Rabbi Shafir's Weekly D'var Torah
Sh'mot (Exodus)
I publish a weekly D'var Torah on the Parsha of the week.  They are archived here.  If you would like to get these by email as they are published, please email me and I will add you to the list.

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T'tzaveh (You will command) and Zachor! (Remember!)

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DEDICATION:  To the memory of Pixie Smith, wife of Tommy Smith and sister of Paula Russel.  Pixie died Monday after a prolonged illness.  She will be missed by her immediate family which reaches to 5 grandchildren and by her extended family that reaches so many.  May her memory be for a blessing and may those who knew and loved her be comforted.

I first met Pixie through Paula's many reminisces and some years back had the pleasure of meeting her and others of the family at Paula's for a 
Shabbat dinner.  The twinkle in Pixie's eyes told me that Paula's stories held loving truths from their youth and later years.  

May all who mourn find comfort.
May all who fall beneath sorrow's burden
find the strength to take up the Way and walk on.
Let us grant to each other peace and courage,
not only in words, but in deeds as well.
Let us spread over each other a blanket of peace 
that we might aid in each other's healing.
               Rabbi Rami Shapiro

This feature is a way for those who would like to help me continue my studies to do so.  These emails are free to all who ask to be part of the list, 
and will remain so. If you would like to support these efforts and dedicate one to someone or just to support it, I welcome that.

If you would like to sponsor a dedication for a week's d'var, please email me.
1. Parsha details 
2. Questions (and a few observations) on the excerpts
3. Some other Observations
4. Balancing Intimacy
5. Special Shabbat
6. Exercises
T'tzaveh and Zakhor -- Commands or better yet, connectivities.  And Remembering. It is definitely a week of sorting all of that out.  I just returned to Canton after spending a week in Elat Chayyim at the Davvenen' Leadership Training Institute.  I was part of the first session -- session two starts this July and I heartily recommend it to anyone who is involved or wants to be as a davvenen leader -- ordained or not.  Check out their website. 

Each of the four weeks is very intense, both in the technical knowledge gained as well as in the personal growth and insights gained.  I had the immense honor of leading Shacharit and leyning the first morning there.  My special thanks to those who joined me that morning, Leana and Neil.  And a special thanks to all of the prayerful faces that shined back at us.  And thank you to the people who came up for the first Aliyah -- may your offerings be accepted and surrounded with the Light -- and may you also feel that glow within you as it brings the flame of your offering up to the Heavens.  And thank you to our teachers who came up to the second Aliyah.  The power of your combined brachot was felt by many, I am sure.  

Bill came with me to NY and that was special.  We did not get to spend a great deal of time together due to the intensity of the schedule, but we did make some quality time.  The walk down to the waterfall and along the very old (by American standards - 1800's) ruins was particularly wonderful.  I am always struck, as I was in Israel and in Williamsburg, VA (and other such places), by the sense of life gone by in these places.  I think of the biblical reference of stones being a witness and I guess they are, for that is often all we see.  I wonder how they spent their days, what was important to them, what made them laugh and what made them cry?  What things did they accomplish and what things did they leave unfinished?

I saw huge rocks that had been placed like a fence for a very long distance.  How much effort did it take to do that in the 1800's?  Who did it and why?  What did the road look like then?  Even the electric/telephone wiring in the area has an old look to it -- giant ceramic insulators which were popular long ago.  A web search tells me that this type of insulator was first put into service in the 1850's.  Part of the building had cut stone walls and there were cinderblocks higher up.  The stone part probably is the oldest and hard for us to pinpoint from the vantage point we could achieve.  The cinderblock probably came from an early 1900's addition, especially from the short pins and concreting methods used.  

This all lead us to a wonderful discussion of Roman concrete methods and ruins in Israel and buildings I once walked in with the dog I had when Bill and I first met.

There was some snow and ice along the river path, even though this was a warm day.  It would melt in the next couple days, but just now it was beautiful and wonderful and we enjoyed the simple beauty in it.  Then we studied the roundish holes worn into the river rock and wondered how the river had been changed and had changed itself over the years.  There were indications that perhaps this river had once been quite a bit higher.  Bill proposed a theory that it might have been "lowered" as part of a flood control project and perhaps it has.  I wondered if the mill (for which the road on which Elat Chayyim sits) had already closed or if progress lowered the river to the point where the mill was no longer viable.

