Shabbat Shalom with a Heart Healthy Dose of Torah–Shemini 2

So, there are places in Torah that create separations between species. We read the commands not to mix linen and wool in any garment, yoke an ox and a donkey to the same plow, combine milk and meat in any meal, and the list goes on. Volumes of texts exist containing scholarly articles on the origins of these commands. Some people want to argue that God demands discipline, others argue the organic differences between the two would destroy both. A Sufi-ish type once told me that God created everything “Just so” and to dilute anything is blasphemy. I asked about the “just so” of him being born into wealth and another born into poverty. He answered that he deserved more and, hence, received his commensurate reward. You can understand why I don’t believe in divine omnipotence.

The bottom line is that we cannot know why sages included these texts and did not include others. There are no scribal notes to go with the first edition of printed Torah. What we do know, though, is that wrestling with ways in which we can make sense of these texts is part of the Jewish educational process. Understanding the number of folks who will disagree with me, I argue that it almost does not matter what you decide, the process of decision making is sacred. We believe that if one approaches study and decision making as an act of sacred work, one will make good decisions. A big piece of this process involves knowing one’s own grounding, special skills, limitations, and personal “stuff.” Ray Kroc made a fortune with McDonald’s not knowing anything about hamburgers. Kroc surrounded himself with people who could do all the things that he was not best at, allowing him to concentrate on the work he did well. It has been a great recipe for success.

This week’s Torah portion speaks brilliantly of this lesson. As the Tabernacle comes into being, Moses and his crew worked hard to perfect every detail. The instructions that they received were meticulous in measurements and details. Moses took seven days to finish this task, but at no point over the course of the work did we hear anything about God’s presence. No one was better equipped to carry out the earthly task of people management and community building than was Moses.

It was not until the 8th day, the day of dedication that Moses stepped aside and welcomed Aaron (his older brother) into the Tabernacle. The moment that Aaron dedicated the altar, the inner presence of God entered the Tabernacle. The tradition argues that the people were upset that Aaron sought to upstage their prophet and teacher Moses. Moses simply responded that this was in the best interest of God and the people. According to the Talmud, Aaron was, as the one designated for the priesthood, better spiritually equipped than was Moses. We all should know our place, our strengths, and our weaknesses. Torah speaks of Aaron as one who loves peace and pursues it; one who gathers many disciples through his love and kindness, and whose vision moves people’s hearts into reconciliation over their differences. Moses sat in the courts and served as the judge and also the coach who inspires, while Aaron was the mediator and healer; the spiritual guide. One of them could not have run God’s operation amongst the people alone.

Truthfully, as people of faith, we understand how this teamwork works. Each of us needs people who make us think more deeply, emote more sincerely, commit to getting more out of life, and giving with a larger heart. For all of the wonderful experiences that I have had, I can tell you each person who pushed, carried, pulled, or manipulated me to be there. Each has been a blessing. As you pursue living, emulate Aaron and Moses, play to your strengths and learn with and from those with other strengths. It is a sign of immense character to know which is which, and not to pretend for the sake of ego. Grow your community and learn what each other has to offer for the community’s success. Help each other succeed. Shabbat Shalom.