Shabbat Shalom with a Heart Healthy Dose of Torah–Shemini 1

Torah has no real structure. To look at it, one sees columns of letters in neat rows. There seem to be breaks in between word gatherings, but having seen enough scrolls, I can tell you that sometimes, these spaces barely exist in any visible way. One can see “paragraph” breaks throughout the text, but the “structure of Torah” comes from a variety of traditions. We broke the text into weekly portions so that over the course of a year, we get to traverse the entire scroll.  So, while the book, as a whole, will read like any other, the way in which we interpret it is up to us.


That said this week’s Torah portion is simply a continuation of a story began at the end of the last week of the cycle. Moses is finishing the Tabernacle and preparing it for dedication. This week’s portion begins with the word “Eighth.” On the eighth day of the dedication ceremony, Moses passes control of the structure and its ritual to his older brother Aaron, the High Priest. On the one hand, this part of the story is a good one for transition; change in control is a good time for a station break. On the other hand, it is simply another piece of the story, no different than any stage of the process’ completion.


The sages wrestle with this break in the action and from a mystical perspective see it as an opportunity to take a step back and reflect. Yes, we are supposed to use Shabbat as the time for reflection, but how do we know if we reflected well? On Shabbat, we are supposed to step out of the daily grind, celebrate the blessing of being over the blessing of having, and recharge and restore our battery for the week to come.


Too often, though, this seventh day is a day of catch up. We catch our breath after an all too hectic week. We catch up on paperwork. We get to do things we wanted to do each day but ran out of time. Literal to the Torah, on the seventh day, God finished the work of creation, checked it over and finding it good, then rested. In so many ways, the way in which we use the Sabbath mirrors the intention of the text. The problem is that we get so caught up in the unending loose ends of the previous week that we never get to the reflection piece, never mind the rest and restoration.


The sages understood that this phenomenon is not new. We can do more today than one thousand years ago, because we have more advanced tools that facilitate more activity. Imagine being a soccer parent on camel back?


When I read the beginning of this portion and see that the 8th day is the real day of dedication, I have to think about our real-world situation. There has to be some time beyond the allotted time for our routines. It is almost as if we need a Sabbath to recover from the wrapping up work of the Sabbath. Of course, there are only 24 hours in a day and only 7 days per week. Thus, this extra time exists in the spiritual, even mystical realm. This eighth day is the time of meditation and prayer. Moses builds the Tabernacle and sets up all of the ritual artifacts and procedures, but it is not until the High Priest (Aaron) takes charge that worship happens. Each of us is Moses and Aaron. Each of us lives in the two realms of earthly endeavor and spiritual engagement. The problem is that too few of us ever look at the priestly side of ourselves. Moses is a great paradigm, prophetic in thought, stalwart in leadership, and lovingly patient in governance. We are hard working people fulfilling our “Mosaic” role in life. Aaron, though, transcends the earthly. His is the realm of loving engagement, spiritual renewal, epiphanic insight, and value-based life choices. Our calendars require time. Our souls require an embrace with divinity; the soured of light that opens our eyes and our hearts. At the end of the 7th day, as the Sabbath concludes, the tabernacle is ready for holiness. Holiness cannot happen on schedule. I don’t care how one defines divinity, each of us intrinsically knows that beyond our physical control there exists a realm that inspires us and compels us to grow ourselves and the world around us. This intangible realm is that ethereal eighth day. Moses serves the people, Aaron pursues love and devotion. We all need to spend time in the world of Aaron, for the world of Moses can only make sense if we can see it beyond the transactions of the time limitations required to live in it. See you somewhere in this realm of celebration … I hope and pray that we see each other there, often. Shabbat Shalom.