Random Musing Before Shabbat–B’har-B’khukotai 5777–Keri Is So Very… (Revisted 5763)

[Author’s Note – 5775 – only folks above a certain age will get the title of this musing. In the mid 1980s, Westwood Phamaceuticals introduced a new dry skin lotion, with the name “Keri” and marketed it with the slogan “Keri is so very…” You can see one of their commercials at https://youtu.be/uFlOh1MiuPM]

In parashat Bechukotai, G”d tells us what will happen if we follow the commandments, and what will happen if we don’t. In the end, there is a built in forgiveness for our sins – Gd telling us that the covenant will not be abrogated, at least on G”d’s part. But the forgiveness only comes after all the suffering we have endured because of our failure to keep the holy commandments.

There is another model of faith that grew from ours that posits a forgiveness for all things through the act of the sacrifice of a certain itinerant rabbi from the Galil. It’s sometimes popular, in Jewish circles, to pose the difference thusly: Forgive me before I sin, and what is there to restrain me from sinning? Forgive me after I have suffered the consequences of my choices, and I have to think a little harder about sinning in the first place. It’s an unfair comparison, and somewhat disingenuous. Yes, our religions differ in how forgiveness is approached. Yet they are not so different. Parashat Bechukotai makes it clear that, in the end, G”d will forgive, and not destroy us completely. (26:44) Yes, there are consequences to our sinning, to not following the mitzvot. That’s made abundantly clear (26:14-43.) Our daughter religion is no less devoid of consequences.

Yet there is still something that rings true for me about the Torah’s approach.

Leviticus 26:39 “The few of you who survive in your enemies’ lands will [realize that] your survival is threatened as a result of your non-observance. [These few] will also [realize] that their survival has been threatened because of the non-observance of their fathers.”

I think of it as a gift. Not the easiest way to learn, perhaps, but effective. The gift to be able to learn from the consequences of our choices and actions. Or from inactions.

Which brings me to an interesting aspect of parashat Bechukotai. What is it that brings on this long list of consequences? Is it flouting G”d’s commandments? Ignoring them? Accidentally violating them?

Within chapter 26 are contained the only seven occurrences of one word, “keri.” קרי  Scholars and commentators are divided on the exact meaning of the term. (Even Rashi provides more than one acceptable understanding.)

Most commonly, it is translated as “hostile.” Perhaps meaning to refuse, or to withhold. It implies a conscious and deliberate position in opposition to the other. (And it is important to note that of the seven times “keri’ is found, four times it refers to how the people were treating G”d and G”d’s mitzvot–Lev 26:21,23,27,40, and three times it refers to how G”d is treating the people–Lev 26:24,28,41.)

That last makes it difficult for me to accept “hostile” as a translation. It’s difficult for me to imagine G”d being hostile to G”d’s own creations, to G”d’s covenanted people. Upset, yes. Angry, yes. Using “tough love” yes. But hostile? (Well, there is Nadav and Avihu–that seems pretty hostile. S’dom and Gomorrah, too. The flood. None of these are conclusive, however. Though I’m often not prone to do so I’ll give G”d a break.)

To the rescue comes another acceptable understanding of what the word “keri” means. In this context it can mean “an event,” “something that happens,” “an occurrence,” a “happenstance.” It implies action that may not be deliberate. I might even take the liberty of stretching the definition a bit to mean “indifference.” Or maybe even “casually.”

This can be either thought of as liberating or restraining. It liberates because it acknowledges that not all our transgressions are deliberate, and that G”d recognizes this. So it provides a little lubrication between us and G”d. It restrains, because we realize that, whether by intent or happenstance, violating the mitzvot will bring the same consequences. And that is precisely the kind of tension that one finds throughout the Torah, and the kind of tension that will always exist between G”d and the people Israel.

If we treat G”d and G”d’s mitzvot casually, then G”d will treat us casually as well, allowing the misfortunes of happenstance to happen to us, rather than protecting us from them ( I recognize that those who adhere to particular theological viewpoints might have trouble c wrapping their heads around that concept.) I somehow think this is more likely to occur than simply treating G”d with hostility (and vice versa.)

Whatever “keri” truly is, it exists only as part of a relationship. It is a thing that both G”d and those that G”d made b’tzelmo–in G”d’s own image, are capable of showing towards each other in relationship. While I don’t particularly care for the idea of G”d acting with hostility, I can certainly imagine humans treating G”d with hostility. (Some might suggest this lends credence to the idea that rather than our being b’tzelem Elokim, that G”d is b’tzelem anashim–G”d made in the image of people. My personal answer to that question is my understanding that for us to be b’tzelem Elokim means that all those things we are capable of–the good and the bad–G”d is also capable–not because we fashioned and formed G”d (which may or may not be the case) from our own ideas, but rather the opposite. But I digress.) That acting b’keri is not clearly one thing or another allows a relationship between G”d and Israel that has some flexibility. And G”d knows we certainly need that.

Adding to these thoughts from years ago, as I sit here in 5775 (2017) I can’t help but think about all the hostility floating around. These times are challenging to our abilities to avoid treating each other with hostility. 

I hope that we neither treat each other nor G”d with “keri.” That way, we can each keep the covenant we have between us.

Shabbat Shalom,

Adrian

©2017 (portions  ©2000 and 2003 by Adrian A. Durlester)

Other musings on this Parasha:
B’har B’khukotai 5773 – In Smite Of It All
B’har-B’khukotai 5772 – Scared of Leaves (Redux & Revised 5769)
B’har-B’khukotai 5770 – Bad Parenting 301
Behar-Bekhukotai 5769- Scared of Leaves?
Behar-Bekhukotai 5767-A Partridge in a Tree of Life
Behar-Bekhukotai 5766-Only An Instant
Behar-Bekhukotai 5764 – The Price of Walls
Behar-Bekhukotai 5762 – Tough Love
Behar-Bekhukotai 5761-The Big Book (Bottoming Out Gd’s Way)

B’har 5774 – Avadim hayinu v’ata Avadim Heim
Behar 5765-Ki Gerim v’Toshavim Atem Imadi
Behar 5763-Ownership
Behar 5760-Slaves to Gd

B’khukotai 5774 – Taking the Hard Way Yet Again
Bekhukotai 5771 – The Long Road Ahead
Bekhukotai 5765-I’ll Take the Hard Way
Bechukotai 5763-Keri Is So Very…
Bekhukotai 5760-Repugnant Realities

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Random Musing Before Shabbat – Emor 5777 – Mum’s the Word (Revised and Revisited from 5760 and 5766(

יְדַבֵּ֥ר יְהוָ֖ה אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֥ה לֵּאמֹֽר׃ דַּבֵּ֥ר אֶֽל־אַהֲרֹ֖ן לֵאמֹ֑ר אִ֣ישׁ מִֽזַּרְעֲךָ֞ לְדֹרֹתָ֗ם אֲשֶׁ֨ר יִהְיֶ֥ה בוֹ֙ מ֔וּם לֹ֣א יִקְרַ֔ב לְהַקְרִ֖יב לֶ֥חֶם אֱלֹהָֽיו׃ כִּ֥י כָל־אִ֛ישׁ אֲשֶׁר־בּ֥וֹ מ֖וּם לֹ֣א יִקְרָ֑ב אִ֤ישׁ עִוֵּר֙ א֣וֹ פִסֵּ֔חַ א֥וֹ חָרֻ֖ם א֥וֹ שָׂרֽוּעַ׃ א֣וֹ אִ֔ישׁ אֲשֶׁר־יִהְיֶ֥ה ב֖וֹ שֶׁ֣בֶר רָ֑גֶל א֖וֹ שֶׁ֥בֶר יָֽד׃ אֽוֹ־גִבֵּ֣ן אוֹ־דַ֔ק א֖וֹ תְּבַלֻּ֣ל בְּעֵינ֑וֹ א֤וֹ גָרָב֙ א֣וֹ יַלֶּ֔פֶת א֖וֹ מְר֥וֹחַ אָֽשֶׁךְ׃ כָּל־אִ֞ישׁ אֲשֶׁר־בּ֣וֹ מ֗וּם מִזֶּ֙רַע֙ אַהֲרֹ֣ן הַכֹּהֵ֔ן לֹ֣א יִגַּ֔שׁ לְהַקְרִ֖יב אֶת־אִשֵּׁ֣י יְהוָ֑ה מ֣וּם בּ֔וֹ אֵ֚ת לֶ֣חֶם אֱלֹהָ֔יו לֹ֥א יִגַּ֖שׁ לְהַקְרִֽיב׃ לֶ֣חֶם אֱלֹהָ֔יו מִקָּדְשֵׁ֖י הַקֳּדָשִׁ֑ים וּמִן־הַקֳּדָשִׁ֖ים יֹאכֵֽל׃ אַ֣ךְ אֶל־הַפָּרֹ֜כֶת לֹ֣א יָבֹ֗א וְאֶל־הַמִּזְבֵּ֛חַ לֹ֥א יִגַּ֖שׁ כִּֽי־מ֣וּם בּ֑וֹ וְלֹ֤א יְחַלֵּל֙ אֶת־מִקְדָּשַׁ֔י כִּ֛י אֲנִ֥י יְהוָ֖ה מְקַדְּשָֽׁם׃

The LORD spoke further to Moses: Speak to Aaron and say: No man of your offspring throughout the ages who has a defect shall be qualified to offer the food of hisG”d.

No one at all who has a defect shall be qualified: no man who is blind, or lame, or has a limb too short or too long; no man who has a broken leg or a broken arm; or who is a hunchback, or a dwarf, or who has a growth in his eye, or who has a boil-scar, or scurvy, or crushed testes. No man among the offspring of Aaron the priest who has a defect shall be qualified to offer the LORD’s offering by fire; having a defect, he shall not be qualified to offer the food of his G”d. He may eat of the food of his G”d, of the most holy as well as of the holy; but he shall not enter behind the curtain or come near the altar, for he has a defect. He shall not profane these places sacred to Me, for I the LORD have sanctified them. (Lev. 21:16-23)

מ֔וּם Mum. That’s the word. That’s Mem, Shuruk, Mem Sofit – M- “oo” – m.
It means blemish or defect. It is used in this parasha and some later ones to refer to blemished animals which were unfit to be sacrificed. But here in this parasha, it is also used in a closely connected series of verses (17, 18, 21, 23) to refer to a physical blemish or defect of a human being, i.e. blindness, lameness, broken or odd length arms or legs, hunchbacks, people with growths in their eyes, people with boil scars, or scurvy, or crushed testicles. Any kohanim, any priest who has such a defect may not make the food offering, or go behind the curtain that separates the altar from the rest of the sanctuary.
If you’ve followed the text, you’ll notice I left one defect out. In Hebrew, the word is “dak.” The meaning of this word is uncertain, though it seems to mean thin, shrunk or withered-in reference to a human being. While the Sifra to Leviticus believes it is connected to a defect of the eye as referred to in the following words of the pasuk, the JPS translation is “dwarf.”


(5760, Edited 5777) Those of you who have met me know that I am only 4′-9″ tall. Although technically I am what is called idiopathic short stature or “normal short” I am on the extreme end of that range. I don’t have the determining characteristics to be considered a dwarf or midget. As a child, I was routinely examined, my bone-age tracked. The possibility of participating in a early trial of growth hormone treatment was raised, but not pursued. (Turns out that the efficacy of such treatments is questionable and they had other side effects.)


(5777) I was never particularly interested in being “treated” for my height, or wanting science to make me taller. I know some who went through treatments and have suffered as a result, and not gained much height either. The efficacy of a such treatments was always doubtful. Not to mention the ethics. Why should short stature with no underlying medical cause be considered a condition for which there are treatments like growth hormone therapy or leg-lengthening surgeries? Doesn’t the existence of such things suggest that our society does discriminate based on height? why should it even matter


Nevertheless, my small size does have its problems, believe me. Physical limitations. 


(5777 – Why, just today, subbing as a teacher in a social studies class at a middle school, I had to ask a taller student to help me change the date on the board, and ask another student to help me clip up a homework assignment for a student who was absent to a designated spot above my reach. I have never, in my entire life, experienced a single trip to the grocery store when I did not have to step up onto something to reach an item (or ask a passerby for help.) Bathrooms mirrors are often too high, and, pardon me for being earthy, but men’s restrooms without child-height facilities are no fun. Those can grippers designed for elderly folks see everyday usage in my home – as much for retrieving items from the bottom of the washer as for cans in the cupboard. Don’t even get me started on cars, airbags, and all that. There isn’t a car made (unless it’s a van, pickup, or a truck) in which I can see fully over the hood, even with seat cushions. Pulling in and out of a parking space so I can be straightly aligned is constant. (Having a rear camera on my car helps me do it quicker, but I still have to consult the camera to see how skewed I might be to the lines and adjust. The camera just means I can do it faster, and without having to fully back out of the space. Sure, this is routine for me, and maybe I don’t think about it all that much, but there are still moments when I with I didn’t have to deal with it.)


(5760) Even subtle discrimination-intentional and unintentional. Imagine, for a moment, what it feels like to always having to be looking upwards to talk to people, how it feels to always be surrounded by people taller than you. It’s a problem that can be dealt with-but it IS a problem.


(5777 – Though I am certain that there have been occasions in my life when I was treated differently or even discriminated against due to my height, overall, I have had a positive experience in how people react to my height. Working as I have been doing these past months as a substitute teacher working all the way from Kindergarten to 12th grade, plus all my previous years experiences in classrooms, I’ve encountered very few students who gave my height more than a moment’s initial notice. Sure, I’m certain that students, even colleagues and other adults, when describing me to others, mention my height. Being memorable isn’t always a bad thing.)


(5760) Comfortable as I am with my stature, it troubles me to think that, were I a kohen, and, G”d willing, the Beit HaMikdash were rebuilt, I would probably be considered “mum” because I am “dak.” In fact, it troubles me greatly that that our Torah labels human beings as defective at all. Why, if we are all b’tzelem Elokim, would G”d refuse the offering of any human, and especially any kohen?
In recent parashiyot, those hotly debated passages regarding homosexuality have still raised the usual stirred and emotional discussions. I’m not going to discuss those issues, but it does seem to me than an awful lot of discussion takes place about those passages, yet others who are discriminated against, or labeled “defective” by the Torah seem to get overlooked. (Ha-ha, I made a funny. The little short guy made a joke about getting “overlooked.”)


Well, it’s not funny. One who is gay or lesbian often cannot be identified without their own open self-identification of their sexual preference. But one with a “defect,” whether it is a disease or condition or accident that put them in a wheel chair, or caused them to lose a limb, or a genetic factor that caused their body to be dwarfish or disfigured, or have a harelip, or develop rosacea or psoriasis, or even one like myself, who is simply extremely short–our “defects” are out in the open. No avoiding them. There is no “don’t ask, don’t tell” for us. We are discriminated against. And we even discriminate against each other.

(5766-It’s sort of sad to sometimes see various special interest groups seek to gain for their own at the expense of others. There is, sadly, only so much to go around, and when one group gets more, someone else usually winds up getting less.)


(5766-I even wonder if we view people who look different from us as having defects? Surely the Nazis saw it that way. And how does this play into our concerns and attitudes about Latino immigrants, refugees in Darfur, etc.)
Now, please don’t misunderstand. It’s not a matter of “my defect’s worse than yours…” I am not suggesting that gays and lesbians have it easy – for they certainly do not in our society, which discriminates against them, openly and secretly.


(5777 – I guess I’m writing this for future readers next time I revise this musing, but all I can say is: Donald Trump is currently President of the United States. That kinda says it all. We’re headed in full-speed reverse on many of the positive changes in our society over the last 50 years.)


(5760) But in our rush to be inclusive, who are we leaving out? When I was in second grade, everyone in the class got a chance to put the American flag into it’s holder. When my turn came, the teacher passed me by. So I marched right up to her, took the flag from her hands, pulled her chair out from behind her desk, moved it over to the blackboard, climbed up on it, and put the flag in its holder. I don’t recall what, if any, repercussions there were from this incident, but I do vividly remember what I did, and how angry I was at being skipped over because of my “defect.”


While I don’t like to think of my height as a defect, it does present real problems. I can be the victim of discrimination, openly or secretly. As I have alluded to earlier, there are some things I can’t do, some tasks that require special effort, or tools or aids. The same is true, and more so, for those who have far more challenging and difficult issues to deal with than I do. (I will not say that I count my blessings every day that I don’t have some other “defect” to deal with. That’s an attitude that prima facie causes us to discriminate against others who are “less fortunate.” What a negative way to think of the other. Not very Buberian at all. Other people, whatever their challenges, their distinguishing or limiting characteristics, are human beings, deserved to be treated as other “Thous.”)


(5766-I’ll be honest. There are times I have the most shameful thoughts-wishing that I had a “defined handicap” so that I was entitled to the protections and assistance afforded to others through legislation like the American with Disabilities Act. Those are shameful thoughts, and I always feel guilty for even thinking them, knowing that my challenges are minor inconveniences by comparison. Yet I wouldn’t be human if there weren’t times when, after having to climb up on shelves at the grocery, or waiting forever at a counter because I wasn’t noticed, and so on, that I was frustrated enough to wish there were laws to help me out. I’ve little doubt that waiting around in the elevator as an elementary-school-age child for someone tall enough to push the button for the tenth floor where my family lived impacted the formation of my psyche! Still, I am glad I have my Judaism to remind me to not kvetch, and be grateful for all that I have, but not grateful enough to the point where I demean the worth of those with challenges greater than my own.)


(5777 – I just re-read those words and I’m thinking to myself in what universe are Jews not kvetching? A part of me wanted to say that Judaism has done little to remind us not to kvetch, but I’d be being dishonest if I said that. We may have a history of kvetching, but like all things in our tradition, our texts balance our kvetching with lessons that teach us to not be so whiny. (Sometimes, the lessons are obvious (for example, Korach) sometimes less so (for example. Joseph. Oh sure, he had many faults, but he sure knew how to turn something bad into something good – and he didn’t do that by whining and kvetching.) It’s our own fault that we’re too stiff-necked even after all these millennia to know that other than offering some catharsis, regular kvetching doesn’t really help us.)


(5760) I think that all of us want but these simple things: to be treated fairly, not be discriminated against, and to have a place in society where our challenges are not challenges at all.


You know, it troubles me a bit perhaps, that there are synagogues that actively work to be a place where gays and lesbians are not discriminated against, yet, at the same time, there are many more synagogues with only the most minimal handicap accessibility (usually, the bare minimum the code requires, our congregational boards often being good stewards of money, but poor stewards of G”d’s mitzvot.) It’s not a matter of doing one or the other. It’s a matter of doing it all. Inclusivity cannot be selectively inclusive.


(5766-I never mentioned this before, but, back in the days when I was working for North Dakota State University, although it took a few years to actually make it happen, they were quite accommodating when I asked if I could replace the furniture in my office with furniture that was better adapted for my height. And it made a difference when it was finally installed. I will always be proud to have worked for an employer that cared enough about that to address the ergonomics for me.)


(5777 – Things are getting better. Synagogues and Jewish institutions are becoming more aware of the need to be inclusive of those with physical and other challenges. Nevertheless, there’s still a long way to go. (Dare I suggest that synagogues stop treating intermarriage like a handicap they can’t accommodate?))


(5760) I am saddened that it appears G”d instructed us to exclude the defective from certain priestly services. I hope that there is a better or alternate understanding of the plain meaning of the text here, and I pray that it can be found.


(5766-I’m still looking. Haven’t found it yet. Given my penchant for the task of “redeeming seemingly irredeemable” pieces of our sacred texts, I’m surprised I haven’t devoted more effort to that! Oh, one can easily create an apologetic. Judaism is good at that. “Women aren’t second class. They’re already closer to G”d so they don’t need to do all those mitzvot!” Even my two favorite crispy critters, Nadav and Avihu-there’s an apologetic way of looking at their getting zotzed by G”d that basically says that through their deaths they were brought closer to G”d-perhaps G”d was rewarding and not punishing them. That’s one I just don’t buy, no matter how many times sages, scholars and others try to sell it to me. So let’s see-an apologetic for why the “mum” among us couldn’t perform certain priestly functions. Perhaps, as in the apologetic for women, the defect made the person more perfect, and thus the other priests needed to perform these special functions. Nah. Doesn’t work. At least not for me. Of course, it could be read as a lesson for all of us, and especially those of us who have a “defect.” The lesson? That our “defects” really do impose limitations, and we might not be able to do everything that we really would like to do in spite of (or perhaps in spite for) our defects. Nah, that one fails for me as well, even though I sense a grain of truth in it. There is a great apocryphal story in the theater world of a blind college student who insisted that he be allowed to take a course in theatrical lighting design, and that accommodations be made so that he could design lighting for a show. Sounds crazy, on the one hand. A bit over the top. On the other hand, it’s not impossible. And I’ve known a few people who were blind with the most incredible ability to “vision” who could probably come up with a far more artistic lighting design for a show than any sighted lighting designer could.)


(5766-The same apocryphal story is also told in a “deaf student wanting to become an audio designer” version. If you really think about it, it might not seem such a far-fetched idea. After all, with lots of stepstools, gripping tools, ladders, I can pretty much overcome my height deficit. Then again, I can’t ever overcome what I physically look like to other people. Sometimes, that’s the worst part. In my early days of managing theaters, I had a regular patron in a wheelchair who came to shows. They once gave me a lecture that really changed my attitude. “You can’t really know how I feel” she told me. “And I can also tell you that I have mixed feelings. I hate it when it’s obvious I’m in a wheelchair and people rush up to be helpful.” “On the other hand,” she said, “sometimes I really do need and want the help.” 
I took her words to heart. I began requiring my ushers and other staff to spend some time in a wheelchair as part of their training, to see what it was like trying to get around, to see how they reacted when people noticed them and were helpful. I had them see what it was like to be blind and come to our venue. I made them try and understand and listen to a show through a hearing-assist device. We worked in every way to make everyone feel equally welcome and comfortable. We tried to assist those who needed assistance without making them feel helpless. It was all worth it.


(5777) Now that I’ve built this all up, I need to tear some of it apart. The scholars and various ancient translations disagree on some of the terminology and their meanings.  It seems that “dak” the word translated as “dwarf” could possibly mean “no hair on the eyebrows” (i.e. eyebrowless.) In fact, various scholars and sources offer differing understanding of the various “defects” that would preclude someone from participating in the food rituals of the sacrificial services to G”d. (It appears such people can perform other priestly functions, but not participate in the rituals that involve G”d’s bread – extended by understanding to mean G”d’s food. such a priest can eat the food, but is not permitted near the altar to offer or sacrifice the food.)


(5777 We also need to think about the other “defects” besides dwarfism that disqualify a priest from these rituals: blindness, being lame, having one limb larger than normal or smaller than normal, a broken leg, a broken arm, a growth in their eye (cataract?), has a hunchback, scurvy, or crushed testicles. Why these particular “defects?” What is it about them that renders a priest unfit to deal with G”d’s food?


(5777 and here we are all these years later and I still am unable to redeem these few troubling verses. I refuse to simply chalk it off to our ancestors having more primitive views about such things. That’s just lazy, and a bit of a whitewash. That ANY human being who made the march from Egypt and accepted the commandments at Sinai should be discriminated against in this was is atrocious. All the more so for those upon whom G”d has bestowed a hereditary priesthood. G”d’s got some ‘splaining to do as far as I’m concerned because this just isn’t right, fair, or just. (Yes, we can invoke the ineffable G”d, but dear readers, you know how I feel about that. which reminds me, I’ve wanted to find a place to write this in a musing and finally found one. We know the old question can G”d create a rock too heavy for G”d to lift?” well, try this on for size: Can an ineffable G”d think something so ineffable that even G”d doesn’t understand the reasoning? But I digress.)


(5760, edited in 5777) So, for all the mumim and mumot everywhere, the iveyr (blind), the piseyach (lame,) gibeyn (possibly hunchback,) and dak (possibly dwarf, or possibly “no hair on the eyebrows”) my prayer that their troubles and afflictions will be heard, and that our synagogues and homes and schools and institutions will strive as much to include them as it has striven to include others.


(5766-and may we also strive to assist where and as much as assistance is needed, and no more, so that we don’t demean anyone’s sense of self-pride or self-worth.)

(5766-and may someone reading this come up with a way to redeem this irredeemable text that discriminates against priests with bodily defects.)


(5777 Ken y’hi ratson.)


Shabbat Shalom,

Adrian
©2017 (portions 
©2000 and ©2006) by Adrian A. Durlester


Other musings on this parasha:


Emor 5775 – Missing the appointment
Emor 5774 – Lex Talionis (Redux & Revised from 5759)
Emor 5773 – The Half-Israelite Blasphemer
Emor 5772-Eternal EffortII: We Have Met the Ner Tamid and It Is Us
Emor 5771-B’yom HaShabbat, B’yom HaShabbat
Emor 5770 – G”d’s Shabbat II
Emor 5767-Redux and Revised 5761-Eternal Effort
Emor 5766 – Mum’s the Word (Redux 5760 with new commentary for 5766)
Emor 5765-Out of Sync
Emor 5764-One Law for All
Emor 5763-Mishpat Ekhad
Emor 5758-Gd’s Shabbat
Emor 5759-Lex Talionis
Emor 5760-Mum’s the Word
Emor 5761-Eternal Effort

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Random Musings Before Shabbat – Acharei Mot-Kedoshim 5777 – Insults Don’t Weigh Anything (Revisited from 5767) (or A Hymn to Homonyms)

Twice in parashat Aharei Mot-Kedoshim (well, actually, just Kedoshim) we are told that we must not insult.
First, we must not “insult the deaf” (Lev. 19:14) and later anyone who “insults his mother or father” shall be put to death (Lev. 20:9)
The Hebrew word that is translated in both cases as “insult” is from the Hebrew root Qof-Lamed-Lamed, קלל , which means (among other things) to be light, trifling, slight. In certain verbal forms it might be thought of as “to treat with contempt.” Another use of the root means a curse, or to curse.
In the case of insulting the deaf (which, in context appears right before “or put a stumbling block before the blind”) the sages argue on exactly what it means to treat a deaf person “lightly.” The Rambam suggests that we may be tempted to succumb to being physically violent with a deaf person when we realize our insults are falling on deaf ears, and that is why we should not curse the deaf. I’ve never been quite sure where Maimonides was going here, because there’s an implicit assumption that there may be times when an insult is acceptable, and I don’t accept that, nor do I believe it is what Judaism teaches us. To help redeem what the Rambam says, you can spin it this way: we shouldn’t put ourselves in a position where we know our words will be ignored, because that will just make us upset, and thus we’re more prone to doing something physically violent. There’s some rather practical sense in that. However, I think it takes a great deal of skill in discernment to know exactly when our words might be ignored by another to such an extent.
Better, for me, are what the Talmudic sages say: that, of course, we should never insult anyone, and they further suggest that we should not assume it is acceptable to curse or insult someone just because they cannot hear what we are saying. It’s another “tree falls in the forest” question, and the sages of the Talmud suggest that whether or not your insults are heard, you have done wrong by uttering them. Maimonides focused on consequences of actions, and the Talmud focuses on the actions themselves, which we should not take. In the end, both viewpoints are about potential hurt – to both the one being insulted and the one doing the insulting. Of course, this hardly makes an insult something that is “light” and trifling. This kind of “light” has heavy implications.
When it comes to insulting our parents, one has to wonder if this is a serious enough offense to warrant a death penalty. Of course, one can spin the translation a bit here as well. With only modest license in Hebrew syntax, you can read the text as saying that one who insults his parents will surely die. In other words, by taking the teaching and instructions of one’s parents lightly, or with disdain or scorn, one is likely to wind up dead. When your parents tell you to not cross against the light and remember to look both ways, and you insult them, by taking their wise advice lightly, you certainly do increase your risk of being run over by a car and killed.
It’s funny that something (insults) which can inflict such hurt on both those who utter them and those who they are uttered about/to comes from a root that means “light.” It’s sort of the opposite of the root kaf-bet-dalet – weight, heaviness – the root of words like kavod – honor, glory. Gravitas, if you will. When we do not show “kavod” to someone, it can be as if we are uttering klalim, curses.
In another orthographic oddity of Hebrew, for qof-lamed-lamed קלל there is another homophonic homonym – kaf-lamed-lamed – כלל. Whereas qof-lamed-lamed means light, kaf-lamed-lamed is a root that means complete, perfect, absolutely, everything, all things. Klal Yisrael, the community of Israel, literally, the whole of Israel or everybody of Israel. Klal, meaning rule or principle. Kol, meaning all or everything. (Interestingly enough, Kol, qof-holem vav-lamed, also from the Qof-Lamed-Lamed root, means voice. So our voice is light or slight – yet this “light” thing is enough to create hurt in others by treating them “lightly” or “insultingly.” All from the same root. Ya gotta love Hebrew.)
(And speaking of loving Hebrew – a brief side diversion here. Reb Nachman’s oft quoted “Life is a very narrow bridge, and the most important thing is to not fear” ends with the word klal, from the kaf-lamed-lamed root. The last part of the sentence, “v’ha’ikkar lo l’fakheid klal” parses out to “and the principle do not dread is all.” Or “and the principle do not dread is rule.” Or “and the principle do not dread is everything” Or it could be “and the principle is do not dread everything” – though admittedly Nachman would probably have used a different word at the end if he had truly meant to say “everything.” That pesky lack of present tense forms of “to be” just makes it so much fun to guess.
Of course, we could get into the oddities of English. Consider the word “light.” Do we mean “not heavy” or do we mean “that mysterious wave-particle duality our brain perceives when it impacts our eyes” or do we mean a fixture or source that produces light” ? It’s a pretty safe bet, by the way, that light exists, even when it is not perceived, just as sound does when there’s no one around to hear it. And just as insults can hurt, even when hurled at a deaf person. But I digress.)
Insults, when uttered, demean the person who utters them as much as they attempt to demean the person about whom they are uttered. Yet the category of action that the JPS editors and other scholarly bodies translate as “insult” seem to actually represent an entire class of actions – and failures of action. Simply to treat the words and suggestions of another “lightly” is a form of insult. We would all do well to remember this. Far too many conversations these days are “across” each other, rather than true communication-which requires listening and consideration. Yes, a lot of that we can blame on our quest for efficiency, and our over-programmed lives which we believe don’t leave us the time required for each and every interaction and conversation we have with another human being to be fully mutual. In a very Buberian sense, in many of our conversations, the other party with whom we are conversing really is an object to us, an it. Our goal often seems to be to get whatever it is we want from this person in the least amount of time and with the least amount of effort possible. Well, when you put in least effort, you get least result.
Now, I’ll happily admit that I think I might be far less productive in my work if every little encounter and conversation were truly at a level where both parties were listening intently and considering what the other has to say. Yet I ask myself if that is truly the case. Sometimes we look for efficiency in the wrong place – most often assuming it is to be found in the dimension of time. Might it not be just as efficient if we spent our precious time in the precious act of treating every other human being as a human being, and not as an object? Is this not how true community is created? And is not true cooperation among members of a community sort of the ultimate in efficiency? We can be “efficient” and loving/caring at the same time.
Then again, maybe efficiency isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. In all things perhaps we need to seek out that “stop and smell the roses” attitude. Imagine if Moshe has been “too busy” to listen to the sage advice offered to him by his father-in-law Yitro, or he only listened with half and ear?
If we accept the idea that taking the thoughts/words/ideas of another lightly, or viewing them as having no import or value is an insult, then I suspect we all spend a lot of time insulting others. Not a good way to live, nor to operate a society. We may think it a matter of small import to not pay full attention to another-but that is, ultimately, a very selfish and self-centered attitude. (Looking at these words ten years later, in our present political circumstances they seem oddly prescient.)
We must remember that while the root of insults may lead us to believe they are matters of treating others lightly, we can’t say that insults do not weigh anything. In deed, they are quite a weighty matter, and they can do a lot of damage. So, giving or receiving, don’t treat insults (and I use the word in its broadest definition here) lightly. Those insults might (hopefully, will) come back to trouble you.
I read my words and thoughts from 2007 again now in 2017 and my head is spinning. I fear that insults have become so commonplace we have started to accept them as normative discourse. We ought not allow this to be the case. Not that I would wish harm to anyone, but there is a certain poetic justice if Insults do come back to trouble and plague those who so callously and willingly dispense them. Additionally, now is a time when we especially might want to not insult others by treating them and their views lightly. If there was ever a time when understanding each other mattered, this is it. We must not stand idly by as insults and invective are hurled about. We should not tolerate hateful speech, bigotry, prejudice, hate against anyone. While the liberal side that I align myself with has been guilty of misuse of speech and abuse through words, including insults, from my perspective the present administration, both in the executive and legislative branches, have lost all restraint and use insult deliberately and purposefully and we must not allow this to ever become normative.

But let’s end on a lighter note. If an insult-er you be, may it be G”d’s will that you won’t have to wait long for the weight of your insults to come back along the way and weigh you down while you’re eating your whey. That was pretty cheesy and I think I’ve milked that enough. (Now go and think about what variant sentences involving “cursing/insulting the whole/everything/all” might sound like in (Biblical) Hebrew. If you’re into altogether amazing alliteration it’s quite fun.)

Shabbat Shalom
Adrian
©2017 (portions ©2007) by Adrian A. Durlester

Other Musings on this Parasha:

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Random Musing Before Shabbat–Tazria-M’tzora 5777–The Overlooked Lesson (Revisiting 5767)

A decade ago, I had an insight that I probably should have had sooner. Like others, I had been so caught up trying to find the modern relevancy in these two parashiyot, and too blinded by the more accepted interpretations and rationalizations, that I had missed the forest for the trees. As I wrote ten years back, our readings of Tazria and M’tzora  will forever be illuminated/tainted (chose your verb) by the later rabbinic interpretations that read these skin conditions as a physical manifestation for a moral failure, most often associated with “gossiping” (based on word play with the Hebrew of the word m’tzora – one who has tzara’at (whatever that really is – leprosy, or a variety of other skin conditions) and the phrase motzi shem ra, a colloquialism describing a person who gossips (literally, bringing forth [from another’s] name evil, thus read as “giving another a bad name.”) To the rabbis and sages, tzara’at was an outer affliction of certain inner bad behaviors, notably slandering, gossiping, lying, plotting to kill, quick to do evil, being a lying witness, or causing others to fight.

Similarly, the tzara’at that affected clothing, linens, and the stone walls of houses are “marks by G”d” that indicate one who has moral failures. Thus, if your clothes or house were affected, you must be guilty of something.

I do believe these ideas taint our view of these parashiyot. Knowing what we do these days about bio-feedback, it is not out of the realm of possibility that one’s inner guilt or other issues might cause some physical symptom. Yet, in general, the idea that our inner moral failures are the cause of leprosy and other skin eruptions and conditions, and that G”d would mark those who sin by causing their clothing or houses to be moldy just don’t square with our modern understanding of “the way things work.” (Not that there aren’t those in this world who might be perfectly happy believing what the rabbis and sages taught.)

And so we tend to dismiss these parashiyot as irrelevant, dated, out of touch. For many, they are. I have written many times in the past of valuable lessons that we can draw from these sometimes troubling and odd parashiyot, but there’s one thing even I had overlooked until musing about these parashiyot some 10 years ago..

Yes, Tazria and M’tzora describe how to determine if a person, linen, clothing or house has tzara’at. Yet all of those processes of determination (i.e. diagnosis) are but a prelude to what comes next: the cure. The underlying assumption throughout these parashiyot is that those who develop these conditions and are thus impure can be made pure again. Had the culture truly been as primitive as some think it was, they could just as well decided to kill anyone who developed tzara’at as the quickest and most efficient way to keep the community pure.

There are rituals which one who has tzara’at must undergo in order to become pure again-but they can become pure again. Even if we apply the rabbinic interpretation, then perhaps doing t’shuva for one’s moral failings is the equivalent of the priestly rituals and sacrifices used to make someone pure. And, as the rabbis teach us, t’shuva is always possible.

That is one lesson we can draw from these parashiyot – that one who is impure can become pure again; one who has done wrong can make t’shuva and become right again. And the other lesson I think we can draw is that when we ourselves fall into patterns of bad or negative behaviors, to remember that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. It will almost always require effort on our part to get back to a place where our behaviors are more positive-the point is to not give up hope. Remember that, the next time you cheat on your diet, the next time you find yourself unthinkingly engaging in gossip, the next time you cheat on your taxes, the next time you break out in a rash.

I am not so naïve as to believe that the bad things that happen to us can always be made to go away. Diseases can be terminal, medical conditions can be life-long, etc. (Though I would point out that the occasional case of spontaneous remission does occur. In addition, it’s not just miracles and unexplained phenomena. Modern medical science, especially now that we have entered the age of gene-level therapy, has come a long way at providing, or being on the cusp of providing cures for ailments long thought incurable.)

So, too, is modern medicine and science beginning to reveal to us that matters of the mind, the heart, and the spirit can have profound effect upon our physical state. Not that we haven’t known this for a long time. No one pooh-poohed the idea that stress could bring about stomach ulcers. Is it such a stretch to imagine that internal feelings of guilt, discomfort, despair, stress, etc. could manifest themselves in internal and external physical ways in our bodies? So our ancestors, and the rabbis might not have been so off the mark. While “lie detectors” are not fully reliable, there are still measurable galvanic and other stress responses that our bodies can and do manifest when we attempt to deceive.

We get further afield, however, when we jump to the idea of our internal psychological state having an impact upon the places where we live or work.  Oh, there are pseudo-scientific explorations of this concept in lots material these days. Things like “What the Bleep Do We Know” and the work of others suggesting that quantum theory, superposition, quantum uncertainty enable human beings to have directed (and possibly even intentional) impact upon the physical world with their minds and thoughts.) As intrigued as I am by such ideas, and as open as I remain to exploring them, my scientific side still feels compelled to reject them as being pseudo-science at best. Then again, I could be wrong.

From whence did our ancestors get the idea that mold and other physical signs of rot and decay on walls, houses, fences, utensils, etc. could be caused by the impurity of those who live within use, and encounter them. The idea of a leper causing leprous-like symptoms to appear on the walls of a stone house seems absurd on its face from our modern viewpoint.  I’m not even sure how sensible it seemed to our ancestors. 

Of course the Torah doesn’t suggest that people cause their house to become beset with an “eruptive plague” In fact, G”d states “when I inflict an eruptive plague upon a house…” (Lev. 14:34.) However, the Torah does state that such a plague upon a house can cause those who live or venture inside it to become impure. We get into some pretty convoluted logic when we suggest that people who happened to live in or wander into a house with an eruptive plague have done so because they bear some inner guilt or shame for some sin they have committed. The Torah says that the priest makes “expiation for the house.” (Lev 14:53) It goes on to say that all such eruptive plagues – whether on houses or cloth, require examination by a priest. Lev 14:54-57.) The point is, once again, that which has become impure can be made pure again.

It doesn’t happen automatically, like Esmerelda in Tennessee Williams’ “Camino Real” becoming a virgin again with each new moon. There is ritual, there is ceremony, there are requirements, there is expiation. But what became impure can be made pure again. (The Torah sidesteps the question of whether or not something that  was impure to begin with can be made pure. There’s a whole other musing in that question. Not to mention that “original sin” concept in Christianity. In some Christian understandings, it took a significant act on the part of G”d t make expiation for us all, because we were all tainted to start. I think the Torah takes a different viewpoint. While humankind is forced from gan eden, there appears to be no assumption that humanity is perforce impure. Were that the case, there could have been no Aaronic priesthood. There are physical conditions that could prohibit one from serving as a priest, but those of the priestly line were assumed pure enough to serve otherwise.)

I’m wandering far afield, as usual.

So, in summary, many of the negative physical and spiritual things that happen to us, whether we bring them upon ourselves, or they simply happen to us, can be cured. Once impure does not mean forever impure. There’s a lesson and a reminder to keep with us always. That is the oft overlooked lesson in these parashiyot. We should take them to heart.

Shabbat Shalom

Adrian
©2017 (portions ©2007) by Adrian A. Durlester

Other Musings on this parasha:

Tazria-Metzora 5775 – Singing a Song of Leprosy Again
Tazria-M’tzora 5773-Even Lepers Bring Good News-Redux, Revised, & Expanded
Tazria-Metzora 5772 – We Are the Lepers
Tazria-Metzora 5770 – Excessive Prevention
Tazria-M’tzora 5767-Once Impure, Not Always Impure
Tazria-Metzora 5766 – Comfort in Jerusalem
Tazria-Metzora 5758/5764-Getting Through the Messy Stuff
Tazria-Metzora 5761-Lessons For Our Students
Tazria-Metzora 5762-Sing a Song of Leprosy

Tazria/Shabbat HaHodesh 5774 – Fifty Fifty
Tazria/Shabbat HaHodesh 5771 – It’s Good To Be the King
Tazria 5768 – Just Not Good Enough is Just Not Good Enough
Tazria 5765-If Naaman Can Be Forgiven…
Tazria 5760-Preventing Spiritual Rot

Metzora 5774 – Go With the Flow
Metzora 5771 – Afflict This!
Metzora 5768 – Human Nature
Metzora 5765-Defiling the Tabernacle
Metzora 5763-Not So Irrelevant
Metzora 5760-Even Lepers Bring Good News

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Random Musing Before Shabbat – Sh’mini 5777 – GEFTS 20th Anniversary

It’s  hard to believe that I’ve been writing these musing for over 20 years. Over the years I’ve seen my viewpoints and interpretations on many parshiyot and haftarot change, adapt, transform even come a full circle. The one I am resharing today certainly represents a younger, simpler, more naive viewpoint than I hold today. Indeed, I have come back to this story many times with varying interpretations and analysis.  Just as interesting, the following year, in 5758, I wrote one of my most popular musings ever from the early years – the one I titled “Crispy Critters” in reference to Nadav and Avihu. (How my views on this story from Sh’mini have changed over time is so clearly illustrated by the fact that some 11 years later I wrote a musing called srettirC ypsirC just to illustrate my change in approach.) 5758’s Crispy Critters,” one of my most popular posts, will get it’s due honor next year on it’s 20th anniversary. However, in honor of the twenty-year anniversary of one my earliest weekly random musings, I thought I would reshare it in all its naive glory. Remember, too, that at the time I was still in the theater business, on the threshold of making the switch from doing the Jewish thing on the side to making it my full-time work. My musings drew heavily on that experience.

Random Musings Before Shabbat-Shemini 5757. GEFTS

Out of all the many things one could learn from and talk about in Shemini (dualities-sacred and profane, clean and unclean; holiness, why God cares about what we eat, etc.) one though kept coming back into my head. I kept thinking about what happens to Nadav and Avihu. What a bummer. They thought “more is better.” And what is their reward? Fwoosh-burnt to a crisp. Proof that there really can be “too much of a good thing.”

Now that may be a flippant way to put it, but it’s an important lesson nevertheless. It teaches us, as do so many other things in Torah, that life  needs balance. And indeed, that fits with much else that we learn about in
Shemini. After all, there’s no clean without unclean, and vice versa. No profane without sacred.

I have a philosophy that I use at work. It’s one I learned from a old, experienced theatre professional. He called it:

GEFTS-Good Enough For This Show.

Now, at first hearing, it sounds like a negative approach. Like the old “close enough for government work” philosophy. But that’s not what GEFTS is about. It’s about balance, It’s about “more isn’t always better.” Here’s how I apply it – though this may be a theatrical example, I think the concept is
transferable to life:

It takes many components to create a show. The capabilities of each component are determined by the resources (people, time, space, money, dedication, attitude, et al) available to it. Each component therefore has a “highest achievable level of quality” affected by those resources. The production will benefit most if all departments work together towards a highest COMMON achievable quality level. Therefore, each component should work towards this common achievable level (which, theoretically, could be somewhat lower than the level achievable by
that unit alone. And lot’s of people don’t like that idea-but hear me out.)

Some of the best shows I have ever seen were productions in which everything was mediocre. Now, I’m not saying that one should only aim for mediocrity (though as Frank Loesser and Abe Burroughs aptly put it in “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” – “mediocrity is not a mortal sin.”) The shows worked because everything gelled together into a complimentary whole. If the acting were brilliant but the costumes were slipshod, it wouldn’t work. If the lighting was magnificent but the scenery was only so-so – well, I think you get the drift. When all shoot for the same common achievable level of quality, you have a production that can’t be beat.

The same is true in daily life and in serving God. Think about it. This is the true lesson of Nadav and Avihu.

Shabbat Shalom to you and yours,

Adrian

(c)2017 (portions (c)1997) by Adrian A. Durlester
Other Musings on this parasha

Sh’mini 5775 – Vayyidom Aharon (Revisiting Calm In A Crisis)
Sh’mini 5774 – Indubitably Delicious
Sh’mini 5772 – Collect Call
Sh’mini/Shabbat Parah 5771-So Say We All
Sh’mini 5770 – Don’t Eat That, It’s Not Kosher
Sh’mini 5769 srettirC ypsirC
Sh’mini 5767-Don’t Be a Stork
Sh’mini 5766-Palmwalkers
Shemini 5765-It All Matters
Shemini 5764-Playing Before Gd
Shemini 5763 – Belly of the Beast
Shemini 5762-Crispy Critters
Shemini 5761-Lessons From Our Students
Shemini 5760-Calm in a Crisis
Shemini 5759-Porking Out

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Random Musing Before Shabbat-Shabbat Hol Hamoed Pesakh 5777–Valley of The Donald

Thus said The Donald: Moreover, in this I will respond to the House of America and act for their sake: I will enrich my family and friends as I enrich myself. As Washington, D.C. was filled big-league with red hats during my inaugural, so shall the ruined cities be filled with flocks of people in red hats, made in China. And they shall know that I am The Donald.

Sepharadim begin here
Chapter 37
The hand of the Trump came upon me. He took me out by the spirit of reality TV  and set me down in the great middle America. It was full of coal mines. He led me all around them; there were very many mines spread over the states, and they were very tapped out yielding only coal of questionable value and high in the potential to pollute and increase global warming. He said to me, “O mortal, can these mines live again?” I replied, “O DJT, if they live again, I suspect many millions more of Your people will die when our planet is overwhelmed by global warming. But, then again, only You know.” And He said to me, “Fake news. I will ignore the clear scientific consensus. Prophesy over these  miners and say to them: O miners, hear the word of The Donald! Thus said The Donald to these mines: I will place profit over environmental concerns and you shall be mined again. I will lay subsidies upon you, and cover you with tax write-offs, and break international agreements over you. And I will put investments into you, and you shall live again. And you shall know that I am the Donald”

I prophesied as I had been commanded. And while I was prophesying, suddenly there was a sound of machinery, and the pipelines were built over the objection of the people, non-American-made steel to non-American-made steel. I looked, and there were factories belching pollutants, and a giant wall, and people without basic human needs; but there was not yet enough profit from them.  Then He said to me, “Prophesy to the bankers and brokers, prophesy, O mortal! Say to the bankers and brokers: Thus said The Donald: Come, O profit, without fear of government regulation, and line your pockets , that you may live in the style to which you are accustomed.” I prophesied as He commanded me. The money entered them, and they hid it all in overseas accounts, a vast multitude.

And He said to me, “O mortal, these mines are the whole House of America. They say, ‘Our profits are dried up, our rich lifestyle is threatened; we are doomed.’ Prophesy, therefore, and say to them: Thus said The Donald: I am going to open your tax loopholes and lift you out of the depths of government regulation, O My people, and make America great again. You shall know, O My people, that I am The Donald, when I have opened your tax loopholes and lifted you out of government oversight. I will put My alternate facts into you and you shall live again, and I will set you upon your own soil which now all belongs to me and my rich friends. Then you shall know that I The Donald have spoken and have acted”—declares The Donald.

Shabbat Shalom and Moadim L’Simkha

Adrian

©2017 by Adrian A. Durlester

Others Musings for Pesakh:

April 11, 2015 – Cop Out
Pesakh 5775 – Day Off (Literally)
Shabbat Hol HaMoed Pesakh 5773 – The Whole House of Israel
Pesach 5772 – Don’t Believe This
Pesach 8th Day 5772 – The Bread of Freedom
Shabbat Hol HaMoed Pesakh 5771-Admat Yisrael
Shabbat Hol HaMoed Pesakh 5769 – Valley of the Dry Economy
Pesach VII 5768 – Department of Redundant Anamnesis Department
Hol HaMoed Pesach 5767-Not Empty
Intermediate Shabbat of Passover 5766-A Lily Among Thorns
Pesach VII 5761 (Revised 5765)
Hol HaMoed Pesach 5764-Dem Bones & Have We Left Gd behind? (5578-60)
Hol Hamoed Pesach 5763-No Empty Gestures (Redux 5762)
5761-Pesach VII-Redundant Anamnesis

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Random Musing Before Shabbat–Tzav/Shabbat HaGadol 5777–Payback: An Excerpt from the Diary of Moses (Updated)

Dear Diary:

Oy, what I day I had today. It’s not like I didn’t have a million other things to do and take care of. You-know-who eats up hours of my day with yet more instructions for the rituals of sacrifice. I couldn’t pick a Deity with a simpler system?

I’m usually willing to accept the burdens of my role as leader and communicator for this rabble, and I don’t mind so much when You-know-who is giving me instructions to pass on to the whole group. That, I can handle. But today, You-know-who goes on and on and on and on, well you get the drift –  with even more instructions than what I’ve already gotten for my dear older brother and his kids. Priests, You-know-who had to make them. (Oh wait, I asked for that – didn’t I? – see http://migdalorguysblog.blogspot.com/2017/03/random-musing-before-shabbat-tetzavei.html from about a month ago.)  Yeah, Aaron was helpful as my spokesperson when I was negotiating with Pharaoh, but was that enough to earn him this bonus? And I’m not forgetting, though I am surprised You-know-who seems to be forgetting) what my schmendrick of a brother did while I was up on the mountain the first time. Avodah zara is bad enough, but avodah parah? (Get it? Sometimes, I crack myself up!) Sheesh! A freakin’ calf of gold he makes for them.

And those lame excuses he gave me afterwards. “I was just trying to buy time and keep the rabble happy.” Yeah, right. Today, at least, I got a little payback. More about that in a minute.

So after chewing my ear off for hours-finally getting to some rules for the whole community and not just my wacky brother and his peanut gallery, You-know-who says it’s time to do the initiation rites for the priests. Hoo-boy, I thought, this is not gonna be fun. Then again…

To begin with, I gave Aaron a bath. Then like those little dolls I used to play with, I dressed him up in his official wardrobe (don’t say a word – I was raised in the royal household of Egypt, you know. We played with dress-up dolls.) It was kind of fun, adding layer after layer of stuff. At times, I thought he was gonna collapse under the weight of it all. When I stuck the urim and thummim in the breastplate (you know, those auguring stones) I made sure to slam the cover closed over them nice and hard. You shoulda seen the look Aaron gave me.

Anyway, what he and all the people didn’t know was that, for once, You-know-who, specific as You-know-who often gets, actually left me a little leeway in this ordination ceremony. So I improvised a bit. I mean, there was blood everywhere. Just call me bloody-bloody Moshe. I made the whole ceremony as messy and cumbersome as I could. Oh, it was a little gross for me, hacking up those animals, gutting out their organs and fat, even having to gather up the poop and taking it outside the camp. (Well, that part You-know-who told me to do.) Nevertheless, I put on quite a show. You-know-who had told me to use the ram insides to make a burnt offering that also had a pleasant odor, so when I had the sacrificial ram all cut up and on the altar, I washed all the entrails with water and stuck them back on the grill–er I mean altar, which made a lot of smoke and smell. I hope You-know-who found it pleasing. I know I didn’t, and neither did Aaron (chuckle.) Now I get why we’re going to need all this incense.

When it was time for the second ram, the one of ordination, I got really, really creative. I took some of its blood and dabbed it on Aaron’s ears, thumb, and big toe. He looked so ridiculous, I just couldn’t resist doing the same thing to all the rest of the clan. I was having so much fun, I just couldn’t stop. I scooped out all the fat I could find from the carcass, grabbed some matzah from the bread basket, placed it on top of the fat, and them dumped some into all of their hands, and told them to hold them up as elevation offerings. They had a heck of a time keeping the stuff from falling out of their hands. I was laughing so hard on the inside. Aaron shot me a look that could kill. But the people were all watching. This was serious business. I had Aaron and his kids just where I wanted them.

I couldn’t resist one last jab, so when the time came for the official anointing with oil, I also grabbed some of the blood and spattered it all over them and their nice white vestments. I tell you, it was hilarious. Sort of artsy-farsty, too. I’ll bet someday someone will figure out how to just spatter stuff on fabric and sell it for lots of silver.

I decided I’d been cruel enough, so I wanted to finish off being nice. Or, better yet, maybe I could lure them into a false sense of security and then hit them with one final whammy! I told Aaron and the boys to go boil up all the leftover meat and have some of the leftover cakes. I told them to burn up anything that was leftover after they ate. This was just a setup before the coup de grace – my final stroke of genius. I saw this great big loophole and took it. I told Aaron and the boys that they’d have to do this again –  every day for the next 6 days. You-know-who hadn’t been specific about that, and I figured seven days sounded about right. I sealed the deal, as usual, by announcing to the whole community that everything that was done today had been commanded by You-know-who. Even better, they were going to have to do this on one of those days of rest You-know-who commanded us to observe. So not only was I sticking it to Aaron, I was secretly sticking it to You-know-who, too.

I know I took a few liberties, but so far You-know-who hasn’t said or done anything about it. Maybe You-know-who was enjoying it, too.

Omigosh, diary. I’ve been telling this cock and bull story about being chosen by You-know-who, in order to get back at my no good “brother” of a Pharaoh so long, I’m starting to believe it myself. Still, there have been some unexplained things-like that unconsumed burning sneh, all those plagues, and that business at the sea of reeds. I thought I was putting on a pretty good show, even though I really didn’t have a good plan at that point. But man, when those waters parted, I just went with it. Then there were those quail, and that sweet, gooey stuff on the plants every morning, except once every 7 days. And the timing of that rather cooperative bad weather at Sinai.

Hmmm, whether I believe in a You-know-who, or whether I just made it all up, there just might be a You-know-who looking after us after all. I could use the help–Korach and a couple of his friends are up to something, I’m sure of it.

Well, catch ya later, Diary. I got six more days of fun ahead. 😉

Yours,

Moshe

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Shabbat Shalom,

Adrian
©2017 (portions ©2009) by Adrian A. Durlester

Other Musings On This Parasha:

Tzav/Shabbat HaGadol 5775 – Two Way Street (Revised)
Tzav/Shabbat Zachor 5774 – Does G”d Need a Shrink?
Tzav/Shabbat HaGadol 5773 – The Doorway to Return
Tzav/Shabbat Hagadol 5772 – Not Passive
Tzav (Purim) 5771 – A Purim Ditty
Tzav 5768 – Jeremiah’s Solution (Updated from 5761)
Tzav/Shabbat HaGadol 5767-Redux 5762-Irrelevant Relavancies
Tzav/Shabbat HaGadol 5766 – Dysfunction Junction
Tzav 5765 (updated 5760)-Of IHOPs, Ordination and Shabbat
Tzav/Shabbat HaGadol 5764-Two Way Street
Tzav 5763 – Zot Torahteinu?
Tzav 5761/5759-Jeremiah’s Solution

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