I have to admit I put writing this week’s thoughts on Torah off, well that’s not entirely true I followed my weekly process I just didn’t want to sit down and type up a few paragraphs on it; but I made a commitment to you, myself, and most importantly Hashem. So lets do this.
In Tetzaveh Hashem via Moses codifies instructions to consecrate everything priestly. This includes oil for the Tabernacle, priestly garments, ordination of the priesthood, the alter, and incense burning. In today’s age the Temple has been reduced to a wall supporting the earthly foundation of a Mosque and we no longer have a family of priests we have Rabbis and any Jew can be a Rabbi after the proper training. Looking at this week’s portion within the framework of the early 21st century we can apply these laws to how we as Jews view and present ourselves within the world surrounding us.
Anyone who knows me well will tell you that in so many words I talk and act like I spent 3 years and 8 months in a federal penitentiary. The truth is I spent that time living and working a desk job in Charlotte, North Carolina and the culture shock of the mid south was something I never became accustomed to. During the past week while I reflected on Tetzaveh I was reminded of a co-worker in Charlotte who was adamant that I was not Jewish because I did not look like a Jew. I have absolutely no clue what a Southern Baptist thinks a Jew looks like and honestly I didn’t ask since we worked in an office building and that conversation would not have ended politely to say the least. Then I started to think about my misspent youth and how sometimes I would be followed through stores based on my “look” but we are not even through Shemot and I have talked about myself way too much. The inspiration for these reflections is how important our presentation is to our self image, our community, and to the non-Jewish community at large.
I really wanted to forget about Tetzaveh because challenging myself and asking how do I want my presentation to be, is a very heavy task. At this point in Torah, Aaron and his sons are finally at a point where dressing in priestly garments is a natural and comfortable expression of themselves and the greater Hebrew community is ready to except them as is. Before this point dressing as a priest would have resulted in a small flicker of awkardness emanating from the priestly caste and even a small flicker would have been blinding to those within the Hebrew camps doing more harm than good. Like Aaron I want to exude a complete and confident Jewish aura instead of an awkward or uneasy aura. The first thing I want Non-Jews whom I interact with to think when they hear the word Jew is something positive. I do not want that response to be something like “Oh, you mean your like that stiff, awkward guy Jeremiah.”
This week examine yourself. How do you find comfort in outward Jewish expression? Are there times when an outward expression makes you feel uncomfortable? In the past how did you overcome that discomfort?
Jeremiah@punktorah.org Twitter: @circlepitbimah