The Torah’s detailed instructions on animal sacrifices are fortunately far in the past, not only in Judaism but pretty much all other religions as well. However, the ideas behind those ancient practices – the whys of sacrifice – are still important today.

We live our lives in mundane ways, most of us staying within the safe lanes of our legal systems. We pass laws that set fences for how we are to behave and how we participate in community. We wear our safety belts when we drive, we pay our taxes, and we don’t kill or steal.

The problem is that this is a really low bar. We don’t legislate about the positive things that build healthy people, families, and communities — giving to charity or kindness to strangers, or about love or respect or patience.

We may not love or we may even hate organized religion, but there is one thing that religions all over the world have always offered us – moral codes or laws that far exceed those basic minimums like seatbelts and taxes and “don’t do bad things.”

Ancient practices like sacrifices were about intentional actions taken by individuals and families to connect to their spiritual life on a regular basis. Whether we are “religious” or not, the underlying moral teachings of all our world religions are still hugely important if we are to survive, grow and thrive as human beings.

Regardless of our views about our religious institutions, let’s also focus on the incredible gifts they have provided us as well – the moral and ethical laws and values to which we each can aspire. The key is that – just like those regularly scheduled sacrifices – we need to find modern equivalents. Moral values don’t just show up. The Torah reminds us that we need purposeful work to connect with that spiritual space regularly and to discover all those moral values that we can then pass on, first and foremost by living that way.

Shabbat shalom,

Rabbi Allan