When it first became apparent that there was no way getting around it – that I would have to drash, I was honestly a little panic-stricken. I had avoided it for a few months, but I sit next to the guy who
schedules them and I couldn’t avoid it forever. I’m not Jewish but my general appreciation of all faiths (I like to brag that I was one course shy of a religion minor), not to mention my other life in the entertainment industry left me with intermediate knowledge about some of the more important stories - I’d say I was a Torah Top 40 listener. But with the limited scope of my knowledge, for this purpose, one torah portion was as good as any other, therefore my selection method consisted of closing my eyes and pointing. Of course its my