Emor (Leviticus 21:1-24:23); Ezekiel 44:15-31
Saturday, May 7, 2011 – 10 am to noonish
Neal & Ann’s Home (Call 933.9430 for directions)
“It ain’t the matzah, it’s the motion.”
This phrase has been on my mind lately, now that we’ve passed from Passover into the Omer period leading up to Shavuot (marking the Sinai Event). We count off the days and nights in between, perhaps in part to remind ourselves that that freedom is a journey, not a destination; a process, not an ending.
This week’s Torah portion reflects that in a small way. We’re given all the major festivals — Shabbat, Pesach, Shavuot, Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, Sukkot — of which all but Rosh Hashana receive the names by which we still call them. Isn’t that odd? The “Jewish New Year,” one of the two occasions when modern Jews of all stripes feel compelled to attend synagogue services, is noted as “the first day of the seventh month … of blowing the shofar.” Its main importance seems to be a noisy, soul-waking prelude to Yom Kippur services.
Speaking of services, we also see some of the details of the Old Time Religion: e.g., how the ancient priests mourned their dead, how to keep the Menorah burning, and the mysterious meal Torah calls the “lechem panim — variously translated as “show bread” or “bread of surfaces.”
This food is enigmatic even to the commentators. Some say it’s a remembrance of the manna; others see it as a symbol of prosperity balancing the Menorah (which sits opposite it inside the Mishkan, or Tabernacle, and symbolizes Torah wisdom). Pirke Avot, the book of rabbinic proverbs, says: “No bread, no Torah; no Torah, no bread,” tells us. History doesn’t record whether that saying was inspired by the showbread, but both he and the Torah seem to agree. Perhaps it also means that there can be no soul without a body; no content without form; no Torah without someone to study it.
And speaking of Pirke Avot and the road from Peasach to Shavuot: It’s customary to study a chapter of Pirke Avot on the intervening Shabbat afternoons, so time permitting we’ll dip into this well of rabbinic and prerabbinic wisdom and see what surfaces.