In Leviticus 19 we learn the command to “Love your neighbor as yourself” (v.18). The tie represents a neighborhood of people–some feeling loved and others not so. Our task in life is to create more smiles and loving kindness.
As Jews sit down together for Passover Seder and recall the Paschal sacrifice performed by our ancestors in Egypt, let’s take note that any one of us may be considered by others to be the “Black Sheep” of the family. With that in mind, let’s take the opportunity to welcome one another and renew our relationships. Let’s listen with open minds and hearts and seek to understand before being understood. Let’s free ourselves from everything that enslaves us, including grudges, hurts and perceived slights. Let’s make this season of our freedom a true time of renewal and hope for ourselves, our families and our world. A joyous Passover to all.
On this Shabbat HaGadol, the “Great Sabbath” prior to Passover, our Torah reading, Parashat Aharei Mot, takes us to the opposite pole of the Jewish calendar. The reading describes the elaborate rites carried out by the kohanim (priests), and particularly the High Priest, on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. At the center of the the atonement rituals we find goats. In his Yom Kippur Mahzor commentary, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks comments on the words shnei se’irei izim, two goats (Leviticus 16:5) that served different roles in the atonement ritual.
Rabbi Sacks writes: “The two goats were identical in appearance but different in their fate. One was sacrificed to God, the other–the “scapegoat”–was sent into the desert. They represent, respectively, the polarities of the human condition: on the one hand sanctity and order, symbolized by the Tabernacle; on the other, formlessness and void, symbolized by the desert. The ceremony of the two goats is similar to the acts of separation and division that took place during creation (Gen. 1). They represent the light and darkness within the human personality. The darkness–sin–is sent into the dark: the desert with its dangers. The light–the gift of love we bring to God when we offer Him a sacrifice–is transmuted by divine fire into forgiveness and love” (Koren-Sacks Yom Kippur Mahzor, p. 729.).
The goats on my tie are not your average “Billy Goats Gruff.” They are goats of personal transformation and renewal.
In Parashat Metzora, the kohanim (priests) check the people for tzaraat/skin ailments and determine whether or not they are in a state of ritual purity to enter the Temple. The rabbis draw a connection between “metzora” and the phrase “motzi shem ra,” one who creates a bad name by maligning someone else. The rabbis make this connection because Miriam, sister of Moses, was afflicted with tzaraat (Numbers, Chapter 12). Despite the moral judgement that the rabbis ascribe to the metzora, it is not to be construed as permanent damnation. Rehabilitation is the goal. Just as Moses prays for healing for Miriam, and she is healed, so too the kohanim have the task to reintegrate the metzora back into the community. Similarly, when one does something improper such as gossiping about someone else, that person can and should work to bring healing to broken relationships.
The tie reflects the healing aspect of the the Torah portion. For even more insights, check out the G-dcast video on Metzora.