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Don't Follow the Herd

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"If the offering is a burnt offering from the flock, from either the sheep or the goats, you are to offer a male without defect.'" - Leviticus 1:10

The Torah portion for this week is Vayikra, which means "and He called," from Leviticus 1:1-5:26, and the Haftorah is from Isaiah 43:21-44:23.

Earlier this year, Christian blogger Veronica Partridge caused quite a stir. She wrote a controversial post that has been shared more than 100,000 times and earned her an appearance on "Good Morning America." What was the contentious topic that brought Partridge into the spotlight? She wrote a piece about why she chose to give up wearing tight-fitting pants.

Partridge described how the conviction weighed heavily on her heart for a long time before she made her decision. After a conversation with some friends and corroboration from her husband that such tight-fitting pants were a stumbling block for most men, Partridge decided to forgo such clothing. She feels that dressing more discreetly is a way to honor her husband and God.

Now, whether we agree with Partridge's conviction is not the point. The point is that she took a stand for God against the mostly negative feedback that she has received and the widely accepted values of today's society. But if we are truly God-centered people, we will base our behaviors on what God deems acceptable and not upon the whims of fluctuating societal norms.

In this week's portion, we learn about the ritual sacrifices that were brought into the Tabernacle and the Temple. Scripture lists different types of sacrifices that were brought, and the Jewish sages delve extensively into the meaning and symbolism of each type of sacrifice. One sacrifice that was brought "is a burnt offering from the flock, from either the sheep or the goats . . ."

The sages explain that these animals represented the herd instinct - the tendency to follow the crowd because everyone else is doing so. The message for us today is that we need to sacrifice our tendency to follow the flock and instead follow only God. We need to burn up the desire to conform and become inspired to inform. We need to stand up and speak the truth even if we are standing alone.

It has been said that when the herd is running toward the cliff, the one running in the opposite direction looks crazy! When we take a stand for what we know to be right, we might look crazy to others around us who have chosen to follow the crowd. However, our interest has to be in how we look in the eyes of God, not in the eyes of people.

Great men such as Abraham, Moses, and countless others became great because they were brave enough to stand alone. Know that when you stand apart for what is right, you are never really alone. You are in the company of history's finest individuals.

With prayers for shalom, peace,

Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President


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