All Along the Wash Tower: Ki Tisa 2017

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Pre-Game Chatter: How do you prepare for the tasks you find most important to you? Are there certain rituals you go through to allow you to feel prepared?

Among the numerous items in the ancient sanctuary was a laver (washstand) that the Israelite priests would use in their preparation for ritual sacrifice:

The Pitch: “Make a laver of copper and a stand of copper for it, for washing; and place it between the Tent of Meeting and the altar. Put water in it, and let Aaron and his sons wash their hands and feet [in water drawn] from it.” – Exodus 30:18-19

Swing #1: “The washing of feet occurs in the context of hospitality as well as in the context of specific rituals, such as the priestly ordination, the general context of sacrifice whereby the priests are to wash feet and hands, the purification rituals of lepers and leprous houses, and so on. While the washing subrites do not always mean the same thing, they transmit the general idea of an important change in status or position in different cultural and religious spheres.” – Gerald A. Klingbeil, Bridging the Gap: Ritual and Ritual Texts in the Bible

Swing #2: “No dimensions for the laver, which consists of a basin set on a stand, are provided for this less important object. Similarly, it is funded by neither donations nor the census tax. The implied simplicity contrasts with the elaborate design of the ten large basins and stands of the Jerusalem temple and the decorated metal lavers recovered from excavations of Iron Age sites.” – Carol Meyers, Exodus

Swing #3: “Rabbi Yehudah says: I might think that the pedestal could serve for ablution just as the laver does; it is, therefore, written ‘copper,’ ‘copper’ (twice) – it is likened (to the laver) only in respect of its being copper, and not in respect to washing.” – Sifra

Late-Inning Questions: According to our commentators, how does the simplicity of washing – and the washstand itself – add to the ambiance of priestly ritual? Likewise, in today’s world, how do our simpler, more “mundane” habits enable us to do our most important work?

On-Deck at Emanu-El: I apologize that this is belated, but I wanted to congratulate our congregants Adel Lazarus (honored by Emanu-El Sisterhood), Samantha Goldberg (honored by Dor Tikvah), Ava Kleinman (honored by Charleston Jewish Federation), and Gail Snow (honored by Hadassah) for being named Women Who Make a Difference last week. It was a lovely ceremony that honored nine fantastic women in our Charleston Jewish community.

The Big Inning at the End: Even though Israel’s team has been eliminated from the World Baseball Classic, the darlings of the tournament brought forth a great deal of pride. Who says Sandy Koufax and Hank Greenberg were the only great Jewish baseball players?

Shabbat Shalom!