If you could have anyone as a guest for dinner, who would it be? More specifically: If you could have someone for a Shabbat Dinner, who would it be? Abraham Joshua Heschel? Albert Einstein? Adam Sandler? Golda Meir? Emma Lazarus? Sarah Silverman?
Although the portion we read this week concerns the sacrificial system we no longer observe, those who brought the Zevach Shelamim, sacrifice of well-being, were having a meal with, as it were, God’s representatives. It was the only sacrifice they would share with the priests.
This week’s portion falls on Shabbat HaGadol or the Great Shabbes which always precedes Passover with a special Haftarah from the prophet Micah.
Although we often gravitate towards prophecies that excoriate the sacrifices, the prophets were often critical of insufficiently punctilious protocols as well.
Micah is a good example. There is an emphasis on both the neglect of the poor, the widow and the orphan AND the sacrificial niceties of the second Temple.
God witnesses against the Judeans and answers those questions he accuses of us asking: You ask, why do I need to do Teshuvah? Because you’ve defrauded Me. How have we defrauded You? By not tithing or bringing the required gifts to the priests who depend on them.
According to sacrificial protocol we read in Tzav, we were not allowed to let the Zevach Shelamim last more than a day (a voluntary or votive offering it could be left for one more night). A thanksgiving gift needed to be eaten the day and night it was brought, according to Abravanel, because that way we’d have to share it.
Since we don’t have a Temple in Jerusalem anymore, our mikdash m’at, the mini-Temple of the shabbat table stands in: the salt we sprinkle on the challah is understood as a nod towards ancient sacrificial practice.
When I asked my wife whom she would like to have shabbat dinner with, her answer wasn’t the celebrity-laden list I regaled you with but rather her great-great- grandfather from Hamburg who wanted to be a rabbi. Leave it to her to be deep while I’m superficial. If I were to follow her example, I’d probably ask to have shabbat dinner with my bobbe whom I miss so dearly.
We are to bring the fruits of our week’s labor -- mental, physical and emotional -- to the shabbat table -- to the Temple of our Time -- with people we love, learn from and lean on.
It's those people who bring us closer to God.