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36http://www.beth-israel.org/blog/2011/02/Rabbi-Lyon%27s-Blog---02_11_2011
Rabbi Lyon's Blog - 02_11_2011
02/09/2011 03:00 PM Posted by:

From the Desk of Rabbi David Lyon
February 11, 2011

 

                Take a look at Exodus 28:41, in the portion called T’tzaveh. Here, Moses adorns his brother, Aaron, and Aaron’s sons. He prepares for them tunics, sashes, and turbans, “for dignity and adornment.” Then Moses puts them on Aaron and his sons. Finally, Moses anoints them, ordains them and consecrates them to serve God as priests.

                The Hebrew is very clear here. “Mashachta otam” means anoint them. “Kidashta otam” means consecrate them. It’s the middle term that is more complex than meets the eye. “Umileita et yadam” does not simply mean ordain them. It’s an idiom, and it literally means, “and fill their hands.” This teaches us that whenever a person of authority is set apart for a special task, especially a sacred one, he or she participates in a rite or ritual that distinguishes this person for the task at hand. We do it all the time. When a leader is inducted into a role or society, when an elected official is inaugurated into office, or when a clergy person is ordained or vested for sacred service, rites and rituals demonstrate the authority of their position and validate the process.

                It is likely that when Moses ordained Aaron and his sons, he placed an object into their hands to convey some of his own authority to them. When they grasped it, they demonstrated their total commitment and ability to fulfill their respective roles. Can you imagine if they dropped it? Talk about a bad biblical omen! Likewise, throughout history and down to our own day, a scepter, gavel, or rod, has served as an object of authority when it was transferred to and wielded by a king, judge or presiding officer. These symbols are no small matter and they are never (or rarely) dropped.

                Thankfully, we don’t live in an autocratic state. We don’t depend on a single person to carry the scepter, gavel or rod. All of us grasp responsibilities in significant roles at home, at work and in the community. At home, without physical signs of authority, every parent still bears the duty to provide a home where children can be heard but also guided by a benevolent hand. At work, with more signs of authority like titles and reserved parking, corporate heads and small business owners, alike, grasp their companies’ missions and are held to account. In the community, political leaders represent us in the legislature, and are daily challenged to keep promises to their constituents.

                We are also very powerful people, individually. We can choose to do almost anything we wish. Naturally, there are consequences, but we are still free to choose. The goal isn’t to be a super-hero or a dictator; it’s to be a “mensch” who grasps the responsibility of being a human being, everyday. At home, at work and in the community, we all have some power over ourselves and many others, too. What will we do with the power? How will we use it to make a difference that matters? The covenant God sealed with our ancestors is the same one God seals with us. Today, it’s conveyed by different authorities, but our role in it is not much different. It’s still our duty to accept in our own hands the responsibility to live by it. It’s still our duty to learn it so that we may teach it to our children. It’s not always easy to do, but it begins where you are and grows from there.

                You don’t have to be Moses, Aaron or a Talmud scholar to accept your place in the covenant. Don’t wait to be handed a gavel or a rod. Don’t ever wield a scepter. Wield the power that comes down to you through mitzvot, commandments. In Reform Judaism, we are equally endowed to fulfill commandments, both ritual and ethical. We all have a role to play in the Jewish community.

                From my family to yours, Shabbat Shalom.

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