- Posted by Elaine Zecher
- On March 19, 2021
- 0 Comments
Welcome to Shabbat Awakenings, a weekly reflection as we make our way toward Shabbat. You can listen to it as a podcast HERE.
This Shabbat, we make a shift. From Exodus to Leviticus, we move from the monumental story of leaving Egypt to the detailed instructions about the sacrificial system. Thousands of years later, we are still studying and examining these rules of sacrifice.
The use of the word sacrifice is an unfair translation. It means to give up. The Hebrew noun is korban, the Hebrew verb is lehakriv, both contain the root k.r.v, to draw near, to get close. The purpose of the sacrificial system offered the Israelites a tangible vehicle for drawing near to God with the hope of reciprocity.
I want to bring us back to the book of Leviticus through the five methods of drawing near offered in the beginning chapters and use these descriptions as a midrashic metaphor for how we might approach one another in a world forcing us to keep our distance.
The first is the Olah. It was to be burned completely. Nothing but the hide would remain. No part of it would be eaten by the priests or by the donors. Although it may have been done by individuals, it was primarily about a communal offering. There was no personal benefit. The focus away from the self to the greater good of the whole elevates everyone as the word olah-ascend provides. Whatever we do as individuals affects the whole.
The second offering described was the Minchah, the grain/vegetarian option. Minchah also means gift. Bringing a gift means having a certain attitude of appreciation of what anyone and everyone brings forward. Once again, we find gratitude of the other rather than ourselves.
The third is Zevach Sh’lamim, the offering of well being, a sacred offering shared between the donors and the priests. To break bread together, to sit side by side in conversation, and to share in a meal makes us feel whole. It will happen again at our own tables and throughout the synagogue. With great patience attached, we have to believe it will happen again.
The fourth offering is the Hatat, expiatory in purpose for intentional or unintentional transgressions. We are imperfect. Our time away from one another may have lessened tense moments of relational work. Our intentions don’t always match the impact of how someone reacts. It just means we must keep on trying to build and to strengthen relationships, however fragile, even from a distance.
The fifth offering is the Asham, reparation for trespassing of sacred things. Quarantine may have made us fearful of taking risks. Armed with physical distancing, masks, and handwashing, and soon, God willing, for all of us, a vaccine, we can cautiously, gingerly, and gently step over into those sacred encounters slowly, carefully, and thoughtfully to recapture the presence of others in our midst.
Vayikra el Moshe begins the book of Leviticus. The subject of the sentence is assumed to be God. God called to Moses. Perhaps, the future called to him as well with the mindful practice engendered by the sacrificial system.
It calls to us as well. Don’t give up. Don’t despair. Help us be strong, filled with the sacred, blessed by your yearning to be near.
- Join us at 6:00 p.m. for Qabbalat Shabbat. Following the service, we will share another virtual oneg. We can pray together HERE on the Temple Israel website, or HERE on Zoom, or even HERE on TI’s Facebook page. Or, just find it all on the website www.tisrael.org/TogetherWithTI.
- Tonight at 5:00 p.m. our littlest congregants join for Tot Rock Shabbat. Join us on Zoom here.
- Torah Study engages everyone. We start with a short Shabbat morning service at 9:00 a.m. with Torah reading and then launch into a provocative discussion. To join the conversation interactively, access Zoom HERE. You can also watch HERE on Temple Israel’s website or HERE on TI’s Facebook page.
- Thank Goodness It’s Shabbat takes place at 10:00 a.m. Join us on Zoom here.
- Join Cantor Stillman for a Seder Song Refresh at 7:00 p.m. followed by Havdalah with the Clergy at 8:00 p.m. HERE.