A Sorry House: Aharei Mot-Kedoshim 2017

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Pre-Game Chatter: When a place in your home triggers a bad memory, how do you cope with it? Do you try to memorialize that memory? Do you try to wipe away all traces of that memory? Or do you try to avoid that place altogether?

We learn in the first of this week’s Torah portions that for the ancient Israelites, the place where sin offerings were given needed to be purged every year on Yom Kippur:

The Pitch: “Thus he shall purge the Shrine of the impurity and transgression of the Israelites, whatever their sins; and he shall do the same for the Tent of Meeting, which abides with them in the midst of their impurity.” – Leviticus 16:16

Swing #1: “This verse implies that arrogance is a much more serious sin than any other transgression. For we are told here concerning sinners that the Tent of Meeting ‘dwells with them in the midst of their uncleanness,’ meaning that even when Jews have been defiled by sin, the Lord is still in their midst. There is, however, one exception to this rule; namely when the sin is arrogance. For we are explicitly told elsewhere that ‘I cannot endure the haughty and proud man’ (Psalms 101:5), and the Sages say: ‘I (the Lord) and he (the haughty man) cannot dwell together in this world.” – Baal Shem Tov

Swing #2: “Many rituals only make sense in the collective dimension. The Day of Atonement ritual, while concerning itself with the altar and the sanctuary, was the means of purifying the sanctuary (and by extension, the entire community of Israel) of ‘the impurities of the sons of Israel,’ which are then described as ‘their acts of rebellion and all their sins’. In this sense, the collective dimension of ritual always involves a whole community or a large subgroup of a particular community.” – Gerald A. Klingbeil, Bridging the Gap: Ritual and Ritual Texts in the Bible

Swing #3: “The idea is that God is with the Israelites even in the presence of tum’a (up to a point, of course).” – Everett Fox, The Five Books of Moses

Late-Inning Questions: How do our commentators differ on the meaning of the ritual described above? Does the purpose of the ritual seem to be to forget the Israelites’ transgressions, or to remember them even more keenly? In general, is it better to rid ourselves of negative memories, or to maintain them so that we may learn from them?

On-Deck at Emanu-El: Our Religious School is a source of pride for our synagogue, and I invite you to help support it this Sunday at its annual BINGO fundraiser, beginning at 11:30AM in our Social Hall.

The Big Inning at the End: The recent Red Sox-Orioles series included much of what is great about baseball and what is concerning about the sport’s future. The intense rivalry and hard-fought games between the teams showed the game at its best. But the series also included needless beanballs (batters being hit by a pitch, sometimes for the sake of retaliation) and, in one case, racial epithets from some Boston fans. When does a heated rivalry become too heated?

Shabbat Shalom!