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Learn about this week’s Torah portion with our Rabbis
One of my most beloved movie heroes, Ferris Bueller, delivers the following line in the 1986 film which bears his name: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it.” What Ferris is speaking to in that particular scene could be summarized as justification for an epic day off from school. But what I really think Ferris is speaking to – and, what I believe makes that line so endearing, thirty years later – is the very essence and complicated nature of time.
At one moment, time slips away so quickly – the days pass, the years fly by, and before we know it the reflection staring back at us in the mirror is not the one we expect to see. And alternately, the movement of time can be a gift to those in mourning or recovery seeking distance from a particular episode in their lives; the phrases “just give it time” or “time is a great healer” come to mind.
Judaism is unabashedly obsessed with time and this week’s parsha highlights it. We read in Leviticus 25:8-10: “count off seven sabbath years – seven times seven years – so that the seven sabbath years amount to a period of forty-nine years. Then have the trumpet sounded everywhere on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the Day of Atonement sound the trumpet throughout your land. Consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty throughout the land … it shall be a jubilee for you; each of you is to return to your family property and to your own clan.”
This portion of the parsha speaks to the yovel, or jubilee, occurring every forty-nine years in Jewish tradition. It is in this unique year that the world is to go right again – slaves to be freed, property to be returned. It’s a fresh start, a do-over, proclaimed by the same instrument – the shofar – which calls us to be mindful of so much during the Days of Awe. The medieval Torah scholar Nahmanides, also known as Ramban, explains the purpose of this jubilee year: “it should be a “bringing” for all of you, a year that brings you all back to your holdings and to your families … it shall be a jubilee, a year for bringing you home – and nothing but that.”
With due respect to B’har, we need not wait forty-nine years for such an opportunity. Let us seize these precious moments and return “home” – whether that home be physical, emotional, spiritual, or within ourselves. Perhaps inspired by Ferris Bueller himself or by words of Torah brought to life, life does move pretty fast – let us remember to pause, look around, and to bring ourselves home.
Rabbi Jaclyn Cohen
Watch the Rabcast for Rabbi Daniel Weiner’s interpretation of this week’s Torah portion, Emor:
This week’s Torah portion, Emor, forms a perfect counterpoint to last week’s portion, Kedoshim. Parashat Kedoshim, sometimes known as the Holiness Code, presented the moral laws that all of the people were to follow while Parashat Emor presents the specific concerns of the priests and levitical Judaism. Included in this week’s portion is the Counting of the Omer, the barley offering brought to the Temple between Passover and Shavuot.
As a modern update to this ancient ritual, Temple is numbering these days in a unique way. Instead of the traditional offering of sheaves of barley during the Counting of the Omer, we invite you to fulfill our religious obligation by bringing donations of feminine hygiene products. As income inequality continues to rise throughout our country, a critical oversight in many social safety net programs is emerging: access to feminine hygiene products. Many of these programs have restrictive guidelines that exclude items like tampons and pads. For women struggling to make ends meet or suffering through homelessness, this debilitating gap creates a huge basic health and human dignity challenge.
By reinventing this ancient practice and imbuing it with a modern twist, we can observe this historical ritual in a modern way, fulfill our Jewish obligation of tikkun olam, and make a difference in the lives of countless women. Will you join us?
Rabbi Aaron C. Meyer
“You must not curse the deaf nor put a stumbling block before the blind but shall fear God (Leviticus 19:14).” Also known as the Holiness Code, this week’s Torah portion — Kedoshim —presents us with a treasury of moral imperatives by which to live. Both of these maxims are understood literally as well as categorically. To not place a stumbling block before the blind refers to those who would cause another to sin and who would strike a grown man, to those who would render judgement without knowledge and to those who would get lost in their study of Torah.
We have a unique opportunity to continue our study of Kedoshim and the categories mentioned above this Shabbat. Professor Daniel Matt, who has spend 18 years publishing the first scholarly translation of the Zohar, will join Rabbi Meyer in leading our Torah Study group. Consider joining us on our Seattle campus at 9:30am for this thought-provoking study!
Scholars can debate whether Azazel was a place, some variety of ancient demon, or simply a word meaning “for complete removal”; the rest of us can all agree that whatever it is — it’s bad. Indeed, the expression in modern Hebrew meaning “Go to Hell” (Lech L’Azazel) derives from this week’s Torah portion. Aaron, the high priest, would lay his hands on two goats, symbolically passing the sins of their community onto their heads. One of these scapegoats would be offered as a sacrifice to God, the other sent into the wilderness (or over a cliff) for Azazel.
While this ancient ritual feels barbaric and crude in the modern day, I am grateful for the underlying message it provides. We are more than our mistakes. Atonement is possible. Ritual, whether sacrificing a goat or casting breadcrumbs from our pocket upon the water in an equally symbolic gesture, offers us the religious space to do the difficult internal work of making better choices.