May 25, 2012

This is the first summer in the last seven that Lauren and I have not had to orchestrate a move to a new abode.  It was all good, but I hope none of you experience a similar seven year stretch.  The best part is we are ensconced in Nyack getting ready for Shavuot and truly looking forward to the second year in a row for the Yamim Noraim at the same place, with the same chevra.  No one is immune from moves, and we all have packed our valued possessions, books, and pictures to make our new habitat seem like home.

Parashat Bamidbar instantly drew me to the image of Aaron and his sons lovingly wrapping the sacred objects in garments of tekhelet, preparing them to be transported to the next campsite.  It was almost a year ago that our movers came, and I recall Lauren admonished them to be extra, extra careful with her framed (and autographed) Troy Aikman jersey.  In the past we had been almost maniacal about our “things”.  This time, with Benny safely in his seat and Lauren next to me, I was minimally concerned with the “things” and cannot express how eternally thankful I was for what I had in the car and the opportunity that lay ahead for us.  A year later (withTroy safely and securely on our wall) it is hard to imagine anything better.

Tekhelet by itself could be the subject of two or three of these messages and still only scratch the surface.  There are a myriad of articles on the Internet discussing it, and you will find them interesting.  You have undoubtedly seen fellow Jews with blue threads of tekhelet intertwined into their tzeiot.  Positions on it are varied, but it is not something that I have personally adopted. It does not seem to be very prevalent here, so we can leave it for another day and time, but we should be aware of what tekhelet was or is.

Midrash Bamidbar Rabbah has an extended discussion of the wrapping process and its symbolism. Rabbi Shimon’s famous statement in Pirkei Avot 4:13 setting out the three crowns—Torah, kingship and priesthood—is associated here with the wrapping of the ark, table and other sacred objects. The Ark is most important—the leather wrappings are covered by an ornamental layer of pure tekhelet, for the blue of tekhelet resembles the sea, the sky, and the very throne of glory. Other vessels have tekhelet beneath the leather, but the Ark was beautiful even in its packaging. The upshot of this Midrash is a bit obscure.   The idea seems to be that the student of Torah is like the Holy Ark—containing within him or herself the precious words and that this sacred treasure deserves a dignified cover—pure tekhelet.

As we wrapped up our first year together this past week with the Dinner Dance and Congregational Meeting, I ask all of us to figuratively cover our important items with tekhelet—with a layer that represents the very throne of glory.  With Shavuot this Saturday night, Sunday, and Monday, let your eyes linger on the beauty of Torah, your hearts meditate on its light and joy, and your soul soak in its wisdom and peace.

Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach!

Rabbi Jeffrey Abraham