Feeds:
Entrades
Comentaris

Archive for Març de 2014

 

This week we begin the section of the Torah which deals with skin afflictions. It covers a litany of sores with pus, swelling, rashes, discolouration, scaly, itchy, flaking skin and it prescribes the process by which one deals with such illnesses. First you go to the priest for diagnosis and he would either prescribe some time away from the community or declare you clean and not infectious. The ancient commentators, just like us, were perplexed by the fact that for these afflictions a person went to the priest for a cure rather than the more logical place: the doctor. As a result, they determined that something different must be happening with these particular diseases, something beyond the medical which moved it into the spiritual realm and for that reason, the priest was the source of the cure as opposed to the doctor.

Now I do not for one moment believe that people who are suffering from skin diseases have a spiritual issue which is being manifest in their skin but I do believe that the Torah was very wise about suggesting a connection between the physical and the spiritual parts of our being. It may not be exactly in the way it was envisaged by the commentators but more and more we are finding evidence that our physical health is linked with our emotional and spiritual well-being. But so many of us neglect that part of us and focus soley on our physical health.

Much of our time and energy is devoted to our physical well being, eating the right balance of foods, exercising and sleeping. All of that effort could be aided and supplemented by some spiritual exercise. Work on our emotional well-being as well. Take time to feel good about ourselves and our bodies, learn to love who we are inside, struggle against the demons of self deprecation and lack of confidence. We all have our fears, the places where we feel that we are not all that we could be, times when we are not happy, not doing what is best for us. And the sadness, bitterness, anger, troubles in our lives can affect our health and our bodies.

That is what the Torah teaches us this week. We are a part of an intricate system which is in a delicate balance. We need to work to keep it all in harmony so that it will sing a beautiful and joyous song of praise to God. We all need moments of indulgence where we care not just for our bodies but our souls as well.

This week we begin the section of the Torah which deals with skin afflictions. It covers a litany of sores with pus, swelling, rashes, discolouration, scaly, itchy, flaking skin and it prescribes the process by which one deals with such illnesses. First you go to the priest for diagnosis and he would either prescribe some time away from the community or declare you clean and not infectious. The ancient commentators, just like us, were perplexed by the fact that for these afflictions a person went to the priest for a cure rather than the more logical place: the doctor. As a result, they determined that something different must be happening with these particular diseases, something beyond the medical which moved it into the spiritual realm and for that reason, the priest was the source of the cure as opposed to the doctor.

Now I do not for one moment believe that people who are suffering from skin diseases have a spiritual issue which is being manifest in their skin but I do believe that the Torah was very wise about suggesting a connection between the physical and the spiritual parts of our being. It may not be exactly in the way it was envisaged by the commentators but more and more we are finding evidence that our physical health is linked with our emotional and spiritual well-being. But so many of us neglect that part of us and focus soley on our physical health.

Much of our time and energy is devoted to our physical well being, eating the right balance of foods, exercising and sleeping. All of that effort could be aided and supplemented by some spiritual exercise. Work on our emotional well-being as well. Take time to feel good about ourselves and our bodies, learn to love who we are inside, struggle against the demons of self deprecation and lack of confidence. We all have our fears, the places where we feel that we are not all that we could be, times when we are not happy, not doing what is best for us. And the sadness, bitterness, anger, troubles in our lives can affect our health and our bodies.

That is what the Torah teaches us this week. We are a part of an intricate system which is in a delicate balance. We need to work to keep it all in harmony so that it will sing a beautiful and joyous song of praise to God. We all need moments of indulgence where we care not just for our bodies but our souls as well.

 

 

Anuncis

Read Full Post »

Remember: Do Not Forget!

 This week, in addition to Parashat Tzav, we commemorate Shabbat Zachor, in which we tell the story of Amalek, the ancestor of Agag (whose story we read for our haftarah), the ancestor of Haman (whose story we hear on Purim). These readings are always part of the Shabbat before Purim. Purim seems like a frivolous minor festival for children, yet there is something deadly serious within it as well. In a world torn by inequality, pain, intolerance and religious violence, the story of Purim reminds us that the more things change the more they stay the same. Three major themes run through Purim to remind the Jewish people that the story of Esther is ever relevant.

