Tuesday, March 11, 2014

And Touching Makes The Flesh To Cry Out Loud ( Bob Petersen & Phil Lesh - "New Potato Caboose)

Last week, we drove to New Jersey and attended a Bat Mitzvah. It was a bit of a re-union for me, my wife and children as the Bat Mitzvah was in a Synagogue where I served as the Rabbi seven years ago.  The Bat Mitzvah girl is a very close friend to my daughter so it was very nice watching the two of them remain inseparable over the course of last weekend. The Bat Mitzvah girl invited both boys and girls to her party. Although both boys and girls attended the party, were actually in the banquet room sharing space, and breathing the same air; I was amazed by the lack of interaction between the boys and the girls. As an overprotective father, I was also quite relieved to see that there was a lack of interaction between the boys and the girls. They girls sat with the girls; the boys sat with the boys. The girls talked with the girls; the boys talked with the boys. While there was no physical barrier separating the boys and the girls, there might as well have been because neither group went near the other. It reminded me of my childhood. We didn’t go near the girls. Maybe we were scared of them. Not for the nothing, the girls didn’t go near us either. They probably thought we were “gross” and “disgusting”.

This Shabbat we read from Parsha Tzav. While the previous Parsha, VaYikra spoke of the various rules and regulations for the number of offerings; the Parsha focused upon Bnai Yisroel, the types of animals that are brought for Korbonot (usually animal offerings) and what happens to the animal at the time of the Korbonot. In Parshat Tzav, the first two chapters, focus is upon the role of the Kohanim, the priests, their entitlements, their privileges and the responsibilities in the sacrificial process. Some offering are to be burned completely and the Kohen is not entitled to anything, and some other offerings are NOT to be burned completely and the Kohen is entitle to the food that is left over.

Two consecutive chapters remind us of the importance purity, for both the Kohen as well as Bnai Yisroel. The Torah text suggests that the transfer of purity and impurity is similar to our “little boy” perceptions of girls. All we needed to do was touch or be touched and we could be rendered as pure or impure, or have “girl germs”. Kol Asher Yigah Bivsarah Yikdash Va’Asher Yizeh Midamah Al Beged Asher  Yizeh Aleha T’Chabeis B’Makom KadoshWhatever touches its flesh becomes holy; and if its blood is sprinkled upon a garment, whatever it has been sprinkled upon you shall wash in a holy place (6:20).  The area of the clothing that is stained with blood needs to be washed. Physically that area is stained and needs to be cleaned. Spiritually, if the offering itself touches the Kohen, the he and his clothing retain their purity. Later on we read V’HaBasar Asher Yigah B’Chol Tamei Lo Yei’Acheil BaEish Yisareif V’Habasar Kol Tahor Yochal BasarThe flesh that touches any contaminated thing may not be eaten, it shall be burned in fire; but of the uncontaminated flesh, any uncontaminated person may eat the flesh (7:19) Both the meat that was offered, and the Kohen must be in a spiritual state of purity in order for the Kohen to partake of the meat.

Unlike the children at the Bat Mitzvah party, or the children of my childhood”, we adults have a difficult time with this notion of purity and impurity. Yet from a spiritual perspective it makes complete sense. If we touch things that are not holy, we are rendered unholy. If we touch things that are holy, we have become holier. There are certain behaviors, certain foods and certain people we avoid because it we may be harmed. The same holds true in the spiritual realm as well. It is nice to know that if we are indeed receptive to it, when sacred moments touch us: a life cycle event, a holiday, Shabbat, a beautiful sundown, an inspiring word, a moving piece of music, or the peaceful slumber of our children, we achieve a higher degree of holiness, a holiness that washes away all the mundane aspects of weekly life and allows us a taste of spiritual life.

Rav Yitz

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