cans in the back of our pantry, but nutritious and desirable food as well.

The book of Leviticus contains the instructions for the priests, and serves as a prescription for the proper worship of God.  In biblical times, sacrifice served as a way of drawing God near; this is the literal meaning of the Hebrew word “korban,” or sacrifice.  In the rabbinic era, after the destruction of the temple, prayer replaced sacrifice as the central way of relating to God.  While much of the book of Leviticus revolves around the detailed practice of sacrifice, we can still draw meaning from the metaphor of the relationship between people and God.

What it Means for Advocates:

Take a field trip to a local food bank or warehouse; observe the types of donations that are made.  Ask a supervisor what is the percentage of “damaged” goods that are donated.  Does the food bank allow “damaged” goods to be passed to clients?

What about junk food:  How much is passed along to the needy?

Ask about the staples of a healthy diet:  beans, canned fish, canned meat…what percentage of donations are nutritious foods?

Often food banks accept cash donations as well as food donations…what foods need to be purchased because they are not donated?

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