Vayikra – 5783 – Is It Real?

By: Alan Bach

Vayikra 5783 – Is it Real?

Over the past several months, the use of the artificial intelligence engine, ChatGPT, has received lots of media attention. I am fascinated with the capabilities and the dangers of this technology.  Would it be possible for these artificial intelligence engines to one day replace what we rely on human intelligence for? During Kiddush lunch a few weeks ago, Joey and Stephen Spiro educated me on how ChatGPT is being used successfully today to write computer code. How will this technology advance to take over other aspects of our daily lives?

As a test, I asked ChatGPT the following, “write a 500 word dvar torah for parasha Vayikra and include relevant information to current times”.  About thirty seconds later I had a d’var for Vayikra. I will read the d’var word-for-word with no edits while I ask you to listen carefully for accuracy and the message delivered.

“Parshat Vayikra is the first portion in the book of Leviticus, and opens with the instructions for the various offerings that were to be brought in the Mishkan, the Tabernacle, in the wilderness. The focus of this portion is on the act of sacrifice and its role in the lives of the Israelites and their relationship with G-d.

In Vayikra, we see the different types of offerings that could be brought as a way of expressing devotion and remorse. The different offerings represented various aspects of a person’s relationship with G-d, including burnt offerings, grain offerings, peace offerings, and sin offerings. These offerings were meant to be a physical manifestation of a person’s commitment to G-d, serving as a means of purification and atonement for one’s sins.

One of the key lessons from Vayikra is the importance of intentionality in our actions. The sacrifices offered in the Mishkan were not just about giving an animal to G-d, but about the person giving of themselves and their devotion to G-d. This was a way for the Israelites to show their commitment and to seek forgiveness for their misdeeds. The act of sacrifice was not just a physical act, but a spiritual one, requiring a person to examine their inner self and make a deliberate effort to improve their relationship with G-d.

This message of intentionality is relevant to our lives today, as we too seek to deepen our relationship with G-d. In our modern world, we may not bring physical offerings, but we can still embody the same spirit of sacrifice through our actions and intentions. This means making a conscious effort to live a life that is in line with our beliefs and values, and striving to better ourselves and our relationship with G-d. It also means being willing to forgive others and seeking forgiveness for our own mistakes.

Another important theme from Vayikra is the idea of holiness. In this portion, we see that G-d is described as a “holy G-d”, and the offerings are said to be “most holy”. This concept of holiness was meant to inspire the Israelites to strive for holiness in their own lives. This means living a life that is in line with G-d’s values, and striving to bring out the divine in all aspects of our lives.

In our current times, the idea of holiness is still relevant and important. As we navigate the complexities of our modern world, we can still strive for holiness by living our lives in accordance with G-d’s values and principles. This means being mindful of our actions, striving to bring out the best in ourselves and others, and seeking to live a life that is in line with G-d’s vision for the world.

In conclusion, Parshat Vayikra teaches us about the importance of intentionality, sacrifice, and holiness in our lives. By examining the offerings brought in the Mishkan, we can learn valuable lessons about our own relationship with G-d and how we can deepen that connection. These lessons are as relevant today as they were thousands of years ago, and provide us with a powerful reminder of the importance of living a life that is in line with our beliefs and values. May we all strive to embody these lessons and bring holiness and intentionality into our lives, as we seek to deepen our relationship with G-d.”

So, what did you think?

I recently finished reading the non-fiction book, Homo Deus, written by the Israeli author Yuval Noah Harari in 2015. Amongst the many topics addressed, this book predicts what will happen in the twenty-first century as artificial intelligence becomes a natural part of our lives. This book was written many years before the advances we have seen in the past year in artificial intelligence. He believes it is not if AI will replace humans but when.

There is no doubt that artificial intelligence will replace many of the jobs and tasks only human intelligence was able to perform in the past. There have been many advances in technology and medicine already. But, will AI replace what we have relied on rabbis for? While I do not feel this AI generated d’var is strong enough as is, it certainly is a starting point from which I could make edits to and significantly decrease the time it takes to research and write a d’var. Will AI ever be able to replace the compassion, the wisdom, and the personal experiences that a person and specifically a rabbi provides?  I would never want a halacha based decision or spiritual guidance to be purely based on textual facts.

 I leave you with this thought to ponder on. Just as the Israelites could not imagine worshipping G-d without animal sacrifices following the destruction of the second Temple, we too have difficulty imaging a time when artificial intelligence will replace our rabbis. Change is inevitable, but how much we accept Rabbi Robot is up to us. I hope.

Shabbat Shalom.

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