What Have You Sacrificed?

The students visited the region hoping to find some remnants, a relic or two testifying to the existence of their ancient relations. Instead, they found "Moshe," a Chinese Jew, and a small group with "a very strong sense of identity" about being Jewish. Imagine for a moment what it would take for your faith to survive in such an atmosphere. In a country that has been Communist

Contributing Author,

Writing on the wall: Death to Jews
Writing on the wall: Death to Jews
photo
In the commentary on this week?s Torah portion, our Sages tell us that a gift of wood on the altar may constitute a valid sacrificial offering. The actual passage describes an elaborate meal-offering, enhanced by fine flour, oil and frankincense, "a sweet savor unto the L-rd." So why would a mere piece of wood be an acceptable substitute?

The answer is in the meaning of the sacrifice itself. An animal, or a meal, or any other offering was only a substitute for oneself, a symbol of the intent to offer yourself to G-d. If you wholly give up your ego and offer your entire being, then a piece of wood is as proper a symbol as anything else.

Not long ago, we mentioned the moving story of a Jewish community isolated in a mountainous region of Russia, cut off from the rest of the world's Jews, denied for decades any holy books, yet practicing their tradition in the way that had been passed down for generations. Last December, an even more amazing story came out of the Far East. A group of American college students traveled there as tourists. They also visited the expatriate Jewish community in Beijing, a group of Western people also keeping alive their tradition. Then the students went off the beaten track and sought out Kaifeng, where they had read of an ancient Jewish community that grew up around the silk trade 1,000 years ago. For hundreds of years this group thrived, maintaining its contact with the rest of the Jewish people through the trading culture. However, about 150 years ago, a massive flood of the Yellow River destroyed the synagogue. Their rabbi passed away. Then came civil war in China. Kaifeng was overrun and the Jewish community, for all practical purposes, destroyed.

The students visited the region hoping to find some remnants, a relic or two testifying to the existence of their ancient relations. Instead, they found "Moshe," a Chinese Jew, and a small group with "a very strong sense of identity" about being Jewish. Imagine for a moment what it would take for your faith to survive in such an atmosphere. In a country that has been Communist and anti-religious for decades. In a town cut off from all knowledge of your brethren, from all Western influence. In dire poverty. Yet these few souls insist on having their identity cards read "Yotai ren" - "Jewish person."

Their sacrifices, unfortunately, have not been voluntary. Yet, despite their situation, the light of their faith has continued to burn. You need not offer up even a piece of wood as a sacrifice. Your soul will be enough.
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Rabbi Deitsch is the Director of Chabad-Lubavitch of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania.



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