Posts Tagged ‘sin’

Beastly Burdens

March 11, 2011

According to Biblical text and commentaries, Adam was first charged with naming the animals in his proximity on the sixth day of Creation.  In addition to providing names for the creatures based on his impressions of their appearance and behavior, rabbis and scholars have suggested that the sixth day was also marked by Adam’s awareness of the physical and psychological qualities that he, as a created being shared with them. Addressing this awareness is this week’s Torah reading from the Book of Leviticus. ‘Vayikra’ (“and G-d called”) provides the laws and rituals that guide us to an understanding of our nature while it draws us into an awareness of our relationship with G-d. At first glance, the parashah appears to be about performing animal sacrifices to elicit G-d’s attention and pleasure. While these often gory and macabre rituals seem to echo the human history of centuries-old pagan cult beliefs and practices, closer examination reveals that G-d doesn’t actually require blood sacrifice; it is only a means of helping us to discover and control our baser natures. The figures in this illustration embody the types of ‘sins’ codified in Vayikra. They are seen approaching a sacrificial altar shedding masks that represent their animal natures to reveal and evolve the spiritual aspects that we share with G-d. Taking current world events into account, the sacrifices and their consequences continue…

Readers, here is a question for you: how do you view your own animal nature? Would you change it if you could and if so, how?

Illustration from: Between Heaven & Earth: An Illuminated Torah Commentary (Pomegranate, 2009)

http://www.pomegranate.com/a166.html

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The Seductive Shine of Fool’s Gold…

February 18, 2011

The episode of the golden calf in Ki Thissa, this week’s Torah portion has to be the mother of all morality tales. In a nutshell, while waiting impatiently under harsh desert conditions for Moses to descend from Mt. Sinai with his message from God, the Israelites lose it and persuade Moses’ brother, the High Priest Aaron to sanction the creation of a golden idol that can serve as a focus for their passions, religious and otherwise. Kosher, this is not. And when Moses does finally show, he is not best pleased. In shock at this mass betrayal of his people and his brother, he drops the Tablets of the Law which shatter upon impact. According to a rabbinic legend in the Babylonian Talmud, when the tablets were broken, the letters of the Commandments flew back to Heaven. The Israelites were then plagued with a plague as a token of God’s displeasure. Moreover, they were condemned never to reach the Holy Land; only the next generation would do so. Which tells us that wisdom, even Divine, may be glimpsed, but until the designated recipient(s) are fully awake and aware, may not be completely received.

Every time I read this parashah, I wonder about the metaphoric presence of a golden calf in my own life; what values or ideals have I focused on that were not worthy of my humanity? Too many to list here. Yet at these times, I find my thoughts vacillating between understanding Moses’ profound anger and understanding why the people of that first generation of Israelites needed that infamous symbol of all they had left behind in Egypt. While Moses’ mission was to establish a monotheistic religion, his people were making it clear that old habits, particularly bad ones notoriously dog our best intentions for change, both in ourselves and by extension in our environment. Which made the recent events in modern day Egypt so astoundingly ironic. The Egyptian people living under a long-term dictatorial regime, didn’t need a golden calf to effect a change that will mark their place in history, only the united desire to be a free and democratic people. Indeed, they have come full circle and have overthrown their own Pharaoh.

Illustration from: Between Heaven & Earth: An Illuminated Torah Commentary (Pomegranate, 2009)

Between Heaven & Earth: An Illuminated Torah Commentary (Pomegranate, 2009) may be purchased here: http://www.pomegranate.com/a166.html or here: Amazon: http://bit.ly/gRhg0g