Vayikra - weekly Torah portion
Many sins are described in the portion of the Torah that we read this week from the Book of Leviticus. We also learn the ways to cleanse from such sins, typically by sacrificing an animal which deals with the sins made against God. However, there are also sins that occur between human beings and these too require ways to cleanse from. In these cases it is not enough to offer a sacrifice, it is necessary to reimburse the person who was affected by the sin and add to it. That is, not only the value of the damage but also an additional compensation. We read, “When a person sins and acts unfaithfully against the Lord, and deceives his companion in regard to a deposit or a security entrusted to him, or through robbery, or if he has extorted from his companion, or has found what was lost and lied about it and sworn falsely, so that he sins in regard to any one of the things a man may do; then it shall be, when he sins and becomes guilty, that he shall restore what he took by robbery or what he got by extortion, or the deposit which was entrusted to him or the lost thing which he found, or anything about which he swore falsely; he shall make restitution for it in full and add to it one-fifth more.”
We learn here that there are several opportunities for people to wrong others and these include a deposit, an entrusted security, robbery, extortion or a lost item. In each of these cases if a sin again another person is performed it is considered not only a sin against that person but also against God. In order to make things right it is not enough to mend things with God, before that it is necessary to fix the wrong done to the person who was wronged. This brings about a better social order, defines the limits of proper conduct, and what needs to be done if something went astray.
I think that we can take these teachings and apply them also to our current lives, though surely we will be glad to drop the scarifying part and amend our sin to God in other ways. In Israel the affairs pertaining to religion were deposited in the hands of the orthodox establishment. Already a short time after that was done the challenges and difficulties regarding that decision of Premier Ben Gurion were apparent. These continue to grow and mushroom as Israel grow, the diversity of its population expanded, and the chief rabbinate of Israel, simply for being an unchallenged government appointed monopoly, whose heads seem to believe that they are the sole representatives of God on earth, deteriorated morally. The deposit that was left in their hands does not serve its intended purposes. Simply put the chief rabbinate has deceived us with the deposit, that we the people gave them in trust. Now, instead of acting as persons who received a deposit they act as if they are their rightful owners.
Unfortunately we see that kind of behavior not only at the chief rabbinate of Israel. We see that kind of arrogant behavior also from other rabbis who receive different kind of deposits from the State of Israel, for example in the pre-military prep academies, known here is Mekhinot. These places are designed to allow youngsters to spend a period of time, before joining the compulsory military service, in study and social work in the areas they operate at. In some cases, some leading rabbis forget that they have received something which they do not own, they deceive the original owner and beyond that use the deposit that they have received to incite against others of the Israeli society with whom they may have a difference of opinion. In the past few weeks we have been hearing from some rabbis derogative description of young women in Israel who serve in the IDF and insult them in public, thinking that a mere apology will be sufficient. Thinking that freedom of speech and democracy alone are reasons enough to let him off of his deeds. But such rabbis are deceiving us with a deposit that they have received and with that are actually performing a sin acting against explicit teachings of the Torah.
IMPJ is proud to have a successful pre-military academy, the Mekhina in Yaffo, that promotes the value of our Movement. In it we welcome Israelis from all walks of life and beliefs. There many of them are exposed for the very first time to a different kind of Judaism that they have previously experienced. A life style that requires thinking, critiquing, studying and getting to know people, things and issues. That is not enough and during their stay at the Mekhina they also get to taste other streams of the Israeli society, not only Reform Judaism, as we believe that the persons of integrity must understand and get to know that Jewish deposit that was put in our hands to the fullest extent possible. To comprehend that it is essential to respect all the holders of that vital deposit and that it needs to move from our trusted hand down to generations to come, Dor leDor, by adding to it, reviving it and sanctifying it, so that it becomes an even better basis for a future here in Israel. But not here alone but also to be a beacon of light to all nations, those who are truly worthy of leading the world. It is also important to know that there are other forces, from other streams who, like us, are trying to do the same thing and we must continue to work with them and get better in doing that, even when the going gets tough, as we are tough and we certainly get going. Doing that will ensure that we will know how to handle properly that Jewish deposit we cherish and love and make the best and the most of it for the benefit of all.
Reuven Marko, 31 March 2017, 5 Nisan, 5777