Tag Archives: responsibility

Commentary for Tsaz

10 Apr

This week’s parshah deals with the details of various sacrifices, general priestly tasks, and, finally, the inauguration of Aaron and his sons as the priests. It starts off by detailing the procedure for removing the ashes of the previous day’s offering from the altar, but in the middle of these instructions takes a seemingly odd detour to talk about the priestly vestments. The priestly vestments were already covered back in Exodus 28:40-43, so why are they being brought up again now, with no new detail added?

 

Rashi points out that the word use for “his tunic”- “mido” can also mean “his measure,” and teaches us that each priest’s garments should be fitted specifically for him. Obviously this serves many practical purposes. We don’t want their sleeves to be too long and cover their hands and get in the way when they perform a sacrifice and we don’t want their tunics to be so long that they might accidentally step on them and trip themselves or each other. It also makes sense that we would want the officials performing our sacrifices to look nice and professional, showing a respect for both the important office they hold and for the Lord our God whom they serve. But there is also a deeper significance to this detail, which is why it is brought up here at this point.

 

Each priest is measured and fitted for his own robes. They’re not hanging on a rack in the Tabernacle divided into smalls, mediums, and larges. Everyone brings his own robes, specifically fitted to him. You can’t pass your robe off to your friend because it won’t fit him right. There is no saying “God doesn’t care who does this job as long as it gets done by someone.”   God specifically wants each individual priest. This point is brought up as God is having Moses begin to give the priests the specific instructions for performing their duties, which they will begin at the end of this parshah as they are inaugurated to remind them that they should not shirk from their duties. They have been given the task of helping others form their relationship with God, and for this high calling God is counting on each and every one of them individually.

 

This same ethos can be applied today to our own duty to form a relationship with God. This is not something that someone else can do for us. It is something that we ourselves must do, and which God wants each and every single one of us to do. It is not a responsibility that we can afford to shirk from.

 

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Commentary for Acharei Mot

6 May

Every parshah in the Torah are labeled by its incipit, a word or two from the first verse or two of the parshah that serves as a header for at least the first section of the parshah (if not the entire parshah), to make it easy to identify which section we are talking about, with each parshah being given a unique incipit to avoid confusion. This week’s parshah is named “Acharei Mot,” meaning “after the death [of Aaron’s two sons].”

Contrary to what one would expect with a title like this, the subject of Aaron’s sons is never brought up again in this parshah. After this phrase in Lev. 16:2, the second verse of the parshah, the Torah launches into a detailed explanation of the Yom Kippur sacrifice and its ceremony. The title “Acharei Mot,” also doesn’t seem to hold up as chronological transition, as Aaron’s sons died three parshahs ago, and their death has not been mentioned since the end of that section.

While neither the subject matter of the parshah nor its chronological position seem to have any relevance to the parshah’s title to the average reader at first glance, the reason for that is simple: We are not Aaron. Since the deaths of Aaron’s sons, all of the laws given have been given to both Moses and Aaron to disseminate to the people, or laws given to Moses himself to disseminate. Any time a priest has been required, it has been specified that the job can be done by any of the priests. Now it is time for the Yom Kippur sacrifice and ceremony, a job that can only be done by the High Priest: Aaron himself. The words “acharei mot” are a wake-up call to Aaron. He has suffered a terrible, painful loss, and he has grieved, but he cannot grieve forever. He has responsibilities to his community that he must attend to. While it is impossible to ignore that his life will never be the same as it was before his sons died, he must accept the new status quo and move on into this new normal for the sake of those who are counting on him who are still living.

Commentary for B’midbar

23 May

In this week’s parshah, the tribe of Levi is assigned its special duties in the Tabernacle. God commands Moses to “bring close the tribe of Levi and stand them before Aaron the priest to serve him (Num. 3:6).” The Hebrew word for “bring close,” “hakrev,” appears in this form only three times in the Torah. The other two places the word hakrev appears are Numbers 18:2, where the duties of the Levites are more clearly spelled out, and in Exodus 28:1, when Aaron and his sons are appointed to be priests. There are many other words that would fit in some or even all of the three locations (for example, “command” or “appoint”), but the word hakrev is used in these three places, and only in these three places.

Each and every word in the Torah has been carefully selected from all of the words in the Hebrew language, and because of this, one of the major principles of Torah study is the concept that if the same word is used in more than one location, we can infer a connection between the those passages. In all three instances of hakrev, the people being “brought close” are being given important yet difficult responsibilities to fulfill. Judaism is a religion with many, many rules and prohibitions that affect our lives. While people often see responsibilities as a burden, Judaism teaches us to embrace them. We should not view them as a roadblock making our lives difficult, but rather each mitzvah should be treated as an opportunity to learn and explore and become closer to God.