This week’s parsha of Tetzaveh is about temples, sacrifices and priests – oh my! Seriously, we who live in the 21st Century have a hard time understanding the reasons for all of this. Regarding kohanim, it goes against our modernity and and sense of egalitarianism that people should be given power for reasons of heredity. After all, look at what happened in North Korea. And animal sacrifices? In the day of PETA looking over our shoulders, do we really want to read about how to sacrifice bulls and rams and spread their blood on altars? Should we look to this ancient past for inspiration and help in our time?
The answer is, “Yes, we should!”
It is important to keep the Torah in modern perspective. It was written by men many years ago who were primarily concerned about how to maintain the cohesiveness of a tribe and people. It was also about how our people viewed G-d and their place in the world. It worked! Jews still identify as Jewish after thousands of years based on a shared heritage and respect for the wisdom of the Torah. But is the Torah all wisdom? No. There are things written, such as in this week’s parsha (Exodus 27:20 – 30:10), that had significance in that day and age, but simply don’t fit into the 21st Century.
Judaism evolves, as all religions and ideologies should evolve, to keep up with modernity. As human beings reach higher levels of moral maturity, we will naturally discard ancient ideas that conflict with these new realities. The wisdom of the Torah is mutable – and this is a good thing. As Jews, we need flexibility in our lives as well as our religion to adopt to new circumstances. If there is a lesson here for us in this week’s parsha it may be that we should learn how to discern true wisdom from ancient practices. Being careful not to throw out the baby with the bath water, as modern-day Jews, we still have a need to read the Torah with discernment.
Back to the past, yes, but firmly in the present as well.