Approaching the Infinite

It is so easy for mortal man to feel lost in our world of dead ends and treacherous turns. Events spiral out of control at times and we re beset with difficulties that spring forth from surprising quarters. Logic and rational tools do not always provide the answers. In the midst of this raging sea of unknowns G-d has always been the anchor and His Promises have always been the signpost.

Yet even those who walk in faith are left at times in a deep quandary. G-d is infinite, beyond comprehension and we are after all are finite and of limited understanding. How can the finite relate to the Infinite? How can the finite offer worship thanks and prayer to He who is truly beyond understanding and infinite.

In such a situation an individual yearns to find a deep sense of self worth and a clear direction and focus.

The combination of this week’s parsha of Vayikra (LEVITICUS ) and the special reading of Parshat HaChodesh (Exodus 12:1-20) may offer some insight and direction with his critical issue of faith .We read in the first verses “And He called to Moshe, and HaShem spoke to him from the Tent of Meeting, saying, Speak to the children of Israel , and say to them: When a man brings a sacrifice from among you (MEEKEM ), to HaShem from animals, from cattle or from the flock you shall bring your sacrifice. “((Leviticus 1:1-2)

It should have said, “When a man from among you (MEEKEM ) brings a sacrifice “. Yet the verse is clearly declaring a deep truth. The sacrifice is to come from within the people themselves. It is the animal part within man, the selfish ego directed part that must be “brought forward “, sacrificed and elevated by the divine fire upon the Altar.
The Shlah HaKadosh infers the if you think that this sacrifice is about the animals you have brought, then you have missed the point. It is about you. The Sfat Emet further understands from this unusual set up of the words in the verse that G-d is teaching that one needs to give his very essence up to G-d and the sacrifice only symbolizes that fact

Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Heschel, the Apta Rebbe points out another interesting point in the structure of the verse The first part of the verse “ When a man brings a sacrifice from among you to HaShem;” is written in the singular. Yet the second part of the same verse ” from animals, from cattle or from the flock you shall bring ( TAKRIVU ) your sacrifice.” is written in the plural.

It is true that one must bring his individual passion and yearning to the altar of sacrifice. Yet this offering must be bound up with the offering and passion of the entire people of israel. Personal zeal and yearning bound up with the collective identification with the people of Israel.

It is then that the special maftir reading of Parshat HaChodesh, (the Torah reading which discusses the sanctification of the new month) adds increased understanding.
The verse in Parshat Bo reads “” And HaShem spoke unto Moshe and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying: ‘This (HaZeh) month will be to you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year to you.” ( Exodus 15:1-2)

The word HaZeh (‘this’), is very significant in our verse. The Midrash metaphorically understands God’s statement of ‘this’ as a Divine finger pointing towards the newly emerged sliver of a moon and saying to Moshe: ‘When you see the moon at this state you must sanctify it as the head of all months

What was it so important that this commandment be declared at this delicate time before the exodus from Egypt?

The children of Israel in Egypt were slaves. They had no control over time. In reality we are all slaves to time. We all feel as if we are victims of the rushing river of time. At times we feel as if we are being dragged forward into the unknown and at times we emerge feeling overwhelmed and powerless.

Actually the Hebrew word for time Zman , similar to the word for invitation (hazmana ) .Time is actually an invitation into an appointed destiny. The Hebrew slaves of Egypt had to be taught this truth, so G-d commands them to declare a new month. HaShem thereby has given them the power to sanctify the month. He has also empowered them to fill the month with holiness and purpose .Their choice of sanctification also determines the arrival of the appointed feast days. They have been given this power over time by giving them the ability to fill time with meaning.

With these two elements mortal man finds a balance in this imbalanced world. Firstly G-d does not expect from us any more than we are. Secondly we have been given the power to apportion time and give it meaning and sanctity. With these two the people are ready to enter the month of Nissan, the month of rebirth. They can truly prepare themselves for the spiritually and physically liberating feast of Pesach that is soon upon us.

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