May 15, 2019
A paradox of technology is that while we are able to multi-task, we seem to lack time. This is apparent when you find yourself struggling to schedule a meeting with a friend. The result of spreading ourselves thinly is not only on losing relationships but also of the self. G-d commands all Israelite people to observe the L-rd’s fixed times beginning with the observance of the Shabbat and the sacred feasts. Are these feasts relevant at this time of modern, fast-paced momentum? Absolutely. We are technologically wired, digitized and clouded, we are hooked-up with gadgets and cellphones. This has made humans less empathic and sensitive. There is a thirst to belong, yet we forgot how to be sensitive, respectful and authentically commune with others. G-d’s command was definitive by referring to, “My fixed times (mo’adai)” – we must stop, clear our mind, and focus on relationship. When G-d commands that we observe the sacred times, these feasts bring us to a deeper realization that one cannot have a sound relationship if we cannot give ample and substantial time. In fact, consideration of the symbolic meaning of each of the Hebrew letters in מועדי (mo’adai) reveal its meaning. Mem (מ) means, “massive, overpower or chaos”; Vav (ו), “add, secure, or hook”; Ayin (ע) “see, know, or experience”; Dalet (ד) “pathway, or to enter”; and the Yod (י) is “deed, work, or to make”. We can interpret this as: in the midst of our chaotic and massive schedules, the appointed feasts with the L-rd, that are fixed (made secure) by the L-rd invites us to see, experience and enter into a relationship with the Divine, and make this as a constant commitment. In the midst of our mess and chaos, all that seems to overpower us that in being still and in union with G-d we find clarity and the truest meaning of our life. A rich relationship with the L-rd is precedent to a healthy relationship with others. A deeper and healthy relationship requires time, and the sacred fixed times of and with G-d are more than a language of season and time; it is a language of relationship.
Also of interest is the Levitical exclusion of priests who have a defect (מום: mum). Is G-d discriminatory? Is disability or defect equal to imperfection? How does this fit with the idea that we are created in G-d’s image? Is this directive relevant to us today, or should we ignore and move on? Some disability advocates will surely raise criticisms about this portion. Some will moralise or spiritualise this passage, arguing that the defect is a metaphor for moral decay or spiritual distance with G-d. According to William Herlands, in ancient Israel pilgrims were allowed to enter the Temple domain only to a certain point. The High Priests worked behind a “veil of holiness” unseen by most people, except those bringing sacrifices, and for certain rituals on feast days. Other priest interacted with the people in the community, receives their tithes and educate children. Herlands suggests that the restrictions for priests with defects forced them to engage with and serve the people of the community. Indirectly the Torah instructs us the importance of inclusion of people with disabilities to and for the community’s humanness. In this process, the community learns to recognize and accept that we all are different. In this sense, the laws of fixed times and physical defects are ways that G-d is telling us to recalibrate our perspective and see what is essential – relearn the language of relationship, with G-d and those we see to be different.
Reflection and Discussion: 1. With all honesty, list down all your priorities according to rank. What do the first three priorities reveal about yourself? 2. Have you avoided or shut-off someone due to differences? What was the difference? 3. Is your church or synagogue welcoming to people with disabilities? If not, what can you recommend the community to be more inclusive?
Bibliography: Rabbi Sari Laufer. “Ghosting God: Freeing Yourself from ‘The Busy Trap’.” myjewishlearning.com;
Roberta Unger, “A D’Var Torah on Parashat Emor: Healing from Mental Illness, a Personal Story,” cdn.febweb.org
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