Vayikra – An Outsiders Perspective
This week we read from one Torah scroll only. As opposed to last week which was Parshat Shekalim and the next three weeks which are Parshat Zachor, Parah and HaChodesh respectively. This Shabbat is the off week, the quiet week. It is the eye of the storm, the calm before the rush of Purim and Pesach.
This season is full of ideas and functions to commemorate. We know what Pesach commemorates and we have discussed Shekalim before. Zachor has strong connections to purim and Parah reminds us of the perfect ritual purity required for the Paschal offering. HaChodesh marks the beginning of Nisan, the first of the count for the months of the year. This week, however, there is a break from these commemorative mentions.
In some ways, living in New Zealand is living in the twilight zone of in-between-things, just as this Shabbat is in-between. We remain untouched by much of the controversy and agitation brewing in many parts of the world. The Prime Minister of New Zealand immediately took steps to express his displeasure and disapproval of the Russian intervention of Ukraine. He immediately called off trade talks that had been ongoing between NZ and Russia. He canceled a planned stop in Russia on his way back from China. He could afford to do that because NZ is such a small player in the game. Who notices NZ? The American government is in a difficult situation because the repercussions for America are so much higher. America has a great deal invested in these relationships. The President risks making loud and sometimes empty threats because his hands are tied and he has little more than threatening rhetoric to use.
On another front, the middle east is in turmoil as usual. The Syrian civil war has become a part of life and the Egyptian struggle to build a stable government is ongoing. Israel continues its fight for survival while being torn internally by raging disagreements. And in New Zealand we have our own challenges but we have the luxury of keeping the world’s struggles at arm’s length. We live in the off Shabbos.
We could use our distance to be judgmental of others if we wish. We could look down on the motives for civil rifts and the pride and arrogance which drives nations to wars. We can ridicule the insatiable appetite people have for power and wealth, trampling upon the lives of others to achieve their goals. But we have our failings too. And we don’t face the challenges that others do. Our borders are not flanked by neighbors with a history of tension and conflict. We don’t have deep seated beliefs which are threatened by the actions or attitudes of others. We can afford to be tolerant. We can afford to live and let live.
Truly this week’s Parsha acknowledges that we are human. When a leader errs, when the nation transgresses, when an individual commits a mistake – these phrases all precede prescriptions of rectification and atonement. But they all presupposed that sin has occurred. They all recognize that as humans we are inevitably going to fail on occasion. Humanity is not perfect or we would not require a Torah to show us the way. G-d did not create angels, He created people. Part of being human is that we make mistakes.