Ah, the week of Purim -- the week of fools in the month of fools! Spring, ever spring! And the age old debate, did Purim come first or did the Megillah of Esther? Definitely a different style of writing. And either way, on whom's the joke? Who wants to wait for April 1?
I plan to wear something absolutely outrageous -- I'll let you know what people think! A refrain from one of my favorite songs keeps playing in my head: (From Rabbi Shefa Gold's Yismach Lev on her Tzuri CD)
In the game of life, do you always have to win?
Are you looking for a serious God that never wears a grin?
Are you so busy learning that you're stuck inside the school?
Then it's time to come out and learn to play the fool.
Yis'mach leyv m'vak'shey Yah.
(Joyous is the heart, who seeks Yah -- Psalm 105:3)
I get a wonder full sense of how we are to be joyous -- from Succot to Purim and back. Part of that sense comes from recognizing that we cannot control or plan everything -- and we don't have to. Tzedakah is a big part of Purim -- and that does lead to great joy! We are taught that the greatest tzedakah is to help someone become independent and also that the highest level is where neither the helper nor the helped know who did what. And I think that the thread that runs through that point is the 'letting go', trusting the One who can keep track of everything according to Her plan to do so. We are only expected to give what we can to forward that plan. And we receive joy, simkha (yismakh) for our efforts -- and NOTHING is impossible to the joyous heart, so we get back much more than we could possibly give.
So help someone, mislo'akh manot and have a JOYOUS, FOOLISH PURIM! Khag same'akh!
1. Parsha details: Ex 27:20-30:10 (tri 29:19-30:10) [Haftorah Ezekiel 43:10-27]
2. Questions and a few observations
Summary: More Offerings -- we move to the Menorah, the lamp, the priestly garments (again in great detail) and offerings. Now the offerings include crafting and artistry as well as raw goods.
And again such detail -- so we know from last week that detail tells us this is very important. In fact, in many ways, the Parsha is a continuation of last week's.
We are still dealing with objects and structures that pertain to the community practice where Aharon (and his sons, and their sons...) will be the main actor, not Moshe.
It is interesting that it is the people who are to donate both the material for Aharon's clothing and accessories as well the effort needed to craft them. This underscores the relationship between the Cohanim and the rest of Yisrael. Yisrael takes care of the Cohanim with the tithing system we will encounter and through the sacrifices as we see already in this Parsha.
It is important to note that the sacrifices were, in fact, eaten. (29:32, 33) We often miss this detail when we recoil in horror at the concept of sacrifice. Now I am NOT advocating a return to sacrifice, except for one aspect. If you are a meat eater, please recognize that the animal was SACRIFICED to give you the food. At least when this was done in the Temple, there were rituals and atonement and this type of 'work' associated with the eating and sacrificing. Please remember that an animal gave its life so that you could enjoy your steak or hamburger. Acknowledge to yourself and the One and give thanks.
I have to confess that when I get a whiff of a neighborhood barbecue that has a particularly tangy odor to it, I wonder if that was what these sacrifices might have smelled like.
The imagery of the 'portable' altar for the incense burning is also very dramatic -- Aharon and sons are to keep incense burning there, before the veil by the Ark. (Do you ever wonder how many bad 'aharon/ark' jokes Aharon had to endure?)
The descriptions of the clothing and accessories worn by Aharon is in beautiful graphic detail. The gold plate, engraved like a signet and worn on the forehead (a prelude to t'fillin or just a special one?). The similarity between the Hebrew tzitz and tzitzit is also striking. Both are for memory functions as well, to keep the wearer mindful of what they are doing. In this case, to remind Aharon of his function in the sacrificial ritual and in the case of the tziztit, to keep the wearer mindful of all of the One's commandments.
I am drawn, however, to the image of the candle, the lamp. Always burning -- in our hearts and in our shuls, even today. That light, originally fed by pure beaten olive oil so that it burned clean and bright. Today it is fed by many sources. And always the light is bright, even when the flame is small. But light has that quality -- a single candle eliminates darkness. Period.
And a candle loses nothing as it lights another.
It is not an accident that the Parsha both starts and ends with the light. One could almost call this Parsha a light sandwich, with Sh'khina (l'Shakh'ni v'tocham, Ani YHVH Eloheyhem -- to be Sh'khina in them, I am YHVH, their God 29:46) as the 'filling'.
So Aharon's garments and his resulting behavior are part of the vehicle for Sh'khina. After all, they say the best way to get someone to do their job well is to give them great new clothing that fits the job. And if business knows this today, the One taught it then.
And perhaps that is why there is so much detail in this part as well -- Aharon's job and that of his sons was a precise task. There was a great deal of detail in how these tasks were to be completed so that the intention, the kavanah, would be apparent to Israel (the One can tell the kavanah...). And Aharon was to dress and wear accessories that would be felt by him through every movement he made.
If he was to act as the focal point, the lens through which Israel would focus its approach to the Divine, then that lens had to be many things: accessible, but at a distance, clear, well-defined and always focused itself. And running the sacrifice ritual was not easy work. It was hard, physical effort. And it was bloody and messy. How many of us could be a lens in that environment? Wouldn't you need reminders and aids?
