by Art Geiger - April 19, 2013
This week's Torah portion is a double portion. Acharei Mot and Kedoshiom contain references to commandments that we know very well. The portion actually includes what I believe is the earliest reference to cloud computing. Who knew, when God tells Moses that I (God) appear in the cloud over the cover, that the Torah was foretelling the advent of storing and retrieving information virtually.
Leviticus is famous for lists. In these two portions the lists include the some of the following commandments:
• Who not to have carnal relations with;
• Do not harvest all the food from your farms. Leave something for the poor and the strangers amongst us;
• The commandment to grow pais;
• Treat strangers as yourself;
• Do not cheat people in your business dealings;
• Respect your elders;
• And more
What is consistent in these two portions is the repetition of the phrase "I am, the Lord, your God. Obey my laws." Though the commandments are very clearly stated about what one will or will not do, every third or fourth commandment we are reminded as to who is in charge and who we need to obey, I am the Lord, your God. Obey my laws. No one else needs to apply for the position.
Acharei Mot gives us one very familiar commandment and one very familiar concept related to that commandment. First, the commandment sets aside the tenth day of Tishrei, each year, for a Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur. Second, the concept relates to the story of the two goats. One goat is sacrificed, while the other is left alive. Aaron confesses all of the iniquities and sins of the Israelites on the head of the live goat. After doing so, he lets the goat go off into the wilderness. The story of the goat has given rise to the concept of scapegoating. The rabbis tell us that the Israelites were wont to blame all of their problems on others, thus putting their sins on the head of a goat. The rabbis go on to tell us that we need to take responsibility for our own sins against our fellow men/women. To atone for our sins against our fellow men/women we need to ask each individual for forgiveness for the sins we have committed against them.
Let us talk a little about scapegoating. As my seven years on the Board come to a close, I can say that many of us-Presidents, paid staff, Executive Committee members, Board members have been blamed, at one time or another, for the various problems that have occurred at the Temple. Regardless of the problem du jour, I can also say that one cannot just blame, scapegoat, one person. There is a collective responsibility for the problems that the Temple has faced, is facing, and will face in the future. I can't tell you how many times I have heard from people on both sides of an issue and been told who originated the problem. Of course, depending on your perspective on the issue, the person being scapegoated is different. Tonight, I suggest we do something different. I ask each one of you to determine who is responsible for what is going right at the Temple. I believe you will discover that the people we tend to scapegoat are the same people who are responsible for the good things that are happening at Temple. This Temple has a lot more things going right than going wrong. The Temple serves many demographics and we meet them in different ways. Tonight there are two Friday night services, last week there were three. Multiple services are the norm, not the exception. From the High Holy Days to Shavuot, and everything in between, we have successful, meaningful holiday programs. There is a quality religious school as well as one of the top ECEs in Tucson. There is an active social action program. Though monetarily challenged, the Temple somehow makes this all work. I could go on, for the list of what is right is long. I further ask of you, instead of talking about what is wrong, talk about what is right, talk about why you're happy to be members of Temple. Spread the word.