Parshat Vayikra: Beauty and the Priest

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11 Mar 2008
Arts & Media

A two-legged creature with a four-legged limp

Half skips, half stumbles at the fork in the road:

A vibrant heart beat to animal bliss;

A human mind dulled to an animal instinct –


A beautiful soul trapped in a beastly body.


It wishes to come loose, to come close, to come home –

And then it wishes to indulge in every hedonistic pleasure

Ever known to child or man.


It isn’t paranoia or paradox; it is life –

Part man, part animal.

Formed of earth;

Breathed of heaven.

A human creature with a divine soul.


But how to come home; how to come close?

How to make of an animated animal an emancipated man?



When you offer

From yourselves an offering to G-d


There are all kinds of people and all kinds of offers:

There are those that offer praise and those that offer advice.

There are those that offer on and those that offer off.

There are one-time offers and big-time offers.

There are offers for this and offers for that.

(Some even make offers one cannot refuse)

But all the offers refuse to offer what matters most:

An offer from the ever-selfish self.


Adam – you who are likened to the Ethereal

Ki yakriv – when you wish to offer, to come close

Mikem – from your selves, your depths

Karban la’Hashem – an offering, a sacrifice to (and for) G-d


An animal sacrifice isn’t some archaic ritual –

It is offering your animal so your human can

Be what it was meant to be – Divine – it isn’t

Slaughtering your beast; it is bringing it closer to

Your beauty.


We are all holy temples, micro-homes for the Divine.

And we make sacrifices – some large, some small.

Sacrifices for things we wish to do; sacrifices for things

We wish we hadn’t done; sacrifices for the times that

Were; sacrifices for the times that will be; sacrifices for

Our guilt; sacrifices for our innocence. But the greatest

Sacrifice of all is really the simplest:


It is coming close; it is bringing the animal to the altar

It is altering our state, from a state of animal

To a state of man


We walk into our miniature temple, into our magnified soul

And hand our animal off to the priest…


Out of the crying man into the fire –


And a beast becomes a beauty.


Mendel Jacobson is a writer, poet and journalist living in Brooklyn. His weekly poetry can be seen at

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.