How would you like to be a passenger in a car driven by a person with no depth perception?
Depth perception is the ability to judge the distance between things. When you are driving, it is necessary to be able to tell whether the cars in front and in back of you are at a safe distance from your own. If you could not tell whether they were too close it would be frightening and dangerous.
When considering relationships, it is also necessary to have a form of “depth perception.” We need to know which ones are close, and which ones are short-lived and superficial.
The main theme of this week’s Torah portion, Vayikra, is the laws of sacrifices. The Hebrew word for sacrifice is “korban,” meaning “that which brings close.” The purpose of the sacrifice, like the purpose of prayer, was to bring the heart of the worshipper closer to G-d.
Isaiah, in this week’s Haftarah, says the Jewish people of his day had little or no “depth perception.” Isaiah says that they misjudged the whole intent behind the ritual of the sacrifices.
A sacrifice only makes sense in the context of an ongoing relationship with G-d. If it is merely given as a lame attempt to appease G-d, it will be meaningless. Like a gift, it must reflect the relationship and the feelings of one person for the other. If a sacrifice is given out of gratitude, submission and humility, it will help to further the involvement of the person and Hashem.
Isaiah encourages us to see the sacrificial system as deep, profound and meaningful — not to be reduced to one dimension. Isaiah encourages us, in the words of the old Jewish saying: It matters not whether one does much or little — as long as he (or she) inclines their heart to Hashem.
(This column is a service of the Greater Pittsburgh Rabbinic Association.)