Arnold Eisen, Chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary (the Conservative Movement’s rabbinical school), teaches that the Book of Leviticus, which we begin this week, is a “how-to handbook” for the ancient priests on which the rest of us are merely eavesdroppers. This next book of Torah is filled with instructions about the various sorts of sacrifices to be offered and how to perform them correctly. We, as contemporary readers, he says, are quite removed from sacrifice and are probably even repelled by all the blood, gore, and priestly technicalities of Leviticus.
With a little bit of wisdom and detachment, however, we can still derive meaning from Leviticus’s attention to human frailty and imperfection, its sustained reflection on the importance of ritual, and its understanding of the need for holiness and community. It’s not as easy as finding meanings in Genesis’ stories of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs or in the highlight reel that is Deuteronomy, but most things that are worthwhile are not easy. Roll up your sleeves and join us for Torah study this month at 9:30am on Temple’s Seattle campus!
– Rabbi Aaron Meyer