Shabbat Behar 5776

“The future is already here. It’s just not evenly distributed” (Robert Gibson, science fiction author).

This week, we read Parshat Behar, which begins “Dateline: Sinai.” We are then given a series of commandments that we didn’t read about back in Yitro and Mishaptim, when we last saw Israel standing at Sinai. In fact, the entire book of Vayikra seems to have been a communication from God to Moshe from ohel mo’ed, the tent of meeting. How did we get back to Sinai?

On Wednesday at evening minyan, we learned Ibn Ezra’s commentary on this curiosity. “Ein mukdam umeuhar baTorah–the Torah is not written in chronological order.” He is suggesting that all of the instructions about the sabbatical and jubilee years preceded the technical particulars we’ve been reading for weeks now that seemed primarily of interest to the Priests and Levites.

There’s great theological significance to the Torah’s insistence that the laws in this week’s portion were given at Sinai. Revelation is more than just “The Ten Commandments;” it includes other urgent content. The rabbis of antiquity had the genius to interpret Torah in their age using methods that made them seem an extension of Sinai, even if they weren’t there. And today, one of the hallmarks of Conservative Judaism is a principled belief in the possibility of ongoing revelation. That is, though we are not standing at Sinai, we still have the capacity to hear God’s commanding voice and interpret the Divine will in new ways.

On Shabbat morning, at a special lunch and learn, Rabbi Pamela Barmash will share her thoughts on mitzvot in our day. A respected scholar and an integral member of the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards, Rabbi Barmash has written passionately about how to expand the circle of Jews with access to performing mitzvot. You can follow this link for one such example. And she’ll explain the significance of the quote at the top of the page. We look forward to learning more from her on Shabbat!

Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom,

 Rabbi David Wise