Well for the second time in two weeks we are literally reading about “blood and guts”. You expressed how most people today have trouble associating with what is stated in Leviticus but if you look at it as a parent speaking to a child and telling that child to do something that he or she may not want to do and then asking why he or she has to do it, the answer from the parent is easy: “Because I said so.”
What is being asked is “what is pleasing to G-d” and is not something that a mere mortal is supposed to understand. If the All Mighty wants to explain how to show loyalty, why are we trying to justify the acts being described? As I said to you last week, G-d was giving instructions to the people who thousands of years ago understood what a “sacrifice” was in those days and in my mind, G-d has allowed us to show “sacrifice” in different ways as time as evolved.
Speaking of last week’s parshah the comments from those that spoke were not something that I thought explained what was going on with our ancestors in the desert. The question as it related to how was it logistically possible to accommodate all of the people asking for their “sacrifices” to be performed has a premise that may not be correct. The person asking the question assumed that many people were asking for sacrifices to be acted on at the same time. This assumes that most people thought they were “sinning” and had to be absolved immediately. First of all, given what I know about human nature most people think they are acting properly most of the time even though many of us looking at someone else's action, do not. Take the events of this past January 6, 2021, as a prime example. The people that committed the insurrection thought they were “saving” our Country and some even thought they were doing “G-d’s work”. It should also be understood that not all of the ”sacrifices” were for committing a sin.
The second comment about those that “had more” were taken first has even less credibility when all of this was going on. In my opinion, appeasing a “rich” congregant by giving this person an alliyah in the hopes of getting a contribution for the synagogue would have no place in those days. First and foremost, Moses, was the “commander in chief” on the ground and any thought by any “wise person” that gave him counsel as to who should go first would probably have been removed from office. Second the words of equality espoused last week brought a dignity to all that participated in the “sacrifice ritual” they were called upon to do, which would have been lost if someone of “means” could go before someone that was less “equipped” financially. Third, is it really a “sacrifice” if one gives what is within his or her means. The Torah makes it a mitzvah to give charity so doing what is called upon to do anyway hardly qualifies as a “sacrifice”. Didn’t we learn from Vayakhel that money isn’t everything when in Exodus 36:6 we are told the following when the Israelites kept bringing supplies for the Tabernacle:
“So Moses commanded, and they announced in the camp, saying: "Let no man or woman do any more work for the offering for the Holy." So the people stopped bringing.”
I do have a question about the Fourth Alliyah where we read about the induction of the priests and the inauguration of the Tabernacle. In the presence of all the Israelites, Moses dressed Aaron and his sons in the priestly vestments and anointed them, along with the Tabernacle and its vessels, with the holy anointing oil. Specifically in Leviticus: chapter 8: 7, 8, and 13, Moses dresses Aaron and his sons as follows:
“7. And he placed the tunic upon him [Aaron], girded him with the sash, clothed him with the robe, placed the ephod upon him, girded him with the band of the ephod, and adorned him with it.
8. And he placed the choshen upon him, and he inserted into the choshen the Urim and the Tummim.
9. And he placed the cap on his [Aaron's] head, and he placed on the cap, towards his face, the golden showplate, the holy crown, as the Lord had commanded Moses.
13, And Moses brought Aaron's sons forward and clothed them with tunics, girded them with sashes, and bound them up with high hats, as the Lord had commanded Moses.”
During the High Holy Days I have been on the bema many times and have opened the doors to let the Cohanim in to bless the congregation. There is a ritual that takes place before they come out where the Levites go out and help “prepare” the Cohanim for their appearance. One of the things done is the removal of the Cohanims’ shoes before getting up on the bema. I have always been told that it is because they should not give their blessings with leather covering their feet. Nowhere in the above description about how Aaron and his male descendants were to be dressed for their functions as priests is there any description of how they were shod, if at all. The rest of what they were wearing was ornate to say the least. Does this have any significance to what I see when the Cohanim come up and bless the congregation?
Since the upcoming parshah is “Erev Pesach” I would hope that you will indulge me my reflections of the upcoming holiday. Growing up, I would see my mother going “overboard” in making sure that apartment I grew up in with was without any chumatz. This would strike me as rather odd given that on any day of the week you could literally eat off the floor given my mother’s devotion to cleaning. I was never what you would called a “good eater” but the thought of going without bread for eight days would drive me nuts. However, the “easy” part of the holiday was having the meals I needed to eat there in the home.
