Rabbi Feingold's D'var Torah

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This week's double Torah portion concludes the Book of Exodus. In it, the final steps of setting up the mishkan, the sanctuary in the wilderness, is completed, and Moses and the priests (cohanim) prepare themselves for their holy work for the first time. Among their preparations is the act of washing their hands and feet. (Ex 40:31) Some of you may be aware that a similar ritual exists in Judaism to this day. There are times when hands are washed in an act of ritual purification: As part of the Pesach Seder ritual (not all Haggadot include this); after returning to the house of mourning after a funeral; and some wash their hands before saying the Motzi (blessing before the meal) at any meal. Some even have the tradition of not talking between the washing and the blessing, to heighten awareness of the sanctity of the act of eating. We view our tables as a "mikdash m'at," a small sanctuary, where we reconnect with God as the Sustainer of all Life. Saying a blessing before eating and washing the hands in a special act of purification (not cleanliness) are ways to bring holiness into our lives every day.

Exodus 35:1–40:38

At Shabbat services last week, we used sections of Chapters 7 and 8 of the Book of Esther (The Megillah) as the Haftarah, an option suggested in the URJ Torah Commentary. Most Torah commentaries use an excerpt from First Samuel for Shabbat Zachor, the Shabbat before Purim. But both Esther and First Samuel mention descendants of the arch-enemy of the Jewish people, Amalek, so both are fitting Haftarot (concluding readings) for Shabbat Zachor, the Shabbat on which we are commanded to "Remember Amalek." Tonight we will hear an abbreviated version of the "whole Megillah" in English and read one chapter in Hebrew. In Chapter 3 of Megillat Esther, the evil Haman's full lineage is given, linking him back to Agag, the evil king mentioned in Saul's time as a descendant of Amalek. "After these things, King Ahashueras promoted Haman, the son of Hamdata, the Agagite..." (Esther 3:1) Therefore, Haman is also a descendant of Amalek. Join us for the Megillah reading tonight at 6:30pm and help blot out his evil name!

When I was first ordained, it was still customary for rabbis to wear robes weekly on the bima. This practice was borrowed from Christian clergy style. But soon robes went out of style. They were thought by many to super-humanize the rabbi, making him/her seem like a special class of being—not human like everyone else. I stopped wearing the robe except on the Days of Awe when the theme of the season is purification and white the color. Most of Torah portion Tetzaveh is devoted to detailed descriptions of the beautiful garments worn by the ancient priests. They were amazingly colorful and decorative, including "a golden bell and a pomegranate, a golden bell and a pomegranate, all around the hem of the robe." (Ex 28:34) It must have been a feast for the eyes to see the priests dressed for their duties. But the priests were clearly meant to have been elevated above regular Israelites. With the destruction of the Temple, the sages determined that rabbis would lead the Jewish community-- teachers and scholars, who were like Israelites in every way, except their greater knowledge of text and tradition. For this, special garments were not needed.

Exodus 27:20−30:10

May FOOD OF THE MONTH: canned or dried beans

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