I’m trying to get this done tonight because it’s supposed to snow tomorrow and my freaking out might get in the way.
This week, we start reading the book of Leviticus (Vayikra, “he called” i.e., the Lord called [Moses], also the name of the portion). Oh come on, stop kvetching; there’s actually a lot of interesting stuff to learn from what at first seems to be no more than a training manual for Israelite priests. The sacrifices themselves are reasonably straightforward, with clear instructions as to the reason for each type of offering, whether it is voluntary or obligatory, who offers it, what it consists of and how prepared, when it is offered and how, is any of it eaten and, if so, by whom. Lots of details, which the Stone Edition of the text that my shul uses helpfully summarizes in about 9 pages of tables. I included a nice summary by Robert Tornberg here last year (Looking through the Smoke – A Transparent Message), so here’s a summary of the summary. There are five types of sacrifices here:
- The olah or “elevation,” a voluntary burnt offering of an animal to bring the offerer closer to God.
- The minchah,a usually voluntary offering made of flour and oil, much more inexpensive than an animal offering and so could be brought by the poor (Leviticus 2:1-16)
- The zevach sh’lamim,an offering of wellbeing or thanksgiving (Leviticus 3:1-17). Sort of a celebratory barbecue. Like giving a donation of money today in honor of someone.
- The chatat,a “sin offering” (Leviticus 4:1-35; 5:1-13), given to atone for unintentional sin. This could involve a personal or communal sin.
- The asham,“reparation or guilt offering” (Leviticus 5:14-26), typically by someone who had stolen property. In addition to making restitution, a 20% penalty was included. That would make it up to the victim, and the sacrifice was intended to atone separately to God.
There were two major themes as to why sacrifices were prescribed at all. Maimonides, ever the rationalist, believed they were intended as a tangible means to bring the offerer closer to God and that the sacrificial system was intended only to be an intermediate step to enable the total abolition of idolatry lead the worshipper to the goal total service to God. While some sages supported this view, many didn’t; Nachmanides was particularly scathing. They held that the details of the sacrificial system had intrinsic value, and that the sacrifice was symbolically offered in place of the person himself.
This week, we read from two scrolls in addition to the one for the weekly portion. The Rosh Chodesh (the beginning of the month/ new moon) reading, Numbers 28:9-15, is from a second scroll and is about the relevant sacrifices. The third scroll includes the reading for Shabbat HaChodesh, the Sabbath that occurs immediately before or on (like this year) the first day of the month of Nisan. Shabbat HaChodesh is the last of the four preparatory Sabbaths before Passover on which we have an additional Torah reading, here, Exodus 12:1-20, the instructions for the first Passover. The haftarah for Shabbat HaChodesh, Ezekiel 45:16-46:18 (45:18-46:13 for Sephardim), the prophet’s vision of Passover observance in messianic times.
Two weeks to go!
NEW EMPLOYEE MANUAL – written by Liam McEneaney
**Contributed to Swenny’s E-Mail Funnies by Arturo Vega, Mexico City **
Welcome aboard! You are one of our most valued new employees. Enclosed please find some helpful guidelines to company policy.
OVERTIME – The Company has an optional overtime policy – you have the option of working forty hours of overtime or eighty hours of overtime.
PROMOTION – The Company rewards hard work and devotion. We like to think that if you work hard and devote enough time and energy to the company, you will be rewarded by being allowed to train the CEO’s son when he is promoted to Vice President over you.
STOCK OPTIONS – You may buy shares in the company when it goes public. So named because you’ll be working in the stock room at Wal-Mart when the company goes belly-up due to your incompetence.
401k – This is how much money you’ll lose under your “Stock Option” plan.
HELLTH PLAN – No, that isn’t a misprint; you now belong to an H.M.O. That stands for “Hell’s Medical Organization.” It was organized by some of Hell’s finest minds; Hitler, Genghis Khan, and Josef Stalin worked night and day to create a 162-page manual documenting the exact terms of your coverage, but it all boils down to three points:
1) You belong to the HMO. We mean that literally – as of now, the HMO owns you. To insure that you don’t forget your subscriber number, we will tattoo it to your forehead.
