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Shabbat Commentary

31 March/1 April: Shabbat comes in 7.17 pm, goes out 8.22 pm

In this week’s parasha we begin reading Sefer Vayikra, the Book of Leviticus, which details the roles of the priests in  sacrifices given to worship God.  Yet isn’t it strange that Judaism, which seems like a relatively rational and peaceful religion, would be so involved with  primitive, bloody and even violent endeavours such as animal sacrifice?

My teacher Rabbi Bradley Artson explains that the sacrifices symbolized that life is not a peaceful, neatly packaged, fully comprehensible endeavour. Moreover, he says, that the deeper layers of the human psyche are nonverbal, contradictory and impulsive. They include drives toward lust, anger, gratification, jealousy and safety — and that all of those competing levels and drives require some mode of expression.

If we attempt to deny them, and consequently to stifle them, they will erupt in destructive or inappropriate ways.

As I’ve said many times, I pray for the establishment of the third Temple,  but I don’t want, and mainstream Jews do not want,  to bring back animal sacrifices.   Rabbi Artson points out that studying about it in our rabbinic texts and mentioning it in our prayers helps us accomplish what ancient Judaism wanted – to allow for us to safely channel and express the entire range of human impulses and drives, confront our own subconscious, face and share our deepest anxieties.

Shabrabbipaulsmlbat Shalom,  Rabbi Paul Arberman

March 30, 2017