God's self-revelation and the giving of the Torah at Sinai was followed by the sin of the Golden Calf, and then the command to build the Tabernacle and thus establish a dwelling place for God amidst the physical world.
It is a year of complete freedom for the land and humanity alike, a do-over year, a time to begin all over again. In this context of new beginnings, the choice of Yom Kippur as the day on which to proclaim the Jubilee year does make some spiritual sense.
My wife's grandmother is 94 years old. She lives alone in the same house she has lived in for decades. She is remarkably healthy, but is at an age when many people would have already moved into a retirement community or an assisted living facility. But she has no interest in moving.
We are on a multi-layered journey. On the Jewish holiday calendar, after leaving Egypt two weeks ago with all the attendant fear and drama of Passover we are moving steadily toward the holiday of Shavuot--on which we celebrate the revelation of the Torah--and thus toward Mt. Sinai.
Parshat Acharei Mot closes with a long list of the sexual partners forbidden to men, continuing the apparent male-centric nature of the text. On its most obvious level, the women in this parashah are there mainly as passive objects, or are simply absent.
On the second day of Passover, Jews begin a period called sefirat ha-omer, when we publicly count off each day for the next 50, concluding with the holiday of Shavuot. (Hence the Greek term Pentecost, for the 50th day.)
I am an unabashed lover of Leviticus. And not just the "Be holy," "Love your neighbor as yourself" second half of Leviticus, but especially the "slaughter the cow...sprinkle its blood" first half. "Be holy" sounds great, but what does it actually mean?
The Torah's narrative is filled with questions, struggles, and lived reality related to maternity. Most of our biblical foremothers struggled with infertility. Great detail and attention is given to empowering women as mothers while recognizing the pain of those who are unable to give birth.
We must draw boundaries around our lives, taking care of our own bodies and needs even as we attend to others. We must dwell in the eye-popping paradox that we are both totally one with God and individual human beings who are blazing with love.
For decades, many of our prayer books have omitted, rephrased, or reinterpreted the many liturgical references to these ancient sacrifices. And liberal theologies have struggled to find meaning in the priesthood and in the culture of the ancient Temple cult.
On one hand, we can be grateful that we have responded to God's call (vayikra means "and God called") very differently in a post-biblical world; on the other hand, we can still recall with wonder and mystery the ancient cult as described in our parasha.
This month, the Torah has led us on a comprehensive tour of the folk art museum of ancient Israelite desert wandering, a full accounting of the physical culture of our portable sacred space in the wilderness.
The preceding one-dimensional campaigns -- in which both color and gender are circumscribed -- serve to emphasize the expansive ways in which individuals can be moved to give for the sake of community.