- Posted by Elaine Zecher
- On February 15, 2019
- 0 Comments
Welcome to Shabbat Awakenings, our weekly reflection as we move toward Shabbat.
What does God really want from us?
The Torah, then the Mishnah and joined by the Talmud seek to understand the desires of the Divine. In this week’s Torah portion, we learn how to ascertain what God wants. That is the good news. The bad news is that it had to do with specified sacred vestments reserved for the priests. Following the construction of the sanctuary, the attention turned to what the leaders of the sacred ritual would wear to demonstrate “dignity and adornment”. (Exodus 28:2) Even in ancient times, they had a sense of what Shakespeare would declare, “apparel oft proclaims the [person]”. (Hamlet) Yet, the judgment did not come from others, but from the role the priest would hold as the representative of the entire people.
The Torah provides great detail regarding their clothing. One garment, in particular, afforded them great power. They wore a vest called an ephod. On top of the ephod was a breast piece with a pouch. On the pouch were 12 stones with the names of the 12 tribes of Israel. It all went right over the priests’ heart when they would enter the holy of holies as a remembrance before the Eternal at all times. (Exodus 28: 29)
The pouch contained the Urim and Tummim, referred to as “instruments of decision.” The Talmud (Yoma 73b) translated them as light and complete. Whatever they provided, since we don’t really have record of how they were utilized, offered some kind of assurance.
The Torah clearly offers that these apparel accouterments assisted the priests to proffer the divine will in specific matters beyond human ability.
Bad news again: we don’t know how God responded. Later in the Book of Samuel, a troubled and forlorn King Saul would consult the Urim and Tummim, but no answer came forth.
Where did they end up ascertaining God’s will?
The answer lies in the location of the pouch, the engraved stones, and the mystery of the Urim and Tummim.
The placement of the pouch over the heart is the sacred reminder that the heart, the mind, and the soul are united in their ability to discern what we long to know.
The engraved stones with the names of the children of Israel connect the leader with the people. One cannot exist without the other.
The mysterious Urim and Tummim, instruments of light and completeness offer both possibilities when we turn to a Power and Force beyond ourselves.
The good news is that we are all part of a kingdom, a community of priests. (Exodus 19:6) We may not don these holy vestments but they are attached to us. In our lives, we continue to seek what God wants from us, but the answer comes in the voice of our own actions and perhaps to the response of the call of the prophet, Micah (6:8):
To do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.
Please join together for Qabbalat Shabbat tonight at 6:00 p.m. We have an interactive D’var Torah. We will also devote time to remember those murdered at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Live stream HERE.
Torah Study begins at 9:00 a.m. tomorrow with a short service and then a rousing text study. TGIS-Thank Goodness It’s Shabbat for the little ones gathers at 10:00 a.m. for stories and song.
Connect with me HERE. I am grateful to be in conversation with you.