Rabbi Feingold's D'var Torah

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Toward the end of this week's parasha (Torah portion), Aaron and his sons are consecrated as priests in a special ordination ceremony in which Moses dabs their ears, right thumbs and right big toes with the blood of a ram offered specifically in honor of their ordination. (Lev 8:23) The famous Torah commentator and author of the "Hertz Chumash," J.H. Hertz wrote of this ritual: "The ear was touched by blood, that it may be consecrated to hear the word of God; the hand to perform the duties of the priesthood; and the foot, to walk in the path of righteousness." (Hertz Pentateuch, p. 437) While we are not priests, these are valuable rules to live by every day: to listen to the voice of God, to act according to the values and teachings of our heritage, and to seek righteousness in every situation we encounter.

Leviticus 6:1−8:36

This week's parasha (Torah portion) begins with the word Vayikra, which is also the Hebrew name of the book of Leviticus. This is one of a few places in the Torah where find a very small letter, in this case an alef at the end of the word "vayikra." The word vayikra means "and He called," that is, God called Moses to speak with him within the newly completed Mishkan (worship tabernacle) in the wilderness. Rabbi Richard Address, founder and director of www.jewishsacredaging.com speaks of the little alef in relation to aging and the diminution of stature and abilities that come with age. He wrote: "... the ability to learn, grow and answer God's call is never ended" even as our bodies and minds begin to fail us as we age. He notes that the Jewish baby boomer generation craves serious learning as the number-one activity in retirement and encourages congregations to take up the call of the alef in Vayikra. If you would like to work on developing our efforts to bring targeted learning to baby boomers and beyond at Beth Hillel, please contact me or BHT Adult Education chair, Linda Selsberg

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

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