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"In One and Out the Other!"

05/03/2019 09:54:40 AM


Rabbi Reuben Israel Abraham, CDR, CHC, USN (ret)

In this day and age, we human beings must be able to adapt to the ever changing situation in which we live.  And that is part of what makes us human: the ability to acclimate to almost any environment, any climate , or any condition in which we find ourselves.  Even when the new circumstance may be highly annoying and very uncomfortable, we can become accustomed to it if we spend a long enough time in it.  However (and there is always a "However"), the opposite side of the coin is true as well.  Even when we find ourselves in a new environment that is welcoming and luxurious and somewhat exotic, we also become accustomed to it and accept it as "the new normal."  I believe that this is what "plagues" the non-Orthodox American Jewish Community at this time.  We accept what is even when it is antithetical to living life as a Jew.  So what is it that we must do to retain out unique identities as Jews?  As always, we turn to (what else?) our Torah for the answer.

In this week's parashah, Parashat Acharei Mot, we read the following command to Aharon following the death of his sons Nadav and Avihu: "And Hashem said to Moshe: 'Speak with Aharon your brother, that he shall not enter at all times to the Sanctuary, within the Partition, before the Cover that is on the Ark; then he will not die.'" (VaYikra/Leviticus16:2)  There was a specific time when Aharon, the first Kohen Gadol (High Priest) could approach HaShem in the Kodesh HaKodashim (the Holy of Holies) in the Mishkan (the Wilderness Tabernacle), and that was on Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement).  Why the restriction?  Because if he entered the Kodesh HaKodashim more often, he would then become accustomed to it, and it would no longer have the profound effect that it had by his doing this only on Yom Kippur.  We read the following from our Tanakh (Hebrew Scriptures) regarding how our people were to come into and depart from the Beit HaMikdash during the Shalosh Regalim (the Three Pilgrimage Festivals) in Yerushalayim (Jerusalem): "Whoever comes in by way of the Northern Gate to prostrate himself shall go out by way of the Southern Gate.  He shall not return by way of the gate through which he came in.  Rather he shall go out opposite it." (Yechezkel/Ezekiel 46:9)  When our people came to the Beit HaMikdash during the Shalosh Regalim, they were awestruck by its beauty and magnificence.  They could literally feel the holiness that was inside its walls.  They would leave inspired and uplifted until they made their next visit.  However, in order for this feeling to remain, they were ordered not to go through the same entranceway twice lest they would become too familiar with this holy place.

The power of being able to adapt to almost any situation has become a detriment in our lives as Jews here in America.  We live our lives as Americans first and Jews second, and that has resulted in the highest rate of assimilation ever experienced by the American Jewish Community.  [German Jews also viewed themselves as Germans first and Jews second.  We have just commemorated on Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Day) the disastrous results of how that turned out.] But we have in place that Sanctuary, that Beit HaMikdash, that Kodesh HaKodashim with us right here, right now.  It is called Shabbat.  It is separate and apart from the other six days of the week making it both holy and special.  We must treat it as such by adapting our lives to this day that defines us, and only us, as the People Israel.  Let all of us make every effort possible to do just that!  Shabbat Shalom!

Sun, September 15 2019 15 Elul 5779