[Taxes. Nagging cough. Fatigue. Not really in the mood for Leviticus or Purim. I will send out Purim jokes separately, closer to the holiday. Comments are from 2016.]
Interesting mix of moods this week: We start Leviticus (Vayikra) with instructions for sacrifices; remember an ancient enemy of the Israelites and the failure of Saul as king; and, on Purim (Wednesday night and Thursday), read how a nice Jewish girl “passed” to become the Persian queen and was prodded into saving her people, in celebration of which we have a grand time eating hamantaschen
and getting drunk.
Leviticus contains instructions concerning sacrificial offerings: what, why, where, when, by whom, who gets to eat what – a training manual for the priests. The five types of offerings here are:
- The burnt offering (olah) (Lev. 1:1-17), intended to bring the offerer closer to the Lord
- The meal offering (minchah) (Lev. 2:1-16), consisting of flour and oil (unleavened), cooked or uncooked, often given by those who couldn’t afford an animal for an olah
- The offering of well-being, or peace offering (sh’lamim) (Lev. 3:1-17), in gratitude, partly eaten by priests, donor, and guests as a festive meal (like sponsoring a kiddush lunch at synagogue today)
- The sin offering (chatat) purgation (Lev. 4:1-35; 5:1-13) to atone for an unintentional sin, individual or communal
- The guilt offering (asham), (Lev. 5:14-26), required to be a ram. It was usually offered by someone who had stolen property. The offender also had to restore what was taken plus a fine of one fifth, which meant 1/5 of the total, i.e., 1/5 of (restitution + fine).
Why is Moses told to tell all this to the Israelites – not just what they need to do, but the details that ae only pertinent to the priests? As I noted here in 2014, Robert Tornberg writes, in Looking through the Smoke: A Transparent Message: The Torah ensures that Judaism is not a secret religion run by priests who know more “truth” than anyone else. It is, instead, open and accessible.”
Why sacrifices, especially animals, at all? Several positions over the millennia are summarized by Nehama Leibowitz in New Studies in Leviticus, pp. 1-22 (1996). I will touch on only one (this year), between Maimonides (1138-1204) and Nachmanides (1194-1270). Maimonides, my favorite rationalist, viewed the sacrificial system as an intermediate stage. The Israelites were familiar with worship that comprised sacrificing animals, bowing down to images, and burning incense. To drop all of this at once would have been too much for the people to accept, and they would have reverted to idol worship. Therefore, the sacrifices and accompanying incense were continued, albeit with carefully delineated constraints.
Nachmanides attacks Maimonides: “His statements are preposterous” (cited in Leibowitz, op cit., p. 7). Being of a more mystical bent, he finds intrinsic value and symbolism in the details of the sacrifices. I may go into that more another time, but I still have to deal with Shabbat Zachor and Purim today.
Shabbat Zachor, the second of four special Shabbatot before Passover, is the Sabbath right before Purim. The second scroll reading, Deuteronomy 25:17-19, is a command to remember (zachor) an evil attack by Amalek on the Israelites and blot out his memory. That suggests we need to be aware of our history so as to blot out the evil of the descendants of Amalek. The special haftarah, I Samuel 15:1-34 (2-34 for Ashkenazim, I don’t know why) is about how King Saul, commanded to destroy the Amalekites, screws up and is told he has lost his kingdom, spiritually (physically, he has about 20 years to go). It’s very dramatic and was my daughter’s Bat Mitzvah haftarah. The link with Purim? Haman is supposedly a descendant of Amalek, Mordechai, of Saul.
Purim commemorates the tale told in the Book of Esther (aka “The Megillah”), which takes maybe 45 minutes to chant, even with making noise to drown out villain Haman’s name. You can print out your own copy in Hebrew or English or both, with or without commentary, or learn how to chant it. It is customary to dress in costume, exchange gifts of food, have a festive meal (seudah) during the day, perform in or watch often-parodic Purim spiels and, as noted above, eat hamantaschen and get drunk, enough that you curse hero Mordechai and praise Haman. Enjoy!
Wisdom from Aviation/Military Manuals (sampling)
“If the enemy is in range, so are you.” – Infantry Journal
“It is generally inadvisable to eject directly over the area you just bombed.” – U.S. Air Force Manual
“Tracers work both ways.” – U.S. Army Ordnance
“Five second fuses only last three seconds.” – Infantry Journal
“If you see a bomb technician running, follow him.” – USAF Ammo Troop
“When one engine fails on a twin-engine airplane you always have enough power left to get you to the scene of the crash.”
The three most common ex pressions (or famous last words) in aviation are: “Why is it doing that?”, “Where are we?” And “Oh S…! “
As the test pilot climbs out of the experimental aircraft, having torn off the wings and tail in the crash landing, the crash truck arrives, the rescuer sees a bloodied pilot and asks, “What happened?” The pilot’s reply: “I don’t know, I just got here myself!” – Attributed to Ray Crandell (Lockheed test pilot)
“Guilty, But Mostly Stupid” (excerpts)
Rules for Bank Robbers: According to the FBI, most modern-day bank robberies are “unsophisticated and unprofessional crimes”…Thus, this advice is offered to would-be bank robbers, along with examples of what can happen if the rules aren’t followed:
1. Pick the right bank. Clark advises that you don’t follow the lead of the fellow in Anaheim, Cal., who tried to hold up a bank that was no longer in business and had no money. On the other hand, you don’t want to be too familiar with the bank. A California robber ran into his mother while making his getaway. She turned him in.
2.Don’t sign your demand note.Demand notes have been written on the back of a subpoena issued in the name of a bank robber in Pittsburgh, on an envelope bearing the name and address of another in Detroit, and in East Hartford, Conn., on the back of a withdrawal slip giving the robber’s signature and account number.
7. Consider another line of work.There was the case of the hopeful criminal in Swansea, Mass., who, when the teller told him she had no money, fainted. He was still unconscious when the police arrived.
10 Unique Hamantaschen for Purim! Boo yeah!
Who doesn’t like Purim hamantaschen? Fools, and diabetics perhaps. The soft, triangular cookie is traditionally stuffed with poppyseed, prune or jam, but there is certainly no need to stick with tradition…. What is Purim? I’m glad you asked! Esther, a sassy young Jew living in ancient Persia, saves all the Jews from the King’s evil adviser Haman’s devious plans of extermination. So, we rejoice with tons of rowdy parties, costumes, booze, and hedonism….
[Disclaimer: I have not tried any of these. IGP]
Mint Chocolate Hamantaschen
Red Velvet Hamantaschen
Heart Shaped White Chocolate Cherry Hamantaschen
Chocolate Dipped Hamantaschen
Savory Caramelized Onion Hamantaschen
Poppy Seed Hamantaschen Bagels
Irish Car Bomb Hamantaschen