Sharp Turn – Parshat Shemini/7th of Pesach *
Juxtapositions of the Jewish calendar and the weekly parsha have rarely captured my interest but this week the change in focus from the chag to the parsha seems so sharp that I couldn't help not noticing it.
Writing in the afternoon before the last day of Pesach (surprisingly, and thanks to my wife, I have enough time to do that), I look forward to the holiday where we celebrate the completion of the exodus from Egypt and the crossing of the Red Sea. Then, before we even have a chance to start returning to our regular diet of bread and chametz, we read in Parshat Shemini about the deaths of Nadav and Avihu followed by four parshas dealing with the laws of tum'ah and tahara (the rules of ritual impurity and purity).1 We quickly move from a joyous day to a parsha which deals with heavier issues. Is there a connection? How do we prepare ourselves for this change?
If we compare the transformation we underwent during the Pesach in Egypt to the transformation from tum'ah to tahara, we may be able to see a parallel process. Neither slavery nor tum'ah are bad in and of themselves. They both limit what we can do but otherwise seem to have no intrinsic positive or negative value. In fact, there are a number of cases in halacha where we are even required to become tamei2 and we can even choose to remain slaves.3
Slavery, though, does seem to have an impact on our internal mindset and self-image. In fact, the Ibn Ezra states that perhaps Moshe needed to grow up in Paroh's palace so that he could develop a high-functioning individual personality and mindset that is accustomed to the fineries of royal living and not grow up in a lowly life among the slaves and, like the other slaves, become accustomed to being in bondage.4
Similarly, tum'ah, though seemingly innocuous, is not a state of being that we will prefer. It limits our movements and our actions.5 As beings that are interested in growth and purpose, we are bothered by a state in which we stagnate or in which our actions are limited through our own choice.6 We can choose to remain Tamei and in certain situations we can even choose to remain slaves. But most of us would not want to. We want to continue to grow. We constantly search for opportunities for meaning – whether through experiential or creative paths and in certain situations through attitudinal paths.7
We want to move from slavery to freedom. We can choose to move from tum'ah to tahara. We also can move from stagnation to movement and from our own personal issues to growth and evolution into who we can truly become.
Chag Sameach and Shabbat Shalom!
*During the coming weeks, there will be a one parsha difference between Israel and other countries. LogoParsha will be following the Israeli custom.
Have A Great Shabbat!