In our portion of this week (which is the opening of the book of Leviticus), God instructs Moses on animal sacrifices that the newly established people of Israel have to perform in the tent of meeting (Ohel Mo’ed ). The word Mo’ed is interesting, it also means something designated. Something which is prepared for a very specific purpose. Our synagogues, for instance, would fall under that category. Our synagogues are prepared – specifically, Mo’ed – for people coming together, to worship together, to be a community together.
Nowadays our synagogues may be mobile and practical but being a community is still very important. In Torah and the rest of our Tenach, we often read stories we might not want to fully embrace.
We have to look past the literal stories that our texts provide and look at the deeper meaning which lies at the basis of these stories.
The message here is about doing things together in a very procedural way. The reason for this is simple; if certain things weren’t structured, they might not happen. My feeling is, that having experienced this last year, these structured moments of coming together function as a safety net for many of us. We all understand that to look at digital images of one another isn’t optimal, but it is something.
This week’s portion tells us about making animal sacrifices, but I am sure we all understand what it is to make sacrifices. We are constantly reminded of the fact that we all have made self-sacrifices for the last year.
Va-Yikra also knocks on our Passover door. Yet another story which involving sacrifices. The deaths of the first born, and the Israelites who, in all haste, have to eat as quickly as possible so that they can gather everything and everyone towards freedom.
This year, for many, will be their second Zoom-Passover. As I have had meetings with my community to organise how this year’s Passover ought to look like – we came up with some interesting technical and digital tools to make this happen. It will be an interesting and possibly a fun Passover celebration. And we are trying the best we can, to keep our sacrifices to a minimum. Quite a few of you (Dutch and British congregants) have, I know, expressed the desire and hope to celebrate Passover with loved ones, with children and grandchildren.This year it may not be possible, at least here in The Netherlands it is not possible yet.
Next year things may very well be different. Perhaps our discussion around our Zoom Passover table will be different than on any previous Passover celebrations. We will certainy know Mah Nishtanah – what is different on this night than on any other night, the answer will be clear to everyone.
The sacrificial narrative of Va-yikra together with the Passover story, enable us to achieve a tangible, yet different understanding of the two narratives. Our own sacrifices are real, yet not clear for everyone to see. We all have our hopes and dreams in place and we are looking for our own personal liberation. We all are looking towards life resuming as we knew it and still remember it. We all want to go to work, and not to log on to zoom in our home offices, bed rooms or living rooms. We want our services, our bridge clubs and much more. As we finish our Seder by saying next year in Jerusalem, I would say – this year on Zoom but next year in person.
Peter Luijendijk LBC rabbinic student
The views expressed in this D’var Torah do not necessarily reflect the position of Leo Baeck College.