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Torah Sparks

April 7, 2001 - 5761

Prepared by Rabbi Randall J. Konigsburg
Temple Sinai, Hollywood, FL

Edited by Rabbi David L. Blumenfeld, PhD
Department of Services to Affiliated Congregations

Annual Cycle: Lev. 6:1-8:36; Hertz Chumash, p. 429
Triennial Cycle III: Lev. 8:1-36; Hertz Chumash, p. 435
Haftarah: Malakhi 3:4-24 (Repeat 3:23); Hertz Chumash, p. 1005

(6:1-16) Instructions concerning the Olah (burnt offering), the perpetual fire on the altar, and the Minchah (meal-offering); the specific meal-offering brought by Aaron and his descendants.

(6:17-7:10) Instructions concerning the Chatat (sin- offering) and Asham (guilt-offering).

(7:11-21) The Shelamim sacrifice, the peace or thank- offering. There are three kinds: thanksgiving, in fulfillment of a vow, and as a free-will offering.

(7:22-38) The prohibition of eating chelev, the consecrated fat covering the animal's internal organs, and blood. The portions of the shelamim that go to the priests.

(8:1-5) God commands Moses to take Aaron and his sons and assemble the people for the ceremony initiating them into the priesthood.

(8:6-21) The priests perform a ritual purification and Aaron is dressed in his holy garments. The Tabernacle is anointed, and then Aaron. Aaron's sons are garbed. A series of sacrifices as part of the consecration and purification of the Tabernacle.

(8:22-36) The ordination ceremonies, lasting seven days.

Theme 1: The Original Miracle of the Oil

Moses took the anointing oil and anointed the Tabernacle and all that was in it, thus consecrating them. He sprinkled some of it on the altar seven times, anointing the altar, all its utensils, and the laver with its stand, to consecrate them. He poured some of the anointing oil upon Aaron's head and anointed him, to consecrate him. (Lev. 8:10-12)

  1. Rabbi Judah said, "the anointing oil which Moses made in the wilderness was a miraculous creation from beginning to end. At first there were no more than twelve log of olive oil, not enough to anoint the wood. And think how much was burnt by the fire, how much the wood absorbed, how much the pot absorbed! Yet from it Aaron and his sons were anointed for seven days of the investure ceremony. From it High Priests and kings were anointed! ...and all of it remains for the future as it is said, 'This shall be for an anointing oil sacred to me throughout the generations.' (Ex 30:31)" (Sifra 40b)
  2. But Aaron in his humility still did not dare to enter on his priestly activities. The aspect of the horned altar filled him with fear, for it reminded him of the worship of the bull by Israel, an incident in which he felt he had not been altogether without blame. Moses had to encourage him to step up to the altar and offer the sacrifices. (Louis Ginzberg; The Legends Of The Jews; Vol III, p. 183-4)
  3. Regardless of the conflict between the Pharisaic Sages and the Sadducean Priests over the question of authority, the Temple and the priesthood as a divine institution were held in great respect by the Sages. This is expressed in their elaboration of theses sections describing the initial consecration of the priesthood. Thus the ceremony itself takes on a miraculous nature, as witness the story of the consecration oil. This may well have served as the prototype of the more famous tale of miraculous oil associated with the feast of Hanukkah... By the time these interpretations were recorded in their final form the Temple was long destroyed. The Romans had demonstrated their contempt for it, and the early Christians had condemned it and interpreted its destruction as part of G-d's rejection of Judaism and punishment of the Jews. Thus the Sages stressed the importance of the Temple Service. (Reuven Hammer; The Classic Midrash; p. 178-9)

Discussion Sparks:

Why do we continue old religious ceremonies long after the original meaning is gone? Are there some "rituals" that you follow in your home that have come down from previous generations and you have no idea of their origin or even meaning? For instance, in some homes at the Friday evening Shabbat dinner, a motzi is recited and bread is broken off and actually thrown to each person at the table? Can you explain that practice? Are there others which seem unusual or inexplicable and yet you know that they are still done? Why do we keep doing them? Are such "traditions" from by-gone days, in a way, relevant to religious life in a contemporary home or a community?

Theme 2: Discovering the Hand of G-d

Moses took some of its Blood (from the ram of ordination) and put it on the ridge of Aaron's right ear, on the thumb of his right hand and on the big toe of his right foot. (Lev. 8:23)

  1. Rabbi Elazar teaches us (Ketubot 5b) that the five fingers of the hand are designated according to their use in the Sanctuary. The thumb, to which the blood of the sacrifices was applied on certain occasions; the forefinger dipped in the blood to sprinkle it; the middle finger used in measuring a cubit; the ring finger used in taking the handful of the meal-offering (Lev.2:2) and the little finger used in measuring the span (Ex. 28:16). The names of our fingers thus reveal to us their real vocation: to serve G-d, each according to its abilities. (Elie Munk: The Call of The Torah: Vayikra; p. 69)
  2. It is related of Nahum of Gamzo that he was blind in both eyes, stumped in both hands, and crippled in both legs; his entire body covered with boils. The legs of his bed stood in four basins of water to prevent ants from crawling all over him... His disciples asked, "Master, since you are so perfectly righteous, why has all this affliction come upon you?" He replied, "My children, I invoked it upon myself. Once I was journeying to the house of my father-in-law and had with me three heavily laden asses, one filled with food, another with drink, and the third with all kinds of delicacies. A poor man appeared and stopped in front of me on the road, saying "Master, give me something to sustain me!" I replied, 'Wait until I unload the ass.' I had barely managed to unload the ass when the man died of hunger. I then threw myself over him and said, "Let these of mine which had no pity upon your eyes be blinded, let these hands of mine which had on pity upon your hands be stumped, let these legs of mine which had no pity upon your legs be crippled. Nor could my soul rest until I added, let my whole body be covered with boils." At this, his pupils exclaimed, "Woe unto us that we see you in such a state!" Nahum replied, "Woe indeed, but even greater woe unto me if you did not see me in such a state."

Discussion Spark:

The human body is the work of G-d and therefore is always a visible expression of His will. A hand, for instance. What responsibilities does our hand have? What are the responsibilities of each finger? Is it our hand or G-d's hand? Are we using our hands ("G-d's hand") for selfish gain, or for divine work? Is it your body, or does it belong to G-d? Is that what Nahum of Gamzo (above) seems to be saying?

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