My musings are now sent out as a Yahoo Groups list (only the musing can be posted). To subscribe, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last year at this time (5758,) I accepted the challenge of Tzav, with its talk of sacrificial rites, and attempted to find within in lessons for today. I know that this is possible, and I commend to you reading the text of Tzav with an eye towards gleaning meanings that withstand the light of our contemporary society and the liberal Jewish perspective.
[Adrian in 5768: Having a little troubl;e finding something to redeem in Tzav this year!]
But my mind and soul are not so brave this year, not quite so ready to redeem the text of Tzav in a modern context. And so I'll choose a safer course by focusing instead on the Haftarah, this week from Jeremiah.
Jeremiah, of course, starts out by giving us a "hook" on which we can create contemporary readings of Tzav. For he has G"d saying that when we were brought out of Egypt, it was not about sacrifices that G"d was commanding us, but about following G"d's commandments, walking in G"d's ways, and keeping our covenant with G"d. (Jeremiah 7:21-23.) Armed with that little piece of prophetic side-stepping, maybe you can feel empowered to view the text of Tzav in a different light. Good luck. I'm not going to try this time.
[Adrian in 5768: You got that right!]
In great prophetical rhetoric, Jeremiah outlines for the people exactly where they have gone astray, and warns them of the consequences to follow. (He uses an image that, in the context of my current educational setting, is extremely powerful. Resurrection is a pretty hot topic among Divinity school students and faculty. Jeremiah's listeners must also have had some sorts of expectations or understandings along those lines, and Jeremiah apparently turns that to his advantage in 8:1-3. The bones of those who have so ineptly served G"d will be exposed and raised up-but not to be resurrected or even reburied, but to be blown into dust in an irrecoverable end. Ouch! That's one powerful message and prediction. Truly the lives of those whose bones are so utterly destroyed will have been in vain.)
[Adrian in 5768: Resurrection is a hot topic now as well-especially with the confluence of Shushan Purim and Easter this year. For myself, I have redeemed the concept of m'khayei hameitim in a metaphorical sense - resurrection can occur in other ways the bodily.] But we need not despair completely. And this is the part of the Haftarah I want to focus on. It's Jeremiah's solution to keeping on G"d's good side. It's simple, direct, and needs little explanation. From the words of 9:22-23, which concludes the Haftarah, we can learn well how to live to avoid such a fate as Jeremiah describes:
The wise should not boast of his own wisdom The strong should not boast of his own strength The rich shall not boast of his own riches
Rather in this one should always be caused to boast: In their devotion to knowing Me. For, I, Ad"nai, act with kindness, justice and righteousness In these I delight -declares G"d.
(the translation is my own.)
It's a simple formula, reminding us that all that we are, all that we have, all that we do are nothing if we do not do them for the sake of Gd. Humility and devotion. Qualities often found far too lacking these days. All that we have, all that we are, we can lose in an instant. But our devotion to Gd is something that cannot be taken away except from ourselves by ourselves. I would add a caveat to Jeremiah's thoughts - that we not boast even of our devotion to Gd, lest we lose our humility both in the sight of Gd, our fellow humans, and ourselves. That, for we prideful humans, is a sacrifice of sorts.
And also, we should make the purpose of our devotion to knowing Gd" to strive to be like G"d and act with kindness, justice and righteousness, and delight in them. For this is what it is to be in Gd's image and to keep our covenant with G"d.
[Adrian in 5768: What was I thinking?!? Strive to emulate G"d? OK. I'll be petty. I'll be haughty. I'll be mean. It's too convenient to forget that G"d has these characteristics as well. So I'll correct my thoughts thusly: we should make the purpose of our devotion to knowing Gd" to strive to be like G"d when G"d acts with kindness, justice and righteousness, and delights in them. For this is what it is to be in Gd's image and to keep our covenant with G"d-whilst striving to keep our yetzer hara from surfacing.]
Whether you find your answers this week in Tzav or Jeremiah, may they bring you closer to Gd
[Adrian in 5768: Ditto.]
©2008 by Adrian A. Durlester
5767-Redux 5762-Irrelevant Relavancies
Tzav/Shabbat HaGadol 5766 - Dysfunction Junction
Tzav 5765 (updated 5760)-Of IHOPs, Ordination and Shabbat
Tzav/Shabbat HaGadol 5764-Two Way Street
Tzav 5763 - Zot Torahteinu?
Tzav 5761/5759-Jeremiah's Solution
Email Me A Comment!