Finger-Dippin’ Good: Vayikra 2021

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Pre-Game Chatter: Do you have a favorite or lucky number? In what ways, if any, do you incorporate that number into your life?

As the text Torah describing Israelite sacrificial rites, symbolism is found everywhere:

The Pitch: “The priest shall dip his finger in the blood, and sprinkle of the blood seven times before the Lord, in front of the curtain of the Shrine.” – Leviticus 4:6

Swing #1: “[This ritual] does not contain any explication regarding the meaning of this specific subrite. However, during the Day of Atonement ritual, the same subrite is again used. … Clearly the sprinkling rite carries two distinct meanings within the same ritual context.” – Gerald A. Klingbeil, Bridging the Gap: Ritual and Ritual Texts in the Bible

Swing #2: “The priest’s action is directed at the curtain. This is its purely physical direction. There is, however, a relational and ‘theological’ direction to the act. … While the curtain is identified in its relation to the outer room, the gesture directed at it is defined in relation to Yahweh’s manifest presence in the inner room.” – William K. Gilders, Blood Ritual in the Hebrew Bible: Meaning and Power

Swing #3: “The number seven occurs on many separate occasions repeatedly in matters involving heaven. There are seven constellations of major stars, we speak of seven layers of the heavens … there are seven deserts mentioned in the Torah … the week has seven days, we count seven years of the sabbatical cycle, seven times seven for the Jubilee cycle. The candlestick in the Temple had seven lamps. Bileam, the sorcerer, built seven different altars.” – Chizkuni

Late-Inning Questions: How do our commentators understand the kinds of symbolism found in the act of sprinkling blood? Do you think this symbolism is understood by the people involved in these rituals, or are they meant more as symbols for God or for the reader of the text? How often do we find meaning in our actions as they are happening?

On-Deck at TBT: Drive up to Beth Tzedek on Sunday between 11:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. to donate non-Passover food for those in need, sell your hametz, and receive a bag of Passover goodies!

The Big Inning at the End: Speaking of finding meaning in our actions as they are happening, one of baseball’s most endearing images of the last few years was when Mariano Rivera finished his final relief appearance. In front of a sold-out Yankee Stadium, Rivera wept onto the shoulders of his longtime teammates while the adoring crowd cheered in appreciation of his Hall of Fame career. It was nostalgia at its finest.

Shabbat Shalom!