Life Lessons from the Torah Portion
Parshat Shemini Leviticus 9:1–11:47
Pesach(Passover ) has its own unique quality of Simcha ( joy) and spiritual power. It is a time when one rejoices with the sense of potential. One is uplifted with a sense of hope. It is the season of renewal.” This month shall be to you the head of the months; to you it shall be the first of the months of the year.( Exodus 12:2), the Hebrew word for Month( Chodesh) is rooted in the word Chadash or newness. That could why for many For many years I have found the ending of the festival of Pesach(Passover) to be such a difficult and saddening experience. In addition to the ending of such an uplifting and family centered festival, I am always finding it difficult to cope that “nothing happened” on a national level.
Even as they crossed the Red Sea their “song of praise” looked to the distant future. “With Your loving kindness You led the people You redeemed; You led themwith Your might to Your holy abode. …You shall bring them and plant them on the mount of Your heritage, directed toward Your habitation, which You made, O Hashem; the sanctuary, O Hashem, [which] Your hands founded. Hashem will reign to all eternity (Exodus 15:14-18)
I truly yearn at every Passover for the festival to culminate with an incredible joy filled dance at the gates of the rebuilt third Temple. I truly anticipate the joy of all the people of Israel and many in the nations who would gather at the culmination of the Passover festival if not preceding it to simply rejoice. I sincerely expect Hashem’s ruling of our creation to be made real and palpable to all of mankind as He rules from the Heavens and sends His servant to be His representative on this Earth, “And I, Hashem, shall be for them the G-d, and My servant David will be a prince in their midst; “( Ezekiel 34:24).
Yet nothing happened …as of yet !
Instead we enter again into the period of the counting of the Omer which is tinged with sadness due to the many tragedies that has befallen the Jewish people in n these days including the death of thousands of Rabbi Akiva’s students. Yet I have also sensed that the “Counting of the Omer” is tinged with sadness because of the lack of fulfilment that the Omer sacrifice actually alludes to.
Yet several years ago I found a commentary in Rashi that gave me great insight and strength.
We read in the torah portion of Shemini (Leviticus 9:1–11:47) the following. On the eighth day after the seven days of preparation Moshe summoned Aaron and his sons and the elders of Israel, and tells them to bring specific sacrifices to the tabernacle for its inauguration.
And they took what Moshe had commanded, to the front of the Tent of Meeting, and the entire community approached and stood before Hashem. And Moshe said, “This is the thing Hashem has commanded; do it, and the Glory of Hashem will appear to you.” ( Leviticus 8:5-6)
Since the sin of the golden calf ,the people of Israel were empowered with the creation of the Tabernacle. The Torah goes into seemingly undo length describing the preparations, the materials and the zeal that surrounded that building. Then Aaron is brought through a process of preparation under the guidance of Moshe his elder brother
And Moshe said to Aaron, “Approach the altar and perform your sin offering and your burnt offering, atoning for yourself and for the people, and perform the people’s sacrifice, atoning for them, as Hashem has commanded.” ( ibid ;7)
Then for the next fourteen verses we read of Aaron’s diligent preparation. Finally we reach the climax and imagine the scene as the many hundreds of thousands of people wait to experience the revelation of Kavod Hashem ( G-d’s Glory ).They stand there nervously with their eyes fixed on Aaron. We then read;
And Aaron lifted up his hands towards the people and blessed them. He then descended from preparing the sin offering, the burnt offering, and the peace offering. ( Leviticus 9:22 ) Aaron raises his hands and recites the Priestly blessing and then ..
Nothing happens !!
The disappointment is too difficult to imagine. We then read
As a result,” Moshe and Aaron went into the Tent of Meeting.”( ibid 23). Rashi gives us an understanding of what took place in the tent.
Rashi explains “When Aaron saw that all the sacrifices had been offered and all the procedures had been performed, and yet the Shechinah had not descended for Israel, he was distressed. He said, “I know that the Holy One, blessed is He, is angry with me, and on my account the Shechinah has not descended for Israel.” … At once, Moshe entered [the Tent of Meeting] with him, and they prayed for mercy. Then the Shechinah came down for Israel. — [Torath Kohanim 9:16]”
It is out if that point of brokenness and repentance- Teshuva, that we then read, “then they came out and blessed the people, and the Glory of Hashem appeared to all the people.”
We have experienced the enlightenment of Renewal of Pesach and we have entered the days of the Sefirat HaOmer. We will commemorate “Holocaust Remembrance Day Yom HaShoah” and experience later Israel’s Memorial Day for the fallen, Yom Hazikaron. Then we will rejoice with Israel’s Independence day and then later again with the 50th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem on Yom Yerushalayim( Jerusalem day). A roller coaster of emotions. Painful memories mixed with deep spiritual gratitude. Harsh realities of a difficult history mixed with hope and yearning for fulfillment of destiny.
All this can only be navigated with a humble and yearning heart.
As we learned from Aaron, doing all the right things with all the right intentions is not enough, though it may be critical. To experience a true manifestation of Hashem’s glory one needs to become a more humbled and even broken, vessel. A vessel that yearns to be filled. After all is said and done, yearning remains the key.
King David understood that simple truth as he cries out to Hashem in Psalm 51;
“For You do not wish a sacrifice, or I should give it; You do not desire a burnt offering. The sacrifices of G-d are a broken spirit; O G-d, You will not despise a broken and crushed heart.” (Psalm 51:18-19)
Perhaps then we will experience not only the receiving of Hashem’s Torah again on Shavuot but we will also be able to bring the fine loaves of bread as a gift into Hashem’s House.
Kayn Yehi Ratzon May it be His Will !
LeRefuat Yehudit bat Golda Yocheved