May 10 2018 Dvar Torah

Rabbi Robert Eisen

“The end is near! … The end is near!”

We are used to seeing such proclamations on placards in cartoons, or hear them “shouted from the mountain top” by any number of doomsday prophets or preachers. And, usually we just ignore the noise and go on our merry way.

However, I am here to tell you that it is true: THE END IS NEAR … the end of our reading of The Book of Leviticus that is. And that end should give us pause for concern.

For not a few of us, The Book of Leviticus is very problematic. The focus of so many of its chapter on the details of the sacrificial cult and concern for ritual purity just do not seem to resonate (How is that for being “politically correct”? ) with our minds, our hearts, or our spirit. That the end is near (we complete our reading of Leviticus this Shabbat) is something that could not have come sooner.

And yet … when read without prejudice for the idiom of what one might consider a bygone day … the book is far from anachronistic. In fact, in some ways, there is more of a need for a close reading of Leviticus in our age than in any time before. How so? Consider …

When read with an eye looking for meaning and significance, the book calls on us to embrace the world with a greater sense of appreciation for all that grows, and for wherever we might go.

When our ancestors brought a sacrifice to The Tabernacle or to The Temple they knew what they were giving up. They were intimately involved with life and the living. What they shared at the altar was not just stuff, it was life itself. As they made an offering, so did they see a piece of themselves depart as well.

The same could be said for the concerns regarding purity. Because they were affected by the strictures, so did our ancestors see that there was an order to this world: a structure without which we would not be able to function … they knew that there were consequences to what they did, and why – the most important of which the enabling of wo many disparate individuals to be able to come together as a community, as “one”.. They were engaged in the living of life “up close and personal”. The way they lived mattered. And, if they were not careful, they would find themselves outside of the camp, on their own and all alone.

So important were the sacrifices and the concerns regarding ritual purity that it could be said that without them (either!) the people would have been hard pressed to survive, not only in the wilderness, but at all. Without these laws, it would have been the end.

Is the end near? Perhaps our reading of The Book of Leviticus. However, if we read between the lines, dig deep and look for the meaning and significance of its verses up close and personal, perhaps we will begin to see that much more than coming to an end, our book is just now ready to begin … begin to give us the insight and inspiration to bring its words to life.

Let us be strong … and strengthen one another.