Come Closer to God

Yael Eckstein  |  July 17, 2023

Prayerful Yael Eckstein
(Photo: IFCJ)

Even the priests, who approach the LORD, must consecrate themselves, or the LORD will break out against them. — Exodus 19:22

These devotions explore the Jewish perspective of love. In Hebrew, the word for love is ahava, which comes from the root word, hav, “to give.” In Judaism, to love is to give. Giving to others enables us to love one another.

A significant portion of the Hebrew Bible revolves around korbanotsacrificial offerings to God, first in the Tabernacle in the desert and later in the Temple in Jerusalem. There were many kinds of sacrifices, including offerings of animals, grain, and money; sacrifices made for the sake of oneself, for others, or for the entire Jewish people; sacrifices of atonement, gratitude, and celebration, to name a few. The only ones allowed to actually offer the sacrifices were the kohanim, the priests.

But what was the point of this ritual, and what can we learn from it today? Last week, I was working at my computer in a coffee shop while a family enjoyed lunch beside me. Struggling to reach his pancakes, the little boy turned to his dad and said, “Abba, tikarev oti,” which directly translates to “Father, bring me closer.” I gave myself a moment to take in the profundity hidden within those words; a helpless child asking his father to bring him closer.

Come Closer to God

The Hebrew word for sacrifice is korban, which shares the same linguistic root as the word karov, meaning close. God did not command Israel to bring Him sacrifices because He needs meat, wine, flour, or money. As the prophets reminded us over and over, God does not want our rituals; He wants our hearts.

In the Book of Exodus, the priests are referred to as those “who approach the Lord,” teaching us that offering sacrifices was about bridging the distance between human beings and God. God wants us to turn to Him in prayer with our troubles and gratitude. All our Father in Heaven wants is for us to come closer to Him.

The Hebrew word for love is ahava, which comes from the word hav, meaning, “to give.” We deepen our relationship with God by giving of ourselves. When we are struggling to figure out how to do so, all we need to do is turn to Him and beg, “Father, bring me closer.”

Your Turn:

When you pray, study, and carry out the Word of God, remember that these are all ways we give of ourselves to God in order to come closer to Him.