The Tent Commandments: Vayikra 2020

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Pre-Game Chatter: Have the last couple of weeks of social distancing caused you to reevaluate what you like and don’t like about your home? Do you hope to make your home more hospitable after the conclusion of our current crisis?

As the book of Leviticus opens and God grows accustomed to a new dwelling place (the Tabernacle), God mentions a place where the sacred and mundane collide:

The Pitch: “If his offering is a burnt offering from the herd, he shall make his offering a male without blemish. He shall bring it to the entrance of the Tent of Meeting, for acceptance in his behalf before the Lord.” – Leviticus 1:3

Swing #1: “There is another meaning figuratively concealed under the enigmatical expressions. And the words employed are visible symbols of what is invisible and uncertain.” – Philo

Swing #2: “The designation of ‘the entrance of the Tent of Meeting’ as a location for this offering … reminds the worshipers that they are at the transition area between the divine realm and the human realm.” – Timothy M. Willis, Leviticus

Swing #3: “The Torah stresses this [location] as the donor is not allowed to invite the officiating priest to come to his home and slaughter the beast in question in the donor’s or the priest’s yard, and perform the rituals connected with it. This would be disrespectful to God. Imagine a donor of a gift to a mortal king inviting the King to come and pick it up at the donor’s home!” – Chizkuni

Late-Inning Questions: How do our commentators understand the purpose of the Tent of Meeting? How does it enable the Israelites to get closer to God even when they are unable to see or touch God? What lessons do we learn at a time when we try to connect with people that we are unable to see (in-person) or touch?

On-Deck at Emanu-El: Among other things, we are busy planning virtual meetings and content that will help make your observance of Passover meaningful during these challenging times. For now, we invite you to look at guidance provided by the Conservative movement as you plan for the holiday.

Shabbat Shalom!