Pesakh Oy! Almost here. And I was going to get this out early.... Well, I did send out a Pesakh guide for those just starting or wanting to start doing something for Pesakh. It was not aimed at the person who knows what to do and observes the elimination of Khameytz fully. It was aimed at the person who is not ready and/or able to do everything called for in very stringent circles. I know it is now too late for this year, but if you have an interest in this guide, just let me know and I will forward it out immediately.
It was wonderful to hear that at least four of the people who did get the original mailing are going to do something significant to follow Torah's injunction on khameytz and move their Pesakh to a higher spiritual level. It is wonderful to be of assistance to people in their quests.
I have been given permission by Susan Saxe to include her computer prayer in our Chavura's Siddur, and it feels appropriate to include it here for those who have not seen it before:
Source of Blessing,
As I sit at my computer
make me conscious of the power of the technology at my fingertips
to amplify my thought and speech.
Help me to be vigilant in guarding all my communications.
Help me to ask before I hit the "send" key,
"Is this for a blessing?"
And that which is not,
may my left hand highlight and my right hand delete.
I found this b'rakha particularly powerful and very appropriate for us. Never before have we had the power to wound or to heal so many in a few keystrokes. And is there anyone reading this that can truly say that he or she has never hit the send button on a 'hot' message with a zinger or two in it?
I have taken Susan's b'rakha and printed it in large letters (so I don't need my glasses) and put it on the wall near my computer (I intend to frame a copy). Perhaps it hit me particularly this week because of work that I am doing to help myself be less judgmental when I speak. You see, I answered someone's question recently with a comment that, while perhaps 'correct', was not as kind as it could have been. Part of our liturgy after the amidah says:"V'nafshi ke'afar lakol tih'yeh" -- may my Soul be as gentle as dust to all (that I may indeed be a life giver).
Three things come to mind in this regard -- one is a teaching of Reb Zalman that we must locate the place in someone's heart and find the same place in our own to make the kesher, the connection, to move forward. The second is a teaching of my father, Reb Sholom (a'h), that when we lift up others, we cannot help but lift ourselves with them and when we push down, we cannot help but crush part of ourselves. The third thing is to say thank you to the teacher, Reb Daniel, who helped me learn to think one more time before I answer a question too quickly.
Returning to Susan's B'rakha, it also brings out that we can, indeed, do Her work in our day-to-day things. We can lift up the daily mundane tasks and make them more holy simply by being more fully present, even at the mighty computer. And our left hand and our right hand can work together to do simply what can and should be done. Toda Susan!
1. Parsha details: Lev 6:1-8:36 ( tri 8:1-8:36 ) [ Haftorah Malakhi 3:4-24 ]
2. Questions and a few observations
Summary: Sacrifices. More aspects with several tones. And who gets what part for the work of sacrificing -- and that IS (or, more accurately, WAS) hard work. Who get the shoulder, the breast, the skin. Who eats which of the meal (bread) offerings, what is boiled, and how long do they have to eat it. And then we have a serious dedication/consecration ceremony for Aharon and his sons. The finale of the Parsha and this ceremony is a seven day long period (seven days and seven nights) in the Tent of Meeting -- that's a long time to meditate and look inside oneself and "keep the charge of the Lord". "So Aaron and his sons did all things which the Lord commanded"
This is not the longest Parsha, by far. So, there is a reason for having such a short quantity of text -- perhaps because there a re some significant ideas/concepts hear. The Parsha ends on Aharon and his sons performing a week of Soul work and meditation and consecration in the Tent of Meeting. Perhaps the Rabbis wanted us to experience part of that week? Or is there something more here?
Let's look at the role of the priest in the ritual of those days. We do not practice these rituals now, so we are not steeped in their subtleties. And there are many. "and as for the flesh, all who are pure shall eat the flesh. But the soul who eats of the flesh of the sacrifice of peace offerings, that was given to YHVH, and his impurity is upon him, that soul will be cut off from his people."
Wow -- cut off, kheret. That was probably worse than death, especially in the dessert. Impure was bad enough, because there were parts of the daily routine and activities in which you could not participate, but this was usually a temporary state. Cut off was much more severe -- and connectivity to the community as they wandered in the wilderness was probably critical to survival.
As we continue through this sefer, we will get glimpses into what kinds of things made one impure. Some of them were physical dangers as they dealt with communicable infections, some of them were attitudinal, as in times when a bad mood would be contagious, and still others were moral/spiritual infections that also needed to be quarantined lest they became infectious.
So what was to purpose of the sacrifices and the meals eaten of them? Weren't they part of 'curing' these impurities? No. They were part of a re-affirming of the covenant with the Divine. Looking back to the Yacov-Lavan story -- they make sacrifices and eat together as the final part of their 'contract' to not go near each other again. Sharing meals was a big part of the agreement process. It is not a far stretch to imagine that 'body English' (body Hebrew?) was a key ingredient that demonstrated one's sincerely and even future intentions. (Hey, Moish, did you see how he held that bone? Bet this deal won't last a week....)
Repentance, becoming 'pure', ritual cleansing, restitution and all similar activities had to be done FIRST -- then and only then could one bring a sacrifice -- after all, you ate from you sacrifice. And if you didn't do the pre-Work, you risked kheret, being cut off.
