Vayikra: The Daily Offering

What is the value of an offering that costs almost nothing?
Rabbi Lazer Gurkow

A Little is Enough
If you were a little fly on the wall of the Tabernacle or Temple you would notice a curious aspect of the sacrificial rite, namely the daily offerings. Each morning, at dawn’s earliest light, a sheep offering was made. Every day the same kind of sheep with the same amount of libation, at the same exact time. Every evening, no matter how busy the altar was during the day, space was cleared for another sheep. Once again, the same kind of sheep, the same kind of libation at approximately the same time of day.

The first and last offering of the day, was a single sheep. Not an expensive ox, just a small sheep. There were no showy loaves of bread, just a measure of flour and some wine for libation. If you break down the cost of the daily offering and divide it among the entire nation, you will see that the cost to the individual Jew, was next to nothing. What is the value of an offering that costs almost nothing? The answer is that the offering did not need to cost much, but it had to come from the heart.

Although the Temple was destroyed and we no longer offer animal sacrifices, the laws of the Torah are eternal. Where we can’t apply them literally, we are expected to apply them figuratively.

The figurative daily offering in our own lives, does not need to take up a lot of time, nor must it cost a lot of money. The key is that it be done daily and that it be done with heart.

We refer here to the twin prayers that are recited in bed; the first just apon waking, the second just before going to sleep. When we awaken in the morning, we sit up in bed and recite, “Thank you G-d, living and eternal king, for returning my soul to me, great is your faithfulness.”[1] Just before falling asleep, we say, “in your hands, I entrust my soul, Redeem me, G-d, the true Lord.”[2]

Succinct, but to the point. These twin prayers don’t take long to recite. They cost no money at all, but they capture the entire heart. The whole of our relationship with G-d, our trust, gratitude, dependence and love, are captured in these short lines. They don’t need to take up our entire day, and they don’t need to cost our entire wallet. But they do need to capture our entire heart.

The message is that you don’t need to do something showy to connect with G-d. The daily offering can be achieved with something short and to the point.

A Constant
We don’t mean to suggest that two prayers are all we need for the entire day. Just as the daily offerings were not the only offerings of the day so are our daily offerings not the only prayer or good deed of our day. Throughout the day there will be more prayers and more good deeds. But if the day begins and ends with these sincere prayers, then the whole day will be one long offering.

Therefore, the Torah refers to the daily offering as the constant offerings. They only come twice a day; there is nothing constant about them. Yet, if they bracket our day with complete sincerity, they will be noticeable in everything we do throughout the day.

As we pray, as we work, as we eat, as we exercise, it will be noticeable that it is a Jew, who loves G-d, who feels dependant on G-d, who trusts G-d, that is eating, playing, working, exercising or sleeping. As we pray or study, as we visit friends or help a child cross the street, as we carry a bag for an old lady or give a neighbor a helping hand, the sincerity of our daily offering will be with us. It will be noticeable all the time, and with that, it will be constant.

Our sages taught that the daily offering atoned for past sins.[3] This shows us that even if we grew up without these prayers, it is never too late to introduce them to our lives. If we begin to recite them today, and if we recite them with sincerity, we will find that we are changed because of it. We will no longer be recognizable as the fellow who never said these prayers. We will be known, to ourselves and to others, as the fellow who says them daily.

So evident will be the effect of these prayers on our daily lives and even on our character, that it will seem as if we had been saying them all our lives. The past years during which we didn’t say these prayers will be irrelevant. It will be as though we had always said them.

Why are these prayers special? Of all prayers, why do these substitute the daily offerings in the temple?

Because they teach us gratitude. They remind us that we are constantly dependant on G-d and that G-d always comes through for us. Each morning as we wake up, we recognize that waking is a miracle. A comedian once said, that he woke up in the morning to unwrap two incredible gifts, they were his eyes.

This is no joke. It is true. Waking up is a gift that should thrill us the moment we contemplate the alternative. When we take a moment to say thank you for the simple fact that we awoke, it sets a tone for the rest of the day. So long as we pause for a moment to reflect on the blessings in our lives, so long as we take the time to let the positive feelings of gratitude flow through us and so long as we dwell on these feelings until it sinks in, and this does not take a lot of time, it will permeate our entire day.

For the rest of our day, we will take note of the good things and be thankful for them. We will look at the negatives in context of all the positives in our lives and thus put them in perspective. This will have such a positive effect on our disposition, energy and spirit, that we will be much more effective, efficient and pleasant to be with. Everyone will notice the impact because it will be constant.

Then when we go to bed, we say thank you. We take a moment to acknowledge the source of our blessings. We acknowledge that the Lord is our G-d, to whom we entrust our soul. Money is not our G-d, work is not our G-d, play is not our G-d, social acceptance is not our G-d, the latest IPhone is not yur G-d. Only G-d is our G-d. And only to Him do we entrust our soul.

With this we are ready to go to sleep. Tomorrow will be another day. And when we wake, G-d will be right at our side, to help us get through yet another amazing day of life. A short prayer, a small meditation, but an entire heart, and every day. Short and to the point. Succinct and constant.

A small step in our day, a giant leap for life.[4]

[1] Daily Prayer Book.

[2] Psalms, 31:6.

[3] Bamidbar Rabbah, 21:21.

[4] This essay is culled from Likutei Sichos volume 3 pp.939-942.

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