According to Biblical text and commentaries, Adam was first charged with naming the animals in his proximity on the sixth day of Creation. In addition to providing names for the creatures based on his impressions of their appearance and behavior, rabbis and scholars have suggested that the sixth day was also marked by Adam’s awareness of the physical and psychological qualities that he, as a created being shared with them. Addressing this awareness is this week’s Torah reading from the Book of Leviticus. ‘Vayikra’ (“and G-d called”) provides the laws and rituals that guide us to an understanding of our nature while it draws us into an awareness of our relationship with G-d. At first glance, the parashah appears to be about performing animal sacrifices to elicit G-d’s attention and pleasure. While these often gory and macabre rituals seem to echo the human history of centuries-old pagan cult beliefs and practices, closer examination reveals that G-d doesn’t actually require blood sacrifice; it is only a means of helping us to discover and control our baser natures. The figures in this illustration embody the types of ‘sins’ codified in Vayikra. They are seen approaching a sacrificial altar shedding masks that represent their animal natures to reveal and evolve the spiritual aspects that we share with G-d. Taking current world events into account, the sacrifices and their consequences continue…
Readers, here is a question for you: how do you view your own animal nature? Would you change it if you could and if so, how?
Illustration from: Between Heaven & Earth: An Illuminated Torah Commentary (Pomegranate, 2009)