I am so very tired of this cold, damp weather. Spring comes March 20, but that’s just what they say (fake astronomy?). Perhaps the fact that Passover (Pesach) is approaching should make me feel “spring-ier,” but I’m still in denial about the holiday’s being only two weeks away.
This Shabbat we have a triple header – readings from three Torah scrolls! First, we have the weekly reading, the start of Leviticus. Then, since it is Rosh Chodesh (head of the month, new moon), we read Num. 28:9-15, on the Sabbath and Rosh Chodesh sacrifices, from a second scroll. But wait, there’s more! It’s also Shabbat HaChodesh (Sabbath of THE Month, THE month being Nissan), the fourth of the four special, pre-Passover Sabbaths with an added Torah reading, so we read Ex. 12:1-20, instructions for observing the first Passover, from a third scroll. [I will give a shout-out next week to the first of you to identify the other Sabbath during the year on which there may be readings from three scrolls.] 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 Isaiah 66:1, 24 as well, taken from the usual Shabbat Rosh Chodesh haftarah, Isaiah 66:1-24. By the way, since it’s Rosh Chodesh, there are other changes to the service, including a Chatzi Hallel, Psalms 113-118 minus the first 11 verses of Psalm 115 and Psalm 116. Not a short service.
Back to the regular reading. It is largely a training and reference manual for priests concerning offerings: In ArtScroll’s Stone edition of the Torah readings, there are about 9 pages of tables in the back organizing this: what is to be offered, why, when, by whom, is it obligatory or voluntary, what happens to the offering (Totally burned? Partly eaten? If so, by whom?), and so on. [One can imagine all this captured on a set of laminated cards near the altar for easy reference.] A summary of this week’s offerings is provided by Robert Tornberg in Looking through the Smoke: A Transparent Message, to which I’ve referred before (thanks, Stanley), here further summarized:
- 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.
Let’s consider, in turn, why offerings at all, why animal sacrifices in particular, and why do we have to read about this? Though today we don’t donate burnt offerings (not deliberately, anyway), we still make donations of time, money, and items to religious organizations, for many of the same reasons as for ancient offerings: to support the building and its staff, in thanksgiving for something good that has happened, in celebration, to say you’re sorry (e.g., the proverbial flowers and candy), and so on.
Why animal sacrifices in particular? Several positions are summarized by Nehama Leibowitz in New Studies in Leviticus, pp. 1-22 (1996). For example, Maimonides (1138-1204) saw worship as progressing from idolatry through animal sacrifices to prayer. Suddenly would have been too big a shock for the Israelites, and they would revert to idolatry. Nachmanides (1194-1270) attacked this view (“His statements are preposterous,” cited by Leibowitz, op cit., p. 7), pointing out that in the Torah, sacrifices predate idolatry (e.g., Cain and Abel), so idolatry is irrelevant. Instead, Nachmanides finds intrinsic value in the details of the sacrifices as symbolism, in which a person offers an animal in place of himself.
And why are we subjected to all these details? The Lord indeed does call (Vayikra, whence the name of the portion and book) upon Moses in Lev. 1:1-2 to tell all this to all the Children of Israel, even details of rituals which only the priests need to know? Tornberg (op cit.) provides one answer: “(I)f only the priests knew what happened during the rituals, not only would the general population be behind a screen of smoke, but they also would be in total darkness. 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.” It’s all there, for anyone who cares to learn it.
Teenage Daughter Owner’s Manual (excerpts)
firstname.lastname@example.org (Geoffrey Kidd)
Congratulations! You are now the proud new owner of a teenaged daughter. Please read this manual carefully.
IF YOU FEEL YOU HAVE RECEIVED YOUR TEENAGER IN ERROR: To determine whether you were supposed to receive a teenaged girl, please examine your new daughter carefully. Does she:
(a) look very similar to your original daughter, only with more makeup and less clothing?
(b) refuse to acknowledge your existence on the planet Earth (except when requesting money)?
(c) Sleep in a burrow of dirty laundry?
If any of these are true, you have received the correct item.
BREAK-IN PERIOD When you first receive your teenaged daughter, you will initially experience a high level of discomfort. Gradually, this discomfort will subside, and you will merely feel traumatized. This is the “Break-In Period,” during which you are becoming accustomed to certain behaviors that will cause you concern, anxiety, and stress. Once you have adapted to these behaviors, your teenager will start acting even worse.
ACTIVATION To activate your teenaged daughter, simply place her in the vicinity of a telephone or Instant Messenger. No further programming is required.
SHUTDOWN Several hours after activation, you may desire to shut down your teenaged daughter. There is no way to do this.
CLOTHING YOUR TEENAGED DAUGHTER Retailers make millions of dollars selling stylish and frankly sensible clothing which will look adorable on your daughter. Unfortunately, your teenaged daughter wants to dress like a lap dancer.
OTHER MAINTENANCE Teenaged daughters require one of two levels of maintenance: “High,” and “Ultra High.” Your daughter is “Ultra High.” This means that whatever you do won’t be enough and whatever you try won’t work.
WARRANTY This product is not without defect because she has your genes, for heaven’s sake. Your warranty does not give you your little girl back under any circumstances, except that deep down she’s actually still there–you just have to look for her.
Q: Why did the cow jump over the moon? A: Because the farmer had cold hands!
Q: How do you know when the moon is going broke? A: When it’s down to its last quarter.
Q: “Why does the Moon orbit the Earth?” A: “To get to the other side?”
Q: What did the moon say to his therapist? A: I’m just going through a phase.
Q: What do you get when you take green cheese and divide its circumference by its diameter? A: Moon pi.
Q: How does one astronaut on the moon tell another astronaut that he is sorry? A: He Apollo-gises.
Moon Landing: After the Americans went to the Moon, the Soviets announced that they would be sending a man to the Sun. The engineers objected. “If you send a man to the Sun, he will burn up!” “What do you think I am, stupid?” he replied. “We’ll send him at night!”
(A convenient form, not just for moms. IGP)
Quotes about Offerings
Take care that all your offerings be free, and of your own, that has cost you something; so that ye may not offer of that which is another man’s, or that which ye are entrusted withal, and not your own. George Fox
Many will view the compromises that will be made during your negotiations as painful concessions. But why not view them as peace offerings, ones that will provide in return the priceless gifts of hope, security and freedom for our children and our children’s? Abdallah II of Jordan
It only stands to reason that where there’s sacrifice, there’s someone collecting the sacrificial offerings. Where there’s service, there is someone being served. The man who speaks to you of sacrifice is speaking of slaves and masters, and intends to be the master. Ayn Rand
I was meant to date the captain of the football team, I was going to be on a romantic excursion every Saturday night, I was destined to be collecting corsages from every boy in town before prom, accepting such floral offerings like competing sacrifices to a Delphic goddess. Elizabeth Wurtzel