A triple header! Three Torahs, no waiting! [Quick, what’s the other Sabbath during the year on which there may be readings from three scrolls?]
In addition to starting the book of Leviticus, which is kind of growing on me (too many years in the Legal department), this Sabbath is Shabbat HaChodesh (Sabbath of THE Month, THE month being Nissan), the last of the four special, pre-Passover Sabbaths having a special second scroll reading. Only this year, it’s the third scroll reading, because it coincides with Rosh Chodesh Nissan, so the second scroll reading is Num. 28:9-15 (good ol’ Numbers 28) on the Rosh Chodesh and Sabbath sacrifices. The final reading is Ex. 12:1-20, which contains instructions for the observance of the first Passover. The haftarah for Shabbat HaChodesh is Ezekiel 45:16-46:18 (45:18-46:13 for Sephardim), a vision of Passover observance in messianic times. Some congregations have the custom of chanting a couple few verses of the Shabbat Rosh Chodesh haftarah (Isaiah 66:1-24) as well. And since it’s Rosh Chodesh, that means several additional Psalms and prayers. It won’t be a short service.
It’s been a long week for me, and it’s not over yet (4 rehearsals, 1 concert, 2 financial meetings, 1 presentation, and 1 short aliyah to read). I have 112 unread messages in my work email inbox, and you don’t want to know how many are in the home account’s inbox. So, I will give you some reasonably meaty (pun half-intended) comments from last year.
This week’s Torah portion contains what is essentially an instruction manual for offering sacrifices: what are appropriate offerings, what the donor does with it (such as laying hands on it), what the priest does with it besides slaughtering it, whether it is entirely burned or just part, the rest to be eaten, who is to eat it, how prescribed offerings may vary with circumstances (i.e., when may a poor person give a less expensive offering) , and so on. And there is the question: why? Why a certain sacrifice for a certain situation and why animal (or meal or fruit) sacrifices at all? The sacrificial system was certainly a way of supporting (and feeding) the priests and Levities, but it was more importantly viewed as a concrete way of coming closer to the Lord. The word for a type of sacrifice, “korban,” has the same root in Hebrew as “to draw near.” And just as we make donations of money (or give flowers and candy according to one cultural stereotype) in honor of something or someone or in memory of someone or because we feel guilty or because we feel thankful or because it’s a holiday, there were sacrifices for all sorts of reasons. This week we read about sacrifices of well-being in Chapter 3 and sin offerings in Chapters 4 and 5. The latter offerings are for guilt incurred by a priest, a chieftain, the whole community, or a single person, when they’ve done something the Lord commanded them not to do. Part is offered on the altar, the hide and flesh are burned completely outside the camp, the priest makes expiation for the guilty. We also start getting into reparations, which involves making restitution for a loss incurred (“principal”), plus a penalty of “a fifth” (which is actually a fourth – that is, it’s a fourth of the principal, making it a fifth of the principal plus penalty).
Why animal sacrifices? The sages have argued with each other about that across the centuries, especially Maimonides versus Nachmanides. Maimonides wrote of the sacrificial system as an interim mechanism to wean the Israelites from idolatry (sacrifices to idols -> sacrifices to the Lord -> serving the Lord without sacrifices). Nachmanides dismissed an association of sacrifices per se with idolatry, since sacrifices predated idols (e.g., Cain and Abel, Noah et al.), instead suggesting that the animal sacrifice is offered as a symbolic, concrete substitute for the sinner who offers it. This is discussed by Nehama Leibowitz in New Studies in Vayikra, pp. 1-22.
And remember, the first seder is only two weeks from tonight!
Sometimes, when I reflect back on all the beer I drink I feel ashamed. Then I look into the glass and think about all the workers in the brewery and all of their hopes and dreams. If I didn’t drink this beer, they might be out of work and their dreams would be shattered. Then I say to myself, ‘It is better that I drink this beer and let their dreams come true than to be selfish and worry about my liver.’ -Jack Handey
The Stolen Watch
Sammy has stolen the rabbi’s gold watch.
He didn’t feel too good about it, so he decided, after a sleepless night.
to go to the rabbi.
‘Rabbi, I stole a gold watch.’
‘But Sammy ! That’s forbidden! You should return it immediately !’
‘What shall I do ?’
‘Give it back to the owner.’
‘Do you want it ?’
‘No, I said return it to its owner.’
‘But he doesn’t want it.’
‘In that case, you can keep it.’
Change and Directions Friday, May 4th, 2007
1) Defending a large corporation in a pollution suit where he knew they were guilty.
2) Defending an obviously guilty murderer because the fee was high.
3) Overcharging fees to many clients.
4) Prosecuting an innocent woman because a scapegoat was needed in a controversial case.
And the list goes on for quite awhile.
The lawyer objects and begins to argue his case. He admits all these things, but argues, “Wait, I’ve done some charity in my life also.”
St. Peter looks in his book and says,”Yes, I see. Once you gave a dime to a panhandler and once you gave an extra nickel to the shoeshine boy, correct?”
The lawyer gets a smug look on his face and replies, “Yes.”
St. Peter turns to the angel next to him and says, “Give this guy 15 cents and tell him to go to hell.”
From: LABLaughs.com on 3/19/2003
A lawyer’s dog, running about unleashed, beelines for a butcher shop and steals a roast. Butcher goes to lawyer’soffice and asks, “if a dog running unleashed steals a piece of meat from my store, do I have a right to demand payment for the meat from the dog’s owner?”
The lawyer answers, “Absolutely.”
“Then you owe me $8.50. Your dog was loose and stole a roast from me today.”
The lawyer, without a word, writes the butcher a check for $8.50 [attorneys don’t carry cash — it’s too plebeian — and the butcher hadn’t brought the shop’s credit card imprinter to the lawyer’s office].
Several periods of time later — it could be the next day but that would be unrealistic — the butcher opens the mail and finds an envelope from the lawyer: $20 due for a consultation.
* * *
A lady went into a butcher shop complaining about some hot dogs she had just bought. “The middle is meat,” she exclaimed, “but the ends are sawdust!”
“Well,” said the butcher. “These days it’s hard to make ends meat.”
Three pastors went to the pastor convention and were all sharing one room.
The first pastor said, “Let’s confess our secret sins one to another. I’ll start – My secret sin is I don’t take time to pray for my church members but my members think I am a prayer warrior”.
The second pastor said, “My secret sin is that I just hate working and preparing the sermons. I copy all my sermons from those given by other pastors.”
The third pastor said, “My secret sin is gossiping and, oh boy, I just can’t wait to get out of this room!”
“The sacrifice which causes sorrow to the doer of the sacrifice is no sacrifice. Real sacrifice lightens the mind of the doer and gives him a sense of peace and joy. Mahatma Gandhi