This is a key point in our belief -- Aharon did not pray and approach the One for us, he acted as a focal point for our contact, for we were afraid to approach without help. We were young children, having just been 'born' out of the narrow place, the Mitzrayim, into peoplehood. And we were bright enough to know that pure Divine Energy was too much for most people. Even Moshe had to look at the 'rear' of Elohim. And so we asked for a focal lens and were given one.
And the lens both shielded us and helped us remain focused -- so hard when we were young. Still hard today -- it takes a lot of work. That's why we have Torah, to help us stay focused today when we no longer have the Temple and ceremonial lens. Do we need them? We are older now. Perhaps not. Perhaps we never needed them, but we thought we did.
Perhaps destroying the Temple can be likened to a mother bear who shoos her cub away so that it can grow up and mature? After all, Torah told us in Yitro just three weeks ago "v'atem tih'yu li mamlechet cohanim v'goi kadosh, eleh had'varim... -- and you will be to me as a kingdom of priests and a holy people, these are the things....." (Ex 19:6).
Now we are seeing what we must do and even that detail is important if we are to be our own lenses. We were told this, just as we were 'born'. And because we are humans, we need accessories to keep us mindful and focused. This is not a flaw or a weakness, it is how we were designed. For only through this dependence on accessories could we have the independence needed to be able to decide for our selves and exercise our free will.
3. Some Observations
Once again, we are faced with the question of why so much detail in this Parsha? From the Tikun, we can see that this portion is very cohesive, without many openings and gaps. And from that we know that this was a portion often recited and well known. Now why would the children of Israel hear about these details a lot?
One obvious benefit is that they would know to make knew clothing and accessories for Aharon and his sons as their current supply became unsuitable -- but that would not have happened often. And who would have read it to them?
Probably not Aharon -- he had plenty of work to do without that additional burden. Moshe? Perhaps, but, again, he was very busy taking care of the big administrative things. Now he had to teach the reciters, that would be true, but they would carry on from there. I can almost picture a group gathering in or near the Tent of Meeting and going over this Parsha. I can even see Aharon or one of his sons listening in as well, nodding his head or perhaps pointing to something as it is talked about, smiling at the people gathered there.
And both would know and be reminded exactly how things were to be done. Then the people would know that when Aharon touched the gold tzitz during his work that he was being mindful and thinking about them and his task at hand. This reciting would serve many functions. 1) Aharon would know what to do. 2) The people would know what Aharon should be doing. 3) The people and Aharon would know that they all knew these things. and therefore 4) coded and symbolic communication could be ongoing between Aharon and the people throughout everything without any interruptions to the rituals in process.
That way, people could 'be' wherever they needed to be mentally and spiritually during the ritual without verbal stage directions or interruptions. Aharon would function as many lenses, rather than just one, because each individual needs his or her own lens.
And accessories and structure are important -- they serve as road maps for us. They provide a 'safe island' to allow us to explore and experiment and find our Self. We no longer have the lens of the Temple and the Cohanim, but we do have accessories and structures. Our davenning is structured and accessories abound. This is our own safe island. And we can pick and choose within these items the things or acts that help us focus the most.
Yes, once again, this is a powerful Parsha. It's about focusing on Sh'khina, with whatever accessories and structure we need. Our efforts start and end with Light -- and we have the tools and we can learn about them.
4. Balancing Intimacy
Some of our teachers tell us that this Parsha is about balancing intimacy. Intimacy with whom? Sh'khina and each other. With light. A light that shined in ancient times and shines yet today, when we gather together and in our hearts, gathered or alone.
Gentle light can aid intimacy. No light or too much light can interfere with intimacy. Lenses can focus light or they can diffuse it. We can chose to share light, igniting a candle from our own. Or we can withhold the spark. Or we can ignite something that may go out of control.
We each have our own candle, and we chose how to use it. Do we burn others with it or just ourselves? Or do we bring light to a dark corner? Is the corner in us or in others? Or do we keep it to ourselves?
That's the joy and the responsibility of free will -- we control our own answers to these questions. The answer may well be in balancing intimacy -- so that we illuminate without destroying, adding glow without burning. Intimacy requires trust on both partners, that both will act responsibly, lovingly and mindfully.
1. Accessories: Pick a favorite accessory. Look at it. Look at its color, its texture. Feel it, smell it, taste it. Hug it, stroke it. Let it stroke you. Look for the lens in it. Look at the lens and look through the lens. Is some One looking back?
2. Offering: do what is in your heart to help someone. Help them see better, be more focused, be warmer, whatever they need. Imagine yourself as a lens to help them. Thank them for being your lens as well.
3. Sh'khina: l'Shakh'ni v'tocham, Ani YHVH Eloheyhem -- to be Sh'khina in them, I am YHVH, their God (29:46) Open up and feel the Warmth, the Glow, the Shimmer of the Light of Sh'khina inside. Bring all parts of you to this effort, this sensing. Feel, hear, sense Her say "Ani YHVH" from within you.
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) 2001 Candy Lobb All rights reserved