This portion revolves around the sacrificial cult and the role of the Priesthood. We read, in detail, of the various sacrifices that can be and must be brought. There are elaborate instructions for these various sacrifices and, as the portion concludes, the anointing ceremony for Aaron. There is no doubt who is in charge of the cult, as classic Torah scholars remind us, for we see again the power of the Aaronide priesthood. This is a portion that celebrates order and instruction (Torah)
Look at Genesis 1 to see the style of the priestly writers. This is a section of the creation story that is orderly. It is not all over the place like our second story (Genesis 2). No, the priests seemed to prize order. That got me to thinking of this subject and how it may be of greater importance as we age. This idea of order is of even greater importance as we emerge from Covid and yet, still exist in a world that seems more chaotic than ever. As we emerge from the pandemic, I find that many seek a return to a routine or a sense of order in life.
Mussar, the ethical proactive of our tradition, sees a variety of ethical principles that can be seen as guides to life. One of these principles (called midot) is called order and has the Hebrew of seder (yes like the seder at Passover, which is flows thought a defined order of service). Order stands in opposition to chaos. Genesis 1 brought order from chaos. The rules and routines of the sacrificial cult are meant to bring a sense of order into the world and our place in it. “In the book of Leviticus, ritual is employed as a way to create and maintain order within society, and also to reestablish order when we inevitably fall short of what God demands” (The Mussar Torah Commentary”. P.155)
I wonder, as we get a little older, if we have this inclination to bring more of a sense of order and routine to our life. How many of us are creating our own personal spiritual practice that helps focus us and ground us in a world of anxiety and stress? Is the portion reminding us that a life of chaos, while it may be momentarily exciting, leaves us in chaos ourselves. Maimonides reminded us that a key to a meaningful life is to live in what he referred to as the “golden mean”. He knew that a life lived in the extremes eventually caused illness of body and soul. How many of us have come to understand this? A life of order can provide a foundation that can allow us to function when life throws chaos at us. The challenge for us, then, is how to manage the desire for creativity and adventure with the parallel need for order in life. Many of us are living this challenge. It may be part of the on-going debate within our souls as to what to let go of, and what to hold on to so that we may live a life of meaning and purpose.
Rabbi Richard F Address
Rabbi Richard F. Address, D.Min, is the Founder and Director of www.jewishsacredaging.com. Rabbi Address served for over three decades on staff of the Union for Reform Judaism; first as a Regional Director and then, beginning in 1997, as Founder and Director of the URJ’s Department of Jewish Family Concerns and served as a specialist and consultant for the North American Reform Movement in the areas of family related programming. Rabbi Address was ordained from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1972 and began his rabbinic career in Los Angeles congregations. He also served as a part time rabbi for Beth Hillel in Carmel, NJ while regional director and, after his URJ tenure, served as senior rabbi of Congregation M’kor Shalom in Cherry Hill, NJ from 2011-2014.