And that led to a whole set of thoughts about the good of the one versus the good of the community.  I thought about Jewish halacha (guidelines) which tells us when the community is to face death rather than give up and individual and when individuals have sacrificed themselves for the community.  I thought of a movie about the Shoah where a guy named Jacob lied about having a radio because the doctor of the community told him there were fewer suicides while people thought he had a radio and then the Germans threatened the community with death unless they turned over him and his radio.  I won't spoil the movie if you haven't seen it yet -- it is an interesting movie.  

And then we packed up or thoughts and back to the business at hand -- Bill to caring for our dogs and some reading, me to one of the most beautiful descriptions I have heard about Shabbat as the Wedding and about our roles as conduits for the Divine Energy and how our own baggage plays into the dynamics.  Oy!  This didn't even cover day one.....

Check out the cool new website for DLTI: http://DLTI.homestead.com

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: Ex 27:20-30:10 {+Deut 25:17-19} [Haftorah I Samuel 15:2-34 (Seph add 15:1)] 
2. Questions and a few observations

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.

Garments and lights -- ah. And Oil, anointing oil.  

One of my text classes this week was concerned with Or ganuz, the hidden light of creation. (The One made Light before there was a sun or a moon -- it's that light.)  And the text talked about how this light has been used by Moshe, for example, to see the length of the Land and it is why he glowed after talking with the One, wearing this light like a tallit.  One of the students announced from this that a tallit should always be white and not multi-colored, fancy, etc.

Aside from the obvious fact that on Shabbat I wear a tallit made thirty years ago from one of the first weavings of multi-colored tallit cloth that Reb Zalman commissioned, I had a problem with this gentleman's negativity.  Now perhaps his judgement was aimed at people who dress for others for effect -- if so, that was not clear from his words.  

So why do we wear a tallit?  Why did Aharon wear colored garments?  Red and purple and t'khelet blue -- Torah is very clear to mention the colors, all the colors of our Rebbe's visionary tallit.  Well, I wear my tallit for me, to help me get into my place, my space for davvenen -- whether it is done in community or by myself.  In fact, some of my most colorful tallitot are never worn in community -- they are special to me because of the significance of the cloth or because of who made the tallit.  Wrapping myself in them is to remember that special time or the energy of the person connected with that particular tallit.  Like my big Shabbat one -- the fabric was bought by my parents (a'h) as a gift to me when I graduated from college -- then my mother and I made it together.  Whenever I put it on, the memory of their many gifts surround me with the fabric.

So what about these garments which Aharon wore?  They were gifts, offerings from the people, including the craftsmanship to fashion them into the very garments.  And so Aharon is clothed in the intentions of the people, of Yisrael.  These robes and vestments are the forms to these intentions which Aharon is to wear as he attends to the raising in smoke of the offerings of the people.  The red fabric mingles among the blue and the purple and the gold and the silver.  And as they move with every motion that Aharon and his children make, the many qualities and facets of the people move about each other and flash in and out of view to the people watching.  And as they move in and out of view, the garments become reminiscent of a crystal that sparkles as its many colors shine out at you.

And so, for those watching this is indeed a vision of splendor and beauty.  Torah even says this -- he is to be adorned l'chavod ul'tifaret.  The gold which is part of the garment work is also a key, in that it fits Aharon and the work he is to do, both by color and by the purity specified in Torah.

Is it any wonder that the people of Yisrael gave freely of these gifts and crafted them with the love and pride that they felt toward the One?  To dress Aharon in them was not to exalt the man that stood before him, but to recognize that the work he did was indeed holy.  And as he and his sons are anointed with the fine oil, the people saw that their efforts would be rewarded.

Can you imagine how long it took to get into this outfit?  Layer upon layer of meticulously crafted vestments and ornamentation and this and that?  Oy!  I know how long it takes me to get dressed in just a few articles of clothing.  And Aharon is being tended to and prepared as each layer is added.  Even if he wasn't particularly present at the early stages of getting ready, by the time he was fully robed and ephoded and girdled and... he was fully present.

3. Some Observations

All of these things in this Parsha are lovingly described in great detail.  Now why would Torah spend SO MUCH time on these details?  The obvious answer is because it was important.  Why are these things so important?

Yisrael is a teenager as we wander in the midbar, in the words.  We are coming of age and betrothing ourselves to the One who is Beauty -- and these items are the instruments of that relationship.  Like the gifts between lovers, these items warrant great detail and master craftsmanship.  They must be the work of our hands, done to exacting standards, the vision within our own minds and hearts of how they are to be.