Time marches on and when I went into the working world, I would eat even less than I normally would during Pesach because other than the first two days, I usually went to work, which meant that I would have a “bagged lunch” that would suffice but always making me think that that there should be “more”. Covid impacted me in many ways, but since it started for the most part I have remained home, the “eating” part of the holiday brought me back to my youth and allowed me to at least think about more choices, albeit to me more limited, than what I had been eating when I left for work. In a sense the “sacrifice” I made for the holiday this past year was made less arduous to bear. Does this make it “less” of a sacrifice as it relates to Leviticus?
You make such a good point about how to look at Leviticus when you compare it to the parent-child relationship. "Because I said so" speaks to the theme of commandedness, which is incidentally a potential theme of this parsha in that its name Tzav means "command."
The issue of sacrifice undoubtedly has to be understood historically. G-d in His wisdom understood that sacrifice was how people in the ancient world practiced worship, so He called for the Jews to sacrifice, too. A problem exists here, though. The nations of the ancient world also practiced idolatry, yet G-d made no concession on that subject.
I appreciate you pointing to what may have been an incorrect premise guiding one of the questions asked aloud during our service this past Shabbat. You turn to a larger point, though, which speaks to me about good and evil. What is so astonishing about evil is how even evil tries to disguise itself as the good. Or to use your terms, they're not disguising evil at all; rather they genuinely think they are doing good, as the insurrectionists of January 6 did. The sacrifices, however, actually don't seem to touch upon the subject of good and evil.
I also wasn't swayed by the analogy of sacrifices to the practice in some synagogues of offering a donation for the sake of receiving an aliyah. As for the remainder of what you write concerning a person's means and how that affects the sacrifice they offer, I think you are depending too much on the term "sacrifice," which as I tried to point out in my dvar Torah actually is not a proper translation of the root word koof-reish-bet, which means to bring close.
The explanation that has been proffered as to why the Kohanim's shoes are removed doesn't seem correct. First of all, no one should be wearing leather shoes on Yom Kippur. Second of all, the Kohanim removes their shoes on all occasions, not just Yom Kippur, so the explanation for why they remove their shoes wouldn't be Yom Kippur specific. You are right that no mention is made in the Torah of how the Kohanim are shod, so the taking off of the shoes during our services must be a Rabbinic innovation.
I enjoy the anecdote about your mother, her general dedication to cleanliness, and her specific attention to cleaning for Passover. I suppose the way I would address your question is that we should try to shift our thinking about how best to keep the holiday of Passover away from sacrifice and toward joy or, if you prefer, service rather than sacrifice. One of the fault lines we need to be aware of in the religious mentality is that people equate sacrifice with what is the proper religious disposition. I contend the service and joy should be the categories by which we organize our religious experience. That doesn't mean you should eat chametz because it brings you joy. Joy in Judaism is almost always connected with some concept of restraint because of the yetzer ha'rah.
As to your response with regard to sacrifice, G-d was giving the
Israelites a way to show their respect to the All Mighty as they understood it
at the time. I don't see a "problem" to G-d's demand that our Lord be
the only one they worship. Given all G-d had done for them in the desert, G-d
As to the sacrifices themselves, maybe I am missing something but
weren't they being offered for a sin committed or what could be defined as
something they did that was "evil". There were also sacrifices given
for something that benefitted them or what can be termed
As to Passover, the Torah states on
more than one occasion that we are to refrain from eating things that are
leavened during the holiday as a reminder to our ancestor's turmoil during
their time in Egypt. As I stated to you in my opening remarks, I was not a good
eater and I really miss bread during the eight days I have to do without it.
You may label this joyous or a service but I think of it as a sacrifice.
If you want to incorporate "joy" into the conversation, I guess the
Seder nights and being with the family qualifies, but if you are doing it
"correctly" as I remember it, it took so long to get through the
"service" before eating the Seder meal, that that in itself was a
you saying that G-d “earned” making demands that strike us irrational? This is
a fundamental question. Do we follow G-d’s commands simply because G-d is the
All-Mighty, and He commanded it? Or should we expect G-d’s commands to make
sense to us?
the reading I have done on the sacrifices, offering them cannot help a person
if he has acted wickedly. They are for sins but sins have more to do with
unintentional mistakes regarding G-d’s law. Only repentance can truly bring a
person back from the depths of an evil act.
doubt waiting so long to eat qualifies as a sacrifice in my mind, too.
My response to why we follow G-d's
commands is "ours is not to reason why, ours is to do or die". G-d
did not actually have to "earn it", I was just responding to your
"problem" with G-d demanding that there be only one Supreme Being
that the Israelites were to follow.