On the meaning of sacrifice

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It is ironic that we begin the description of the sacrificial offerings made in the ancient Tabernacle precisely as we mark the tenth anniversary of the Iraq War.  It is clear from even a cursory reading of the Torah that every person, every Israelite citizen, was expected to participate in the rituals related to sacrifice.  Depending on means, people could offer expensive bulls, or handfuls of flour, but no one was exempt from the sacrifice.

Many years ago the great Orthodox Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik was asked by a young man who was preparing to go to Vietnam what section of the Torah he should read in preparation for war.  Rabbi Soloveitchik replied “The section dealing with sacrifice.”

Jump forward forty years and we find that the bloody and costly Iraq War demanded little sacrifice from most of us.  Only 1.5 percent of the American population participated in the war.  Many became rich through government contracts and other forms of profit derived directly from the decision to go to war in Iraq.  Few Americans were touched personally by the sacrifice, loss, and injuries endured by the statistically few families who provided the war fighters in this conflict.

I will not debate the morality of the decision to go to war in Iraq in this space.  However, the fact that the sacrifices were made by so few, and that the war was so incidental to the lives of so many others , was immoral indeed.


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