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?