2) You have been assigned a primary care physician. You will not be told your physician’s name. You may never see your physician. Your physician is imaginary. If you see any doctor without express written permission of your imaginary primary care physician, you will be forced to pay full price, plus eat your weight in lard.
3) You are not covered under this plan.
TERMINATION – All employees will be given two weeks notice upon being fired. We like to feel that this gives an employee a “grace period” to steal all of the office supplies that he or she may have forgotten to take during his or her period of employment.
COMPLAINTS – May be made anonymously in the box marked “Complaints” in the employee break room. All complaints will be reviewed, processed, and fed to an angry Rottweiler named Frankie.
My identity has always been confused. Born in Edinburgh of a Scottish/Russian/Jewish mother and an English/Irish/Catholic father, there is no form of guilt to which I was not subjected in my childhood. Members of my immediate family live all over the world – a diaspora of cousins, aunts, uncles and more in a dizzying mix.
Punishment is now unfashionable… because it creates moral distinctions among men, which, to the democratic mind, are odious. We prefer a meaningless collective guilt to a meaningful individual responsibility.
Guilt: the gift that keeps on giving.
Where all are guilty, no one is; confessions of collective guilt are the best possible safeguard against the discovery of culprits, and the very magnitude of the crime the best excuse for doing nothing.
The Junior Sunday School Teacher asked her eight eager 10-year-olds if they would give $1,000,000 to the missionaries.
“YES!” they all screamed!!
“Would you give $1,000?” Again they shouted “YES!”
“How about $100?” “Oh, YES we would!” they all agreed!!
“Would you give just a dollar to the missionaries?” she asked.
The boys exclaimed “YES!” just as before except for Johnnie.
“Johnnie,” the teacher said as she noticed the boy clutching his pocket, “why didn’t you say ‘YES’ this time?”
“Well,” he stammered, “I HAVE a dollar.”
Jewish Singles Clean [Facebook] for Passover (excerpts)
Rabbi Jason Miller 03/29/2012 – 16:04
Some Jews might find themselves cleaning their homes to prepare for Passover, but the Jewish dating site, Jewcier has determined that many Jewish singles will use Passover as an excuse to clean out their cell phone contacts and unclutter their accounts on the popular social networking site Facebook. Of the 1,120 Jewish singles surveyed, 68% of women and 65% of men said that cleaning out their Facebook friends, and their cell phone contacts, was the most important thing to clean before Passover.
“Most of the attention given to Passover surrounds what foods we can and cannot eat, how to clean our homes, who to invite for the holidays, and where to spend the seder. But we were curious how today’s Jewish singles approached this holiday, and the results we discovered were very interesting,” said Shira Kallus, Relationship Advisor for Jewcier.
Here (is an excerpt of) the complete poll results:
Question: What’s the most important thing I clean out before Passover?
Men: My Facebook and cell phone: 65% Car: 15% Apartment: 12% Office: 8%
Women: My Facebook and cell phone: 68% Apartment: 20% Office: 11% Car: 1%
Question: Why clean out your Facebook and cell phone before Passover?
Men: Passover is a great time to completely clean out your life! 66% Passover is not the time to focus on cleaning out your Facebook/cell phone: 34%
Women: Passover is a great time to completely clean out your life! 73% Passover is not the time to focus on cleaning out your Facebook/cell phone: 27%
The sages understand the obligation to free oneself of chametz to be a sort of spiritual cleaning as well. Chametz is compared to haughtiness and there might just be a connection between haughtiness and an overgrown Facebook profile. So, while the question of whether Facebook is chametz was raised a couple years ago, there might be a strong connection to ridding our homes of leavened products before Passover and ridding our Facebook profiles of unwanted connections before the holiday as well. For some, a pared down Facebook page following some spring cleaning might just be another way of celebrating our freedom.