D’var Torah: Rabbi Rachel Silverman (Vayikra)

Last Friday marked 365 days of this pandemic. My kids’ school closed on March 12, 2020 and, like schools all around the country, did not reopen for the rest of the school year. As I scrambled with my family to figure out living, working, and learning all together at home, I kept being reminded of the fact that human-beings thrive on predictability. We are our rituals in many ways; most of us are creatures of habit that cannot succeed without a regularity. 

So it’s not a surprise that, when the world upended that for us, we tried to recreate a sense of stability in other ways. One of the very first things my family did was to create a schedule for our day, mirroring our familiar preschool routine as much as possible. 

While we didn’t stick to the schedule for all that long, merely having it helped set a rhythm for those early days of lockdown and provided a sense of order for our lives. Life was nothing close to pre-pandemic, but we were able to create a “new normal” that made our situation that much more bearable. 

A similar sense of predictability is on display in this week’s parsha. Vayikra opens with a lesson for the priests on sacrificial offerings that are to be made, and continues into a discussion of inadvertent sins – in particular, what happens when something doesn’t go as one expected. 

I’m drawn to this last piece. When someone sins, even accidentally, our sense of being is disrupted. Something didn’t go as planned. Instead of letting the situation spiral out of control, the Torah gives us explicit directions on how to restore order. Like the Israelites of the Bible we are comforted by rituals and a sense of knowing what to do next. 

Last Passover, our communities were reeling from being shut down and struggling to figure out how to do Pesach while in quarantine. It turned out, it was quarantine we didn’t know how to do – Passover was easy. It was a ritual that we had done hundreds of times before, and, like God’s instructions in Vayikra, the order of the seder provided a sense of order for all of us feeling unbalanced. 

May this year’s Passover provide a similar sense of familiar ritual and order – and may our lives go back to “normal” soon. 

Shabbat Shalom. 

Rabbi Rachel Silverman, Temple Israel of Sharon

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