CCAR Newsletter January/February 2018 - 6
well-known interpretation of Exodus 32:16 in
Avot 6:2: Al tikra charut ela cheirut -Do not read
"engraved" but rather "freed."
(Continued from page 5)
Vayikra / Shabbat HaChodesh
The phrase Vayikra Moshe appears twice in the Torah, each time an invitation to receive instruction
for living. In the first occurrence, following his ascent up the mountain, God calls to Moses from
the midst of God's Glory, the cloud covering Sinai (Exodus 24:16). These words signify God's
invitation to Moses to enter the cloud and receive instruction.
Here, at the beginning of the Book of Leviticus, God calls to Moses, inviting him to enter the
Tabernacle to receive the instructions for the Temple cult. Just as the story that begins Genesis
describes the creation of a world, the instructions in Leviticus create a new and ordered world: the
world of the Temple cult.
Millennia after the physical Temple was reduced to rubble by the Roman horde, the Temple cult
remains intact, enshrined in the words of Leviticus-and thereby available to us. In our own era,
we cannot carry out the korbanot without the physical Temple. Many of us in the Reform Movement
understand that as progress: As Maimonides asserted, we have outgrown the need for animal
sacrifices, substituting korbanot of prayer. Every Amidah evokes the spiritual altar of Leviticus.
Intertwined with the ritual commandments regarding the sacrifices, Leviticus conveys ethical mitzvot
directing us to live according to specific values.
This week God invites us in, as long ago Moses was invited into the cloud, God's Presence, and
into God's home, the Tabernacle. What instruction will we hear this year as we receive the world of
The absolutely final word of prophecy is that God will bring Elijah the Prophet "to reconcile parents
with children and children with parents" in anticipation of the Day of God.
What is the difference between "Let My people go"
and "Let My people go that they may serve Me"?
We all need frameworks. Without them, we are
rudderless ships on a tempestuous sea. Pesach,
then, is not primarily about liberty, but about
direction and freedom for a purpose.
Commenting on Leviticus 23:10, the Isbitzer
Rebbe, Mordecai Yosef Leiner, notes that the Arizal
pointed out that "omer" is numerically equivalent
to "yakar" (310), hinting that God's precious
divine light is available to Israel on the first night of
Pesach, but afterward the temporary illumination
is subsequently concealed. "Therefore, on the
second night of Pesach, longing for a return of
God's light, a great cry remains in the hearts of
all Israel, and they cry out to the blessed God,
'How precious [yakar] are Your kindnesses, God!'"
This is what King Solomon spoke of: Those who
love Me I love, and those who seek Me will find
Me (Proverbs 8:17). The extra nun in yimtza-un'ni
"represents the fifty gates of wisdom in the Torah
and on Shavuot" that the mitzvah of the Omer
opens to us. S'firat HaOmer thus facilitates the
pull of each person's heart toward God.
From many years of officiating at funerals I have learned what a huge and important job has
been assigned to Elijah. When the parents die and there is unfinished business between the
generations-unresolved anger and arguments-the younger generation become stuck in
life, unable to move forward to live life to the fullest. It is truly the reconciliation between the
generations that enables human life on earth to progress.
One way for us-whether or not we resonate to
Kabbalah-to understand the Isbitzer Rebbe's
message is to recognize that a wonderful Pesach
seder lights an inspiring spiritual fire in people, but
it is difficult to maintain the flame. With another
opportunity for a spiritual high fifty days away,
S'firat HaOmer can be the bridge leading through
fifty gates that keep people on an upward spiritual
high they long to retain.
Until Elijah comes, it is the sacred task of the officiating rabbi to give the surviving children
some inner peace upon the death of a father or mother. The graveside is in many ways the final
opportunity to make peace. Until the burial, the departed are dead and yet they are still with us.
The children have a last chance to apologize or to forgive. It is too important a moment for us not
to allow every opportunity.
While many have produced wonderful materials
for counting the Omer, the Isbitzer's insight
suggests we invest even more heavily in this
endeavor for Jews with a wide variety of
inclinations and interests.
When I was younger I thought, "What, that's it? Why won't Elijah come to bring world peace or to
end poverty? Why just to reconcile parents and children?"
Ask anyone what Pesach is about and they will tell you that it is the festival of freedom. It was not
by chance that the American civil rights movement of the 1960s and the subsequent struggle to
release refuseniks trapped in the former Soviet Union adopted the slogan "Let My people go."
However, that's not the end of the sentence. The call to Pharaoh to release the Israelites from
slavery is followed no less than seven times by v'yaavduni, "that they may serve Me." In the
Egyptian cultural context of the time, where Pharaoh ("great" or "high") was viewed as the gods'
representative on earth, the call to worship the One God was a threat to Pharaoh's legitimacy in
the same way religious faith challenged the supremacy of the Soviet empire and its credo.
Interestingly, the word chofesh (freedom) does not appear even once in the Exodus story, but only
later in connection with the release of Hebrew slaves in the seventh year. Furthermore, the modern
Hebrew term for "freedom," cheirut, does not appear in the Torah even once, but is used in the
Avram Shlonsky's oath, to remember and not to
forget, always resonates in my mind at this time
of the year. The very duality of his injunction is
striking; it is as if he tells us that remembering
for its own sake, and never forgetting, is an
insufficient response. The world in which we
live, the context in which we still bear the pain
and emptiness of the Shoah, is one that has not
only forgotten and failed to remember, it is one
wherein the Shoah has been undermined, denied,
We can fulfil our moral duty, as Shlonsky frames
it, by doing two vital things: we must remember
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of CCAR Newsletter January/February 2018
CCAR Newsletter January/February 2018 - 1
CCAR Newsletter January/February 2018 - 2
CCAR Newsletter January/February 2018 - 3
CCAR Newsletter January/February 2018 - 4
CCAR Newsletter January/February 2018 - 5
CCAR Newsletter January/February 2018 - 6
CCAR Newsletter January/February 2018 - 7
CCAR Newsletter January/February 2018 - 8
CCAR Newsletter January/February 2018 - 9
CCAR Newsletter January/February 2018 - 10
CCAR Newsletter January/February 2018 - 11
CCAR Newsletter January/February 2018 - 12