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Friday, March 26, 2010

Yikes! It's Almost Shabbat And I Haven't Posted Since Last Week!

Okay, I won't go into my litany of lame excuses (like trying to make a living and get ready for Pessach) for why I haven't posted since the beginning of last week. All I know is that I have a bunch of things I want to talk about beginning with last week's parsha.

However, because of the lateness of the hour and because I will be removing from my oven the last challot  I will bake before Pessach any minute now, I will just prattle a bit, if you'll bear with me.

Sefer Vayikra, aka Leviticus, is also known by the Sages as Torat Cohanim or the Priestly Teaching. The most obvious reason for the appellation is that much of the book deals directly with laws that applied directly, and sometimes solely, with the cohanim, the priests. The opening chapters, for example, describe the various sacrifices that were brought in the Tabernacle. The commissioning of Aharon and his sons to the priesthood will be an important story which will also include much detail of that process. Laws about ritual purity will be dealt with as well as the service in the Tabernacle for Yom Kippur and other holidays.

I will just remind you all, in case you weren't paying attention, that all of the Children of Israel were/are supposed to be cohanim, priests:

שמות יט ה וְעַתָּה, אִם-שָׁמוֹעַ תִּשְׁמְעוּ בְּקֹלִי, וּשְׁמַרְתֶּם, אֶת-בְּרִיתִי--וִהְיִיתֶם לִי סְגֻלָּה מִכָּל-הָעַמִּים, כִּי-לִי כָּל-הָאָרֶץ.  ו וְאַתֶּם תִּהְיוּ-לִי מַמְלֶכֶת כֹּהֲנִים, וְגוֹי קָדוֹשׁ:  אֵלֶּה, הַדְּבָרִים, אֲשֶׁר תְּדַבֵּר, אֶל-בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל. 

Exodus 19 5 And now if you will surely listen to My voice and you will keep my covenant then you will be special for me from all the nations, for all the earth is mine 6 and you will be for me a kingdom of priests and  holy nation. These are the things you should speak to the children of Israel.

So what did that mean? We know from later on in Vayikra that only duly ordained priests or their progeny are even allowed into certain areas of the Tabernacle, much less allowed to actually perform much of the service there. Surely the children of Israel weren't all meant to really be priests!? 

Or maybe it is the other way: All of the children of Israel were/are really supposed to be priests. The question is, what exactly is a priest? If we define the term narrowly, it refers to Aharon and his sons and their offspring and those among them who were not otherwise disqualified to do service in the Tabernacle and later in the Temple. 

However, we spoke earlier  about how the building of the Tabernacle, okay, the mishcan (sorry, I find some of these English translations really annoying) was itself parallel to the creation of the universe. 

When God appoints the children of Israel to be a kingdom of priests He is saying that they should go out in the world to be His representatives. That is what makes them 'special.' Not that they have special privileges as much as they have special responsibilities. 

Aharon and his sons are appointed for work in the mishcan, in the microcosm of this universe. The service they do there was in some way supposed to reflect a universal reality and universal aspirations, those realities and aspirations that we, as the children of Israel are supposed to bring into the wider world. 

Have a shabbat shalom! My challah is finished!

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