For the week of March 11, 2006 / 11 Adar 5766
Torah: Shemot/ Exodus 27:20 - 30:10
& Devarim / Deuteronomy 25:17-19
Haftarah: 1 Samuel 15:2-34
Whenever Aaron enters the Holy Place, he will bear the names of the sons of Israel over his heart on the breastpiece of decision as a continuing memorial before the LORD. Also put the Urim and the Thummim in the breastpiece, so they may be over Aaron's heart whenever he enters the presence of the LORD. Thus Aaron will always bear the means of making decisions for the Israelites over his heart before the LORD. (Shemot / Exodus 28: 29,30)
We live in a day when life is compartmentalized. Family, school, work, friends, leisure, and so on, all seem to exist in their own compartments. How we behave and the values we have shift depending on whom we are with and what we are doing.
The roots of this most likely go back to Greek philosophy which has had a great influence upon Western thought. My understanding is that the ancient Greeks divided the material world from the spiritual world. This approach to reality has created a form of schizophrenia as we divide life into various categories.
For example many of us have no difficulty with how, in Western society, we approach education. We take courses in science, separate from history, separate from geography, separate from politics, separate from economics, separate from religion, etc.
This is one of the reasons why people have a difficult time reconciling science and faith, or fail in creating a truly ethical political system, or developing fiscally sound environmental solutions. On the personal level, this way of thinking, has caused much trouble in our relationships as we have difficulty applying good principles into the various areas of our lives.
The Torah provides us with God's view of life, which is very different from the compartmentalized approach I have been describing. When you read the Bible, it doesn't take too long to see how it moves very freely from subject to subject. That's because the main context of the Scriptures is real life. Many of us would prefer it if the Bible was organized by topic, in the same way we approach most things, but it isn't. The fact is the compartmentalized approach is artificial. Life doesn't work according to topic. Life is very complex, and unless we learn to integrate reality, we will continue to unnecessarily struggle in most areas of life.
This week's portion helps us to see how we are to integrate life. When the chief priest appeared before God, he was to wear a special garment as a reminder of the people whom he represented, the people of Israel. He also had with him the God-given means of making decisions for the people. Both these items were placed over his heart. These things were reminders to him that his place before God was not for himself, but for others. The decisions he would make, therefore, were not for himself, but for the welfare of the people. And the decisions he made for the people were to be as a result of God's direction, and not his own wisdom.
Therefore as the chief priest did his job, he needed to integrate the reality of God with the needs of the people. This is not simply a ritual. The chief priest, if he truly embraced what God was seeking to do in and through him, became a bridge between the spiritual and material aspects of life. He was to be in the presence of God with the needs of the people on his heart, always remembering that he himself needed to look to God to help these same people.
The world is not just a collection of experiences that have nothing to do with each other. The real reason why we have trouble integrating the various aspects of life is due to our being disconnected from God. The reason why this disconnection is perpetuated even by those who claim faith in the God of the Torah, is that we have not allowed him to truly penetrate our hearts adequately. Only God can help us integrate the spiritual and material aspects of life. Like the chief priest, this can only happen in the presence of God. As we immerse ourselves in him and allow him to speak to us and do things his way, we will begin to see the various aspects of our lives come together in a most remarkable way.
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