And we remember that loving attention to each detail.  The memory caresses each turn of the weave, each engraved line, our tribal names placed close to Aharon's heart as we want them close to the Holy One's heart.  And the people become focused on the work, the service of the Mishkan -- how could they not?

And this parsha is the beginning of this relationship -- it is indeed a courtship and we are there.  We will wander for many more years the way teenagers in love often wander, taking the longest possible path between two points and lingering here and there, savoring the journey together, despite the periodic squabbles.   

So we pay great attention to the details that mark our relationship -- the menorah for light and the garments for the Cohanim.  These things remind us of the Holy One and the love we have felt, both in the exit from Mitzrayim, the tight places of our lives and in the Light we have experienced.  And so we robe ourselves in color and in white, which is all colors.  It will be generations until we will be brave enough to approach the One without the multitude of Aharon's multicolored robes.

4. Balancing Intimacy

One of the things that I do for this particular part of the d'var is that I do the bulk of the work before I look up Rabbi David Wolf Blank's (z'l) guidelines for a specific Parsha.  It is amazing to me that when I look them up, I usually say, of course, that makes sense.  This week it was even stronger than that.  As I read the words of the parsha I kept thinking, "wow, this sounds like Yesod" or "this must be Tiferet". The brickish red of Yesod or Balancing is probably very close to the red of tola'at shani, the red dyed cloth we read about.  And the soft green of Tiferet or Intimacy comes from the blending of the purple and the blue (Torah color wheels are different from either pigment or light color wheels).  It is not hard to envision Aharon as the Foundation of Beauty.

And the care and detail given to the various items in this Parsha also speak clearly to the need for balancing  intimacy as we approach a young relationship with hope and love and respect, and perhaps a little fear.

5. Special Shabbat

This week, Shabbat is Shabbat Zachor (Remember!). One special reading from Torah accompanies the weekly Parsha. It is from Devarim (25:17-19) and reminds us to watch out for the Amaleks in our lives. These are the people who prey on the weak and the ones left behind. They wait for us to be tired, too tired to fight back or to even object to their wickedness when we see them preying on others.

Amalek is so evil, that no memorials, no positive memories of them are to be left behind them. What could be lower than greeting someone as they are traveling and then striking them down from behind when they are too weak to fight back?  Whether these were a specific people or a specific behavior type is not nearly as important as the very early teaching here of what types of behavior is so abhorrent to the One, that committing these acts is to ask to have your very identity obliterated, a fate even worse than death itself. 

Tradition tells us that Haman was descended from Amalek. We get this from the detail in this week's Haftorah that Agag was the king of the Amalekites and Haman is listed in the Megillah of Esther as "Haman the son of Hammedatha the Agagite". But then Saul was supposed to destroy all of Amalek.... (read the Haftorah and see what happened.)

And this is one of the four special Shabbats before Pesakh -- it is here because the attack of Amalek happened just three parshayot back, at the end of B'shalakh.  And of course, Purim is next week.  Nothing is ever by accident, not even that Purim, like most of our holidays, falls on (or very close to) a full moon.

In most synagogues, two Torahs are brought out of the Ark and read from this Shabbat. 

6. Exercises

1. See the Thundering: Sit in a quiet place become as absolutely quiet as you can. Close your eyes and chase all of the rest of life out of your conscious thought. Focus on the quiet thundering sound of life in everything around you. See the thundering of life in the plants around you. Hear it breathe and feel that breath come into you. Hear your breath as it exits and know when it enters the plant. See the fire of the thunder of life all around you.

2. Fire and smoke: Consider a candle. Focus on the flame and see the fire as it connects and meets the Fire. Feel the fire within you and through you. See the smoke as it surrounds you and encompasses you. Expand the Fire within your heart and notice the gentleness of the fire. Expand the Fire within you Being and feel the Smoke as it permeates your very inner core. Accept the sense of Presence that surrounds and permeates you.

3. Anochi: Feel yourself connecting through the plumb line that connects us with the One and with the earth. Feel the Energy as it flows up and down through your innermost being. The flow strengthens and grows and fills and penetrates. It flows up to the Heavens and back through you and down to the earth and back. As it grows it permeates and enters the very fibers of your being as you become one with that flow. There is only One, only One.

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 

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