Closeness is the Gift of Forgiveness

Saturday, March 8, 2014

24th Torah portion, 1st in Leviticus – Vayikra

1:1-5:26 (111 verses)



In this week’s Torah portion we learn about how the Kohanim – the special Jewish priests — would help the people bring gifts so they could feel closer to God. The sacrificial system created a connection between our biblical ancestors and God.  Quite literally they saw the smoke that arose from these sacrifices as connecting God to earth.  At the same time they understood that God demanded them to act decently and ethically toward others.  Sacrifice was not enough.  Sacrifice was only a reminder of what they had to do.

Now, for two thousand years we no longer have this sacrificial system.  What then do we do to make that connection with God and to remind us of what we need to do? 

A Story:  “Giving and Forgiving”

“Jane’s never going to forgive me!” cried Rhonda.

 “What happened?” asked her sister Sarah.

“Oh, yesterday after school we got into this dumb fight about nothing. I got mad and called her some really nasty names. She was so hurt that she ran away crying,” Rhonda related with a sigh. “I know I went too far, but how will she ever forgive me?”

“Why don’t you buy her a gift?” suggested Sarah. “Didn’t you once tell me that Jane loves pretty stationery?  That might make a nice gift.”


“That’s a great idea!” said Rhonda. “I’m going right out to the store to get some.” Rhonda picked out the nicest stationery she could find and was about to bring it to Jane’s house. Then she thought, “You know, a gift really isn’t enough. I also have to let her know how sorry I feel.” She took out the first page from the stationery and wrote her friend a long note, telling her how really, really sorry she was, and asking Jane to please forgive her.

She left the package and the note in front of her friend’s door and hoped for the best.

The next morning at school Jane came over to Rhonda. She gave her a hug and whispered, “Of course I forgive you, Rhonda. Even though what you said really hurt me, we’re still friends. Thanks for the beautiful gift, it showed you cared. But you know it was really your note that made me forgive you. I could tell that you were sorry deep down in your heart and weren’t just giving me an empty gift.”

The two girls laughed and cried at the same time and walked to class together as friends.


Age 3-5

Q. How do you think Jane felt when she saw Rhonda’s gift and note?

A. Jane felt happy that Rhonda was sorry for what she did.

Q. If we get into a fight with our friend how can we make up?

A. We have to say we’re sorry. Perhaps we can buy or make a gift to show them how we feel.

Age 6-9

Q. Have you ever gone over to someone to say you’re sorry? Was it hard to do? How did you feel afterwards?


Q. If someone who did something really mean to you came and asked you for forgiveness, what would you do? Would you accept their apology?

A. Sometimes it’s very hard to forgive. The Torah tells us that when someone comes to ask for forgiveness, we should accept their apology, even when we don’t feel like doing so.

Age 10-13

Q. Why would a person give a gift in order to make up with somebody? Isn’t it enough just to say “I’m sorry”?

A. It’s important to apologize. But when a person also invests his time and money to get his friend a thoughtful gift, it shows the other person that he truly cares and really wants to patch things up.

Q. If God is perfect and has everything He needs, what’s the point of bringing Him a gift, as is described in the Torah portion?

A. Giving creates true connection. The gift isn’t because God needs it. It’s to remind us that we want to stay close to God, and that we’re willing to go out of our way to build our relationship with Him.