“This is a book about love,” Peggy Noonan begins her book on 9/11. It’s a captivating read: raw, uncensored, written in the immediate aftermath of the attacks, when white smoke smothered Manhattan and death choked the streets. It’s a battlefield, not a memorial. And even with all the terror and bleeding and gory horror, she’s right—it is a book about love. Sifting through her consciousness, her life, her generation and its ethos, she brings us through the experience with a generous spirit.

I read the book years ago; I’ve forgotten the title, and since this isn’t a book review, I’m not Googling. But her opening words came back to me this week.

The The rhythm of Jewish life is set by the Parshahrhythm of Jewish life is set by the Parshah, the weekly reading from the Torah. Now we’re reading the book of Vayikra, called Leviticus in Latin, because it describes the work of the Levites, who served as priests in the Sanctuary in the desert and later in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.

The book doesn’t sit well with Western sensibilities. It talks of the animal sacrifices (“offerings” would be a better translation) that were brought on the altar: the crop of the bird, its wings, and how to slice its throat; the livers and spleens of cows, the quarters of sheep.

It’s hard for us, with our Western sensibilities, to digest the gory details. The Occidental in us cannot fathom what all this has to do with coming close to our Creator—until we realize that He is their Creator, too. Then a bit of reason seeps into this meatpacking joint, and we hear the echo of symmetry. The beating heart of matter, too, must interface with the Infinite.

So I was thinking: this is not a book about guts and blood. This is a book about love. The altar was a place where heaven touched earth. The fire that consumed the offerings was fanned by the very breath of heaven. That such a place existed was itself an act of love.

The Hebrew name Vayikra has something that the Latin translation doesn’t capture. The sages tell us that Vayikra, which literally means “and He called,” is a term of endearment. When G‑d speaks to non-Jewish prophets, the term used is vayikar—same meaning, vastly different connotation. Vayikar is cold, distant, implying that the communication happened almost by chance. Vayikra is love. When G‑d calls to Moses, He calls to him in love; when G‑d commands Moses, He commands with love; and when G‑d speaks to His people, commands His people, He calls to us with love.

If This is not a book about guts and bloodyour wife senses you stopped off at the last minute and picked up a bouquet on sale, she won’t be impressed. If she knows you spent time, compared, pestered the salesperson with questions, she’ll love them, even if you have no taste. Because attention to detail means you care. It means you love.

With all its gory detail, this is a book about love. And we respond with love, even if we don’t mean to. Why else would we open it again and again to read about livers and spleens?

Despite all the explanations about why the sacrifices were necessary, I think we’re still left with more questions than answers. That’s just the way it is. We don’t sense G‑d in the back of the butcher shop. It’s not a sacred space in our minds. But then, what do we really know, in the intimate sense of knowing, about the physical, its innate holiness, its spiritual beauty?

No matter. Who cares? This is a book of love.