 Megillat Esther, read the evening and morning of Purim, teaches the importance of treating men and women equally. The whole farce begins with the deposition of the queen, who is treated like a plaything by her husband. The new queen, Esther, has the opportunity to teach the king that women have a crucial role to play at every level of life We need to remind ourselves that the woman’s role extends and contributes in leadership as well as at home (as much of the Jewish world still questions the role of women on synagogue boards, let alone the rabbinate.)

 Megillat Esther also reminds us of the need to take action when we see wrongs perpetrated. King Ahasuerus is the classic bystander, reminding us that for evil to triumph, the only thing good people have to do is nothing. He is easily manipulated by Haman. Mordechai, on the other hand, is an activist and not just for Jewish causes. The champion of our right of self expression, he also demonstrates loyalty to the nation in which he lives, working through the system in order to change it.

 “Zachor” means remember. We must remember that the kinds of problems told about at Purim, commemorated with merriment and farce, are deadly serious. We must remember to fight for gender equality and religious tolerance. To be passive in the struggle is to support the status quo of discrimination and potential oppression. From the time of Moses, who led the original battle against the original Amalek, we have been called to be “Jews for justice”, wherever wrongs must be righted.

Read Full Post »

Parashat Vayikra

A Kingdom of Priests

 

Vayikra, the third book of the Torah, is known in the tradition as “Torat Cohanim”, dealing as it does with many laws concerning the priests and their role in leading the people in service to God. Overall, the book confronts us with details of animal sacrifice, ritual purity, prohibited sexual relationships and punishments for disobedience; as the Tosafot say, “it is the most difficult of the Five Books of Moshe”. The Lubavich Rabbi commented that, “Being the most difficult to understand, the Book of Vayikra demands more effort from its reader, which in turn lifts the reader to new heights of understanding and spiritual achievement.” Of all the books in the Torah, Vayikra challenges us to think about what it means to live by the Torah’s precepts and what it means to be in service to God.

 

Just as the Cohanim of Torah and Temple times were called to lead the people in service to God, so too the Jews, known as a “mamlechet cohanim” – a kingdom of priests – are called to lead humanity in service to God as a “holy nation”. With the destruction of the Second Temple, the role of the Cohanim in their service is more circumscribed; our service as a holy nation has never been more demanding. For Jews outside the world of Orthodoxy, the Torat Cohanim presents challenges on another level. Our questions about God and Torah have become more complex as the world has become more secular and materialistic. Given the growing disbelief in God itself, what does it mean to “serve God”? Further, when we find passages of Torah we morally reprehensible, such as the denigration of gays and lesbians derived from this book, how can Torah guide that service? In the Psalms, “Its ways are ways of pleasantness and all its paths are peace”; we need to ensure that is so. What means of interpretation and application of Torah allow us to engage with mitzvot concerning kashrut and living a holy life found within this book while restricting those that actually bring harm to others? To be a “kingdom of priests”, a people willing to take a leadership role among humanity in the service of God, requires diligent study and discerning application of Torah. This week’s parashah, in its opening word “vayikra”, whose last letter “aleph” is written small, provides an important insight into how we can connect with God and how we can read Torah.

 

There is much rabbinic commentary about this little letter – all suggesting that it should hint about human modesty (aleph being the first letter of the word for “I”), especially in the light of the profundity of what God might be (aleph also being the first letter in the word for “I” referring to God, the sound of aleph being silent.) It approaches hubris to think that given the enormity of the universe and our tiny place within it, that we know God’s will or word. While some believe that this infinite mystery is the author of books, we should humbly acknowledge that no book, no matter how sacred for its followers, is the literal word from God, but rather a literary approach toward God. Our words and our will should be striving toward that which we understand as the source of Conscious Being. A “kingdom of priests” must study and apply Torah with humility to understand our sacred responsibility of living with conscious being.

Read Full Post »