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“Don’t worry, that voice telling you to act like a jerk will fade, if you let it…”

03/18/2019 09:41:10 PM


The Torah, AKA Part 1 of the Hebrew Bible (the other two are the “Prophets” and the “Writings”), contains the Five Books of Moses: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.  These books form a holy and sacred text that might better be described as a mélange, a pastiche, if you will, a smattering of stories, rules, guidelines, and genealogies.  As the mystical writers adjure us, “Do not call the Torah a book like any others, to do so would be an insult to books.  The Torah is black fire on white fire; an organic text whose letters are garments that imperfectly embody the infinite truths of creation.”  What does that mean?  It means that no matter how many times one has read a word, a passage or a chapter of the Torah, he/she can discover something new.  And it means that if one reads a word, a passage or a chapter of the Torah, and walks away with a message that supports any kind of defamation of another human being, he/she has not heard the teachings of Torah; he/she is hearing their own voice, not that of the essence of Torah.

Vayikra, Leviticus, opens this week to audiences throughout the world with a front row seat to what many consider a bit grotesque.  Blood, guts, and sinew abound in what amounts to an ancient BBQ cookbook.  For the animals in ancient Israelite tradition were not all burnt to charcoal as they are offered to God on high; no, they are grilled, fileted, shish-kabobbed and seared, and then served up to the High Priests and the community, all in the name of Adonai.  Vayikra, Leviticus is all about that bass – the basic understanding of how one draws nearer to God, to holiness, to meaning.  Vayikra teaches us about korbanot, sacrifices, the root meaning of which is “to draw near.”  We learn over the next bloody and at times, intense chapters of this middle book of the Torah, that meaning and purpose, wisdom and enlightenment come not from accumulation but sacrifice.  Now, we Jews are not ascetics (and never have been), but we do understand that humility, not self-aggrandizement is the path to inner and outer peace.  When we take up less room with our egos and our stuff, others find themselves making their way towards us with greater ease.  We are more easily “findable” when not lugging around our mishegas, and love flows through us and through others with far greater ease. 

I imagine that is why the letter Aleph in the word, Vayikra, the first word of the book,Vayikra is diminutive.  That Aleph is the essential element that makes you, you and me, me.  It is the God-given seed from which we grow, with which we find solace and connection, by which we find our way.  The Torah is so different than a regular book, for the plot is not entirely clear because the plot for each of us is about you or me.  So go forth, my friend, and step into your day, hold fast and hold tight to truth, and when it tells you that the way someone else prays, speaks, loves or dreams is an anathema to you, do this: Do nothing!  Take 2 aspirin.  Call me in the morning. I promise you that feeling will pass, but the results that will come if you listen to it, that will stay with you forever, like luggage.


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Thu, June 4 2020 12 Sivan 5780