The traditional Haftorah for this Parsha is a section of Jeremiah that charges the people with looking at the essence behind the sacrifices, at what YHVH really charged the children of Israel with, namely listening to the Voice, so that YHVH is indeed their God and that they "walk the path commanded" so that they may prosper. Even the special Haftorah we read because of the imminence of Pesakh echoes the same theme. It is, in fact, a popular theme among the prophets.
The ritual is never as important as the Soul Work that MUST proceed it and/or be facilitated through it. As a people, we seem to lose sight of that much too often. A stiff neck may well mean we stiffen ourselves in empty habits and thereby forget what our relationship to the Divine is REALLY all about.
Perhaps that is why we read, even today, all of this intricate detail about the sacrifices and how they were to be done. It is only inside, in our Souls, that we can understand what is being said and meant by all this. Just like Aharon and his sons, we need to ponder this, internalize it and bring our Souls to full understanding. Perhaps that is why they needed a week of consecration. Perhaps that is why the Parsha ends where it does?
3. Some Observations
Eight sections, seven paragraph breaks and only one minor pauses. Three start with "V'zot Torat...", This is the Torah of... and five start with "V'dabeyr YHVH el Moshe lay'mor", "And YHVH spoke to Moshe, saying". We have a pretty good feel for the formula of YHVH speaking to Moshe. But what is a Torah? And why would the Torah say inside it multiple times "this is the Torah of...".
Well, the dictionary translates Torah as "Torah, instruction, teaching, theory, doctrine". Another translation today might be "users manual". In Israel today, people are writing Torahs and calling them that. Guess you could call it the User's Manual of the Soul (Sounds like a book title to me).
This Parsha is indeed a collection of Torahs -- about different types and aspects of sacrifices and it tells the details of Aharon and his sons preparing to execute the office of priest -- but didn't he always do that? Certainly he was the one who did those kind of things at least since we left Mitzrayim. So what's changed? Well, the Mishkan. Things are becoming more structured, more formalized.
The anointing/investing ceremony is very public. Moshe conducts it. And he also takes the right shoulder for his portion. Why would Torah specify the right shoulder? And why are the right ear, right thumb and right big toe on Aharon and his sons specified. Is it because they were right handed? Probably not. The right was always a choice side -- it is in the animal being sacrificed. The right hand is the hand placed on the "choice" son (the bakhur). Sometimes we hear about the Right hand of YHVH doing something (usually saving us). It is reasonable to assume that they treated the right hand/left hand in a similar way to how some Bedouin people treat them -- the right hand is for eating, handling things, the left hand is used for unclean or messy things (like wiping). In the days before modern plumbing, such considerations may well have been more important. It also explains why cleansing became so very important.
It was also important to the Israelite to know that the priest was doing it right. For that to happen, the Israelite had to be taught what should happen when. The procedures would have to be part of the public record -- and so they were. After all, their neighbors were watching to see if the sacrifice was accepted -- and if that was your sacrifice, you'd want to be sure the priest did everything just the way he was supposed to.
No wonder they meditated and studied for a full week before taking on the increased responsibilities that came with the Mishkan. And no wonder they spent that week with the furniture and tools in the Tent of Meeting.
4. Persevering Harmony
This week's Parsha is about Persevering Harmony. Harmony, beauty, flow. Perhaps this about making the sacrifices beautiful?
Or perhaps it is about the Soul Work that precedes the sacrifice? The inner harmony and beauty that comes from owning up to one's shortcomings and repenting, purifying, making peace with ourselves and our brethren and the Divine. Recognizing that all things do come from the One and giving thanks for our portions and all that She grants us.
Or perhaps it is about working together as community, each doing their part. Never has a community been able to function with just one or two people doing everything. And certainly that was the case as they spent those years in the desert. And it is still true today. Harmony in today's world needs some deep work. Maybe we can find some energy to contribute to bringing the harmony our world desperately needs into being -- and maybe we can work together to help each other and the world.
5. Just a little on Pesakh
Pesakh -- a time of emerging from Mitzrayim, the tight place, the narrow place; a time of freedom and rebirthing and connectivity -- with the past, with the future, with each other. And Pesakh is about doing things differently so that questions are indeed asked, so that we may all learn from each other. We can learn from everyone and, in fact, we are obligated to do just that. We are to tell the story of our own journeys and find those places in each others hearts where connectivity can be established and grow.
May we all emerge from our own unique Mitzrayim with renewed vitality and become part of the connectivity both with the One and with each other. May our new found freedom engage us fully. And may our Matza be tasty! And may the Land emerge from today's tightness with freedom, connectivity and harmony among and between all its peoples.
1. Sacrifices: What would it feel like to watch the Priest performing this ritual for you. What's important? What does it feel like to be the Priest making an offering for the Israelite standing before you. What's important? What will the sacrifice taste like? What's the difference between a sin offering, a burnt offering, a peace offering, a thanksgiving offering? How can you keep the different details straight?
2. Consecration: What was it like to spend seven days and seven nights in the Tent of Meeting? What sounds did they hear? What smells did they smell? Where did they sit? What did they do for seven days and seven nights? How did their new garments feel on their bodies? What did the sacrifice taste like? What was changing? What did the anointing oil smell and feel like?
3. Tahor "pure": What does it mean to be pure? How do you know when you are pure? How do you know when you are cut off and when you are connected. How can you re-connect? Can you help someone else re-connect?
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