First Monday of ordinary time
Yad by yad

This week's portion: portable holiness.

I'm off to Texas this week to celebrate one of my mother's milestone birthdays. I'm looking deeply forward to going.

My family spans the denominational divide; we belong to every synagogue in town. But my parents are affiliated Reform, and in honor of Mom's birthday we'll all attend erev Shabbat services together at their congregation, Temple Beth El. We joined right after I became bat mitzvah; I spent my adolescence there, was Confirmed there, taught in the Hebrew school there. And this Shabbat I will be delivering the d'var Torah there -- a tremendous honor for me.

If you're going to be at Temple this Friday evening, you might want to skip my post at Radical Torah this week; the five-minute d'var I wrote doubles as my RT post! But if you're not joining us for services, or if you want a sneak peek at Friday night's d'var, be my guest:

When it was time to break camp, the Torah tells us, Aaron and his sons would take down the screening curtain and cover the Ark with it. They would cover that with leather, and then with a cloth of pure blue. The table and its accoutrements -- bowls, ladles, jars, tongs and fire-pans, libation jugs -- would be wrapped in cloths of blue, violet, and crimson, and then in tahash, a yellow-orange leather (the word is sometimes translated as dolphin skin). Everything precious in the sanctuary, in fact, was wrapped first in cloth and then in skin, and loaded onto a set of carrying poles for easy transport.

These mentions of fabrics and skins may remind us of the Torah portions we read earlier this spring, which described in loving detail how the Mishkan should be constructed. An astonishing quantity of text is dedicated to the tabernacle and its details. In this week's portion, we learn that the instruments of sacrifice were wrapped not just in cloths but in b'gadim, garments -- a word that ordinarily denotes what people wear. These pieces of the sacrificial system were treated with the same respect as human beings! How can these passages speak to us today, so many centuries distant from a model of interaction with God which required libations and blood, incense and gold?

Read the whole thing here: Portable holiness.

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