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Parashat Tzav

04/03/2020 12:00:50 PM

Apr3

           Shabbat Shalom! This week’s Torah portion is Parashat Tzav, in which Moses anoints the Tabernacle and the priests. The parasha also goes into how the priests facilitate the sacrifices, but it still requires active participation on the part of the Israelite making the sacrifice. Though the priests, as well as Moses, are there to help and serve in some ways as the conduit between the people and God, the relationship between the people and God is still important, and moreover, these rules help serve as a cohesive for the whole community, facilitating cultural norms and keeping people in relationship with each other as they seek out Divine presence.

            So too now, while I am facilitating online Shabbat services and education programs, I alone cannot fulfill all the needs you would normally seek to satisfy by going to the synagogue. It is important that you are also reaching out and checking in on your loved ones near and far, and that other synagogue activities like book club or social events continue to find ways of happening online as well. If anyone has an idea for something they’d like to teach the Ner Shalom community, Jewish or not, or has an idea for a fun online get-together theme, or would simply like to be put in touch with a fellow member they may not already have regular contact with, please let me know! It is so important for our community cohesion and the Divine relationships among us all that Ner Shalom continue to connect with each other beyond prayer and connection to the spiritual leader.

            May we learn from our ancestors that leaders are key to facilitating holy moments and also that everyone should take control of initiating those holy moments for themselves. May we connect with each other and the Divine in this time of physical isolation, and may our community remain strong together.

            In this parasha we also see the specifications of what the priests can eat of the sacrifices. Some sacrifices must be burnt up in total on the eternal fire upon the altar, but portions of certain sacrifices are set aside for the priests to eat, and in the case of the peace offering, the one who brought the sacrifice also gets to enjoy most of the holy BBQ.

            The Talmud teaches that in lieu of the Mishkan or Temple, each of our homes are now our vessels for holy connection. While the synagogue evolved to become the central community center for the Jewish people, at the time of the Talmud they were mostly study houses. It was the home life that would serve as the stand-in for the holy altar and it was each individual family that served as the stand-in for the priests. This teaches us that each meal should be seen as holy as that which the priests or the bringer of the peace offering savored after making the sacrifices to God. Whether you are actually eating the specified cuts of meat or grains from the Torah, or if you are a Celiac vegetarian, or if you’re enjoying a BLT, that food is a gift to your body, and nourishing your body is a gift to God and the world. Mindful eating can help connect our physical needs with our spiritual ones, allow us to feel the Divine joy of good food, the holy connection in a family meal, and give us the space to recognize our gratitude at the wonders of our bodies.

            At this point in physical distancing, trying to avoid stores and restaurants, my fridge is pretty empty. I’ve defrosted all the older saved meals from my freezer and am making my way through the canned and dried goods in my cabinets. I have a lot more time to think about meal preparation and do some inventive cooking with what’s available, and I am so ridiculously grateful that I have access to this food and cooking equipment in this anxious time. I hope you all similarly are finding yourselves able to eat well and take care of your bodies from the safety of your homes.

            May we each savor our meals – for their flavors, their nutrients, and the opportunities to sit with those we live with – and see them for the holy gifts that they are.

           Amen and Shabbat Shalom.

Sat, August 8 2020 18 Av 5780