Tzav – Lev. 6:1-8:36 (Mar. 26/27)

As the Torah Turns

Rabbi Lader’s Weekly D’var Torah

Tzav – Lev. 6:1-8:36 (Mar. 26/27)

This week, our Torah portion is Tzav – Lev. 6:1-8:36.  In the first seven chapters of Leviticus, Moses learns about the details and procedures of the sacrifices.  He will then need to consecrate the Mishkan – the tabernacle; only then can he move on to the consecration of Aaron and his sons in their roles as cohanim – priests.  Why is it important to stop and take note of these special roles for Aaron and his sons?  Jacob Milgram in his commentary on the book of Leviticus comments: “The Bible is reminding us not to let important moments slide by unnoticed, but instead to make occasions with rituals that establish the significance of the moment and emblazon them in our collective memory.” (p. 78) Our lives are filled with important transitions.  A baby is born, and ceremony functions to reinforce their identity for their family and community. A child reaches adolescence, and ritual reminds them and their congregation of their new responsibilities. A couple falls in love, and a ceremony under a wedding canopy transforms them from mere lovers to committed, covenantal partners. A person dies, and the preparation of their body for burial expresses core beliefs of their people — among them, that we are responsible for deep acts of caring for each other, that the human body is to be treated with sanctity, and that the transition from life to death has meaning. Our tradition teaches us a powerful lesson on the value of ritual marking the important liminal, or threshold, moments of our lives.   During this year of the pandemic, we have been challenged to mark these transition points in our lives that occur in the context of community.  Some events can be rescheduled; some cannot.  I have co-officiated at a bris, while friends and family zoomed in for the ceremony. 

Our congregation has celebrated a number of b’nai mitzvah with only family in the sanctuary, and more family and friends watching on our livestream youtube channel.  Weddings have been rescheduled – and some couples are now venturing to our sanctuary (to livestream to family and friends) or outdoors, taking advantage of our parks and the spring and summer weather.  And too many people have passed away; I have stood by the graveside in sub-zero temperatures and led funeral services by zoom from my home… and others’ memorial services are being scheduled for a later time, when people can gather safely. Through it all, we have striven to mark these important times.  Times of celebration, and times of memory.  The times of our lives.

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