DEDICATION: : To those in need of a little bit of healing this week.
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Oy, the news. What can we say? I sit here in Canton, Ohio -- without knowing what is true and certainly unable to judge what is correct or just. I know that all the news stories are incredibly slanted and that both sides (or perhaps all seventeen sides) are using emotional language and casting the "other" in the worst possible light.
I was telling one of my teachers just this morning that I am to the right of the left and to the left of the right and not sure that there is a home or camp for me. I am committed to the safe and healthy existence of Israel and yet, I cannot handle an Israel where the rights of any group of citizens is diminished. And so I am in great pain.
The subject of Israel has been a difficult matter for me, ever since the very first time that I spent some time there -- that was 1969 for four months. An eye-opener, to be sure. I was certainly a dreamer then -- I wanted Israelis to be better than anybody else -- I wanted them to prove to the world that a Jewish state could exemplify the ideals that we are taught and to be able to teach the world by example what the loving flow from the One could do. After all, we had been slaves, so we knew better than to oppress others. We had been the victims of discrimination, so we knew not to be bigoted. And then reality came crashing in on me.
I read emails filled with caustic othering that masquerades as support for Israel. I read emails filled with condemnations of this and that and filled with emotionally charged words. And the messages that people claim they want to send, never get through.
I am thinking about the rabbi at OHaLaH this winter who led the practical rabbinic session where we were talking about challenging marriages. He was talking about one that was between two people undergoing a female to male transition where one had completed the change the other had not yet -- hence they were able to "legally" marry in California. The one who was still legally female had been working as a man for some time. One day she called the rabbi to discuss the issues concerning her desire to wear a typical wedding gown. While she had always expected to do so, she was concerned about what it would do to her work relationships, where everyone thought she was a male.
The rabbi responded (very wisely) that it depended on what they two of them wanted to be the object of the wedding -- their relationship or her dress. They were married in men's suits.
So I ask myself and others to think before we say something about what is going on -- does the comment serve to help build the bridge to peace or does it serve another master? It is "cute" to say something cutting and clever about a foe, but mankind pays for the short-lived puff to the writer's ego.
I guess the litmus for any comments would be: does the comment make us ALL appear more human? does the comment serve to deliver accurate information without emotional rhetoric? does the comment acknowledge that One Creator made us all? does the comment acknowledge that our foes also feel pain? does the comment really help others see what will help them understand the situation better?
What is the real object of the comment? Too often it is for emotional impact rather than anything else.
This Parsha talks about how we deal with each other and all the other others. We are charged with being holy: 19:17 says "Do not hate your brethren in your heart; be sure of your companion, and do not place upon that person any sin."
We are all brethren -- we are taught that everyone came from one mother and one father.
JOIN ME IN AUGUST!! I will be speaking at the Children of Abraham Journey Together Interfaith Chautauqua at Lakeside Ohio (Aug 17-24, 2002). It is a beautiful site and the conference was fantastic last year. Check out the website: http://childrenofabraham.homestead.com/index.html and join us!
1. Parsha details: Lev 16:1-20:27 [ Haftorah Amos 9:7-15 (Alter: Ezekiel 22:1-15 -- Seph 2-20) ]
2. Questions and a few observations
Summary: Procedures for Yom Kippur, required sacrificial activity for any animal killed for food, prohibited relations, injunction to be holy, eating times for sacrifices, gleaning laws, treatment of others, prohibitions of Canaanite/Egyptian practices, ethics in business, penalties for forbidden practices, prohibition of Molech worship and superstition, penalties for immoral acts, an exhortation.
This is one of those Parshiot that loses so much in the translation -- the wealth and depth of the Hebrew cannot be easily transmitted. And even the Hebrew needs to understood in deeper terms than a light reading might give.
This Parsha is at the heart of the Torah -- our owner's manual for the life we living. "If you make a peace offering, for your desires you will offer it." (19:5) Ah -- what is Torah saying here. Is it offer whatever you want? How could that lead to any kind of real peace?
Torah is recognizing here that there are no simple answers to this matter. The gift each person must make to achieve their own peace cannot be prescribed -- it must come from within that person. And so that is what Torah says.
There are several layers of peace -- and they are intertwined. There is the all-too obvious peace between people, which is probably one of the hardest to achieve. There is peace with your Self -- equally hard. And then there is peace between you and the One -- the easiest peace to achieve -- but seldom actualized.
The pasuk(verse) could almost be translated as indicating that it is the desire that needs the sacrifice to be made FOR IT. Desire, after all, is often the source of much pain and anguish.
My father (a"h) used to teach that there is enough in the world for people's needs, but not for their greeds.
Another of my teachers explained the difference between those who seriously meditate as part of their practice and those who don't -- it can be seen in the magnitude and style of the desires. He taught that desiring connectivity with the One and working toward it diminishes the need to find pacifiers for our wants.
The real desire for which our Self is hard-wired is to connect to the One, to allow the flow of the energy from the worlds to us and then to lift it back up again. When we fail to recognize or acknowledge this, we are estranged and alienated from our Self and from the One. Then there can be no peace within or without -- and so we seek other gratification. And nothing else works, and so we seek more gratification. And the less real peace we find, the more urgent we become in our quest -- we want gratification faster and we want more things. The hole in our Souls never fills.
It can only fill with the One. "For your desires, you will offer it." And we pray that our minds and our hearts and our Souls be open to receive the Love and Light of the One.
3. Some Observations
So many things we are NOT to do -- don't do this, don't do that. It sounds so negative. Is it?
Actually, by setting limits of what we are NOT to do, the result is more open than if we were told exactly what to do and how to do it. It might be easier to think of the "full" phrase going something like: "You may do whatever works for you to bring you closer to Me or to other people, EXCEPT hurting them by doing .....; do not ....."
Indeed, the things we are restricted from doing are there because they estrange us or someone else from reaching for and connecting with the One. The Holy one does not give us just one way to reach out. If anyone has a clue how diverse and unique we all are, it is the One.
Collectively we call out to Adonai, our Connectivity. Adonai is our Adonim -- these were the connectors that were used to set up the Mishkan, the Dwelling Place, while we wandered for the 40 years. When we travelled, we would make camp in various places and the first thing that had to happen was that the Mishkan was set up. These adonim formed the supporting structure and allowed us to quickly erect the physical reminder of our connection to the One.
Is it any surprise that Adonai is the Name of Sh'khina, our point of connection with the One?
There are many ways of connecting with the one -- however, this Parsha also carries a painful reminder that when our egos become too invested in the show of connection (rather than a real connection), the results are devastating. And if the person whose ego is so invested in the show is also a position of leadership, the results are that much worse.
Just as Egypt and her army paid a dear price for the arrogance of their leader - so we see the same pattern today -- people and combatants pay a dear price for the arrogance of their leaders.
After the strange fires of war and ego have taken their toll, perhaps we can look to building something wonderful. Perhaps we can be cleansed even through the tragedy and start to understand that we are all brethren and we can all strive to be truly holy.
4. Persevering Intimacy
Persevering Intimacy, dealing with Foundations that last. When we strive to be Kadosh, holy, dedicated to the work of the One, then we at our most intimate with the One and with each other. And then we can do the work that make mankind and our people survive and persevere. This is the work we are charged with doing. We were not brought out of our tight places, our own Mitzrayims to lead a carefree wanton existence. We could have done that in Mitzrayim. Many do every day -- they are perfectly happy in the Mitzrayim of their own making, as we once were.
However, with a strong hand we were grabbed and forcefully shoved out into the world at large -- to do the work expected of us. Perhaps that is why we need to pray -- Return us to You and we will return?
5. Rav Sholom (z'l) used to say.....
(19:9-10) "And when you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very corners of your field, nor gather the gleanings of your harvest. And do not glean your vineyard, nor gather every grape of your vineyard; leave them for the poor and the stranger; I am YHVH, your God."
The Holy One teaches us by example. We are poor and forever strangers. We did not treat the poor and the stranger with dignity and honor due all of children of Adam and Eve and have not remembered to care for the animals, all of whom are dependent on us with whose care we have been charged.
And so, we have not proved ourselves worthy of entering under the Chupa to be fully joined. And so we wander -- but do we learn?
It is too easy to give money to others and pretend that we have discharged our responsibilities to the poor and the strangers. The gleanings are left that they may learn how to harvest and have the dignity of producing food at the work of their own hands. There is food enough and resources enough in this world for our needs, but not for our greeds.
Why does this instruction end in "I am YHVH, your God."? So that we may know that in these efforts, we are gathering those who might otherwise feel distanced and alone. When, in openness, we care enough to allow others to come and gather according to their needs with dignity, and without our watching, then can we begin to make Yisrael whole. And only when she is whole and thereby made worthy, can the wedding be rescheduled.
1. Trees: Find a tree with young leaves or flowers. Place your hands around that new growth and feel the life within it. This is rebirth. Trees and shrubs renew themselves all the time, surviving harsh winters and mild ones. Can we?
2. Gleanings: What is wasting and what is leaving for others. To throw food away is to deny it to the poor. Gleanings must be left in the field, not harvested and thrown away. What we do not need must be returned to the earth in a usable form. Find at least one piece of waste each day and see that it gets back to the earth in a usable form.
3. I am YHVH: Focus on the Name. Visualize each letter and find the connectivity between the letters and between you and the One. See the letters forming into the sockets, the adonim of the Mishkan. Feel the wind in the midbar, the wilderness, the words within the words. Become part of the adonim, become part of the Mishkan.
ADS: ALEPH -- the Alliance for Jewish renewal. www.aleph.org If you aren't a member yet, please give very serious consideration to joining. The magazine, New Menorah, alone, is worth whatever you give. (Plus it helps pay for the rabbinic program where I am studying!)
You can order the Torah Cards and my jewelry through Mercaz at (216)595-0707 -- ask for Larry)
There are many traditional interpretations of the parsha that I neither talk about nor mention. That is done from a position of space. I trust that the average reader is either familiar with these or can find many of them easily in other commentaries readily available.
Thanks for reading this. If I have offended you, please forgive me -- that was not my intention. If you found some joy or happiness in reading this, thank you for allowing me to be a part. If you found a reason to think about something more deeply - kol hakavod and thank you!
And to the people giving me feedback thank you so much! I enjoy all of it. (Including the typos) You have made this weekly practice wonderful.
(c) 2002 Candy Lobb All rights reserved