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Say Yes to the … Breastplate?

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8 Adar I 5774 / Feb. 7-8, 2014

Dan Horwitz photo

In this week’s portion, Tetzaveh, we find detailed instructions for how to go about creating vestments for the High Priest (Aaron) and his sons, as well as how to consecrate and ordain them as the nation’s priests. Theoretically, this is a logical follow-up to last week’s portion, where we learned about constructing the Tabernacle and its accompanying ritual items. The Israelites built a beautiful Tabernacle – now they needed folks charged with its upkeep/maintenance and to oversee the offerings made there.

I’ve admittedly always struggled with the notion of priesthood, as in some ways it seems to suggest an inherent class difference. And yet, I can somewhat understand that in a time period where animal sacrifice was the norm, having experienced animal “sacrificers” who would be charged with overseeing the process makes sense. The alternative, frankly, could be very messy…

As Judaism eventually embraced prayer-based worship rather than sacrifice-based worship, the ancient rabbis helped fill the leadership void vacated by the priests (and prophets). But prayer was something that everyone could participate in, and didn’t necessarily require specialized “offerers” (although some might argue that cantors have helped fill that role). With time, something truly beautiful has transpired: it is no longer just “professionals” who have the ability to make meaningful contributions to the success of the Jewish people’s created structures, as was the case in antiquity; rather, everyone has the ability to meaningfully contribute. Many of the perceived class differences have faded with time, and opportunities for volunteer leadership are endless.

This Shabbat, reflect on the following:

Which structures in your life have significant meaning/value?

Who are the caretakers of such structures?

Are you willing/interested/able to step up and take on leadership roles to ensure their success?

Wishing you a Shabbat shalom,  
Rabbi Dan 

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