When I walked past the graves of the fallen soldiers at Mount Herzl a couple months ago it shockingly came into my mind that many soldiers that were killed were younger than I am today; and even born after I was born. Those young people fell for Israel, for defending the Israeli people against terrorism and all of those soldiers exactly knew that death could be a consequence of serving in the IDF.
This week, we will read the double torah portion of Tazria-Metzora in the book of Vayikra (Leviticus). At the same time, we will also welcome the new month of Iyyar, or “blossom”. Thirdly, we find ourselves in the middle of the Omer, which is the 49 day period between our liberation from slavery, celebrated through the holiday of Passover, and our ultimate climactic experience of receiving the Torah at Mount Sinai, our celebration of Shavuot. The Omer commemorates the ancient daily practice of bringing an Omer (a biblical sheaf of barley) to the Temple as a offering to G-d. During the Omer, it is customary to take on deep introspection and questioning. Thus, Iyyar is seen as a time of release and reception. We are letting go of what holds us back as well as preparing for receiving the new life of springtime...
Yom HaShoah… what shall I say? A lot has been written, a lot has been staged, many movies were filmed. But where exactly are we now? What did these documents do to us or the non-Jewish people surrounding us? What can be said today, and how? For me, it always seemed that words are not sufficient to describe what has happened 70 years ago to my grandparents. Yes, I’m part of the third generation of the Holocaust on both sides.
This week’s parasha Shemini describes one of the most joyful days in the Jewish history, as it is written “That day was as joyous to G‑d as the day on which heaven and earth were created.” (Talmud, Megillah 10b)
After leaving Mitzraim the Jewish people went through a spiritual elevation process in the desert, up to the point where they received the Torah. However, even after the reception of the Torah, they were still caught in the desert. Mystically, a desert means a place of intense death-forces, a place of lethal ordeals. No water means no life. Even though, G-d supported his nation with all the physical needs to survive the desert, he knew that these deadly forces will gnaw also on the Jewish people’s spiritual level. Thus, G-d commands in the desert and Moses introduce the Mishkan (Tabernacle), bringing G-d’s divine name amid the Jewish people.
Jewish holidays come again every year.
I’ve always found this to be comforting—if a particular holiday did not quite go as you had hoped, you know that you have another shot next year.
As I get older and feel more responsible for making the world a better place, I find this to be less comforting and more frustrating.
In last week’s parasha (Vayikra) one of the most important (and also one of the longest) parts covered the various sacrifices we were required to give when we had made mistakes. Now in this week’s portion, Parashat Tzav, the Torah explores a different kind of sacrifice and with it – a different concept – the concept of gratitude.
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