This week's Sedra – Vayikra - marks the start of the 3rd - and therefore central - book of the Torah. The Book of Vayikra concentrates on the laws of the Priestly Service by the Levites - hence the English name 'Leviticus'.
Many of the Laws we read in detail regard sacrifices and Temple Services that we might find archaic, even perhaps barbaric, and often hard to relate to in our non-Temple era. However, the importance of these Laws and Commandments cannot be under-estimated, and have always been studied by our Sages in depth in preparation for the building of the 3rd Temple. As we do not live in Temple times, we cannot make or bring 'sacrifices'. Instead, we can learn about these laws, and try to derive some meaning. And as Jews we can still offer our Prayers (Tefilla) and our Actions (Mitzvot).
The word for 'Sacrifice' in the Torah is a 'Korban'. The root of this word is 'Karov' meaning to 'come close'. We need to remember that God did not need our 'gifts' or Sacrifices in Temple Times any more than He needs our Prayers or Mitzvot today. The idea, perhaps in simple terms, is to bring us closer to God, and therefore to each other.
One specific type of Temple Sacrifice, the Shelema, was brought when everything was fine, as a thanks offering. Shelema means 'whole' or 'complete' and is the root of the word 'Shalom'. When everything is good, complete and whole we can be at 'Peace'.
In our lives there will be times when we might pray to God because we have sinned and need to atone and show remorse (Yom Kippur springs to mind...). At other times we might pray because we need help or guidance. God forbid at other times we are compelled to pray for support in a crisis or emergency. These situations might equate to bringing Sacrifices in Temple times for a specific reason or to correct a sin.
Maybe what the Shelema Sacrifice tells us is the idea of Praying out of pure joy and contentment - and simply to be grateful and thank God for all we have. Truly then we might feel joyful, complete & happy. This is the basis of modern psychotherapy - being happy with what you have, focusing on the positives, and being grateful for your situation.
As Pikei Avot 4:1 stated many years ago 'Rich is the man who is happy with his lot'. Shabbat SHALOM ;)