On the wall in my office, I have posted a laminated clipping from a Dilbert Cartoon. In it, Pointy-Haired Boss is speaking to Catbert, the devilsh Human Resources person.
PHB: "My open door policy is ruining my business.
PHB: "People stop by all day long and complain. How can I maintain the morale inspiring illusion of an open door policy without actually having one?
Catbert: "Use your body language to create a protective bubble of unwelcomeness."
Catbert: "Try this stressed out scowl."
In the next frame Dilbert asks PHB’s secretary "Can I poke my head in?"
She responds: "Sure. He has an open door policy.
In the next frame, PHB and Catbert have stressed out scowls on their face.
PHB: It’s a pleasure to see you."
Catbert: "We value your input."
In the last frame, Dilbert is shown running away from PHB’s office saying "Ai-yi-yi-yi-yi" while PHB is peeking around the door saying "Stop by any time."
What has any of this to do with parashat Emor?
After the priestly stuff in chapters 21 and 22, in chapter 23 we receive what can best be described as "G"d’s schedule of appointments with the Israelites." All the observances are outlined, beginning with Shabbat, and including Passover, Shavuot, the 7th month events which later became Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, and Sukkot.
These are the "appointed times of G"d," the "moadei Ad"nai." Ore, as the JPS committee put it "These are My fixed times, the fixed times of the L"rd, which you shall proclaim as sacred occasions."
The word "moadei" is built upon a root that is quite interesting. At it’s base is the root ayin-dalet (and sometimes hey.) Variations upon this root have a wealth of somewhat related meanings. At its base, we have ayin-dalet, ad, indicating the advance of time and often perpetuity (as in "va’ed".) "Ad" when used poetically often means "up to or until." Point (vowelize) ayin-dalet yet another way and you get "eid", the word "witness, testimony, evidence." There is a verbal root, ayin-dalet-hey, meaning "to pass on, to advance." (An interesting side note – properly pointed, ayin-dalet-hay give us the noun "menstruation." Another cyclical, time-related thing.) Stick a vav between the ayin and dalet, and you get ayin-vav-dalet, the verb root that means "to return, repeat, do again." From this we then derive "mo-eid", and the possessive plural form "moadei."
Witnessing, testifying, repeating, returning, doing again, until, forever, continually. All related. when we have our "appointments" with G"d, I suspect that we are expected to engage in all of these things, and do them repeatedly and forever.
Yet, why is it that we have only these "fixed times" for our appointments with G"d? Where is G"d’s "open door" policy? Isn’t every day a day to celebrate G"d’s creation, to worship G"d, to have an appointment with G"d?
One way of understanding this is the old Jewish fall-back position of "individual versus communal." G"d is always accessible to us individually, but G"d has given us fixed times to interact with G"d in community – Shabbat and the khagim, the festivals. It’s a valid understanding. Yet I still wonder if individual vs. communal is the whole explanation.
Had G"d, like the PHB, come to realize that having a totally open door policy can be counter-productive? Is G"ds zapping of Nadav and Avihu, who did more than they were supposed to, and at a time they were not asked to do it, a clue here? Was that zapping sort of like the "stressed out scowl" of PHB and Catbert?
If G"d is truly limitless, then should it matter how often and how many of G"d’s creations are communicating with G"d? G"d can handle it all. Or maybe not. Then, we have the difficulty of coming to terms with a limited or self-limited deity. An idea not without merits, and with plenty of adherents. Even the kabbalists had this sort of concept with "tzimtzum," G"d’s self-contracting of G"d’self to make space for creation.
Or perhaps this is also a practical understanding – if there are too many "fixed appointments" then the people will never get anything else done. There is such a thing as "too much fun," as "too many festivals."
It’s all so confusing, I think I need to go make an appointment with G"d to try and sort it all out. Think G"d’s door will be open? Will I be greeted with true welcome, or insincere platitudes? If I manage to get an appointment in which G"d actually talks to me, I’ll let you know…
©2008 by Adrian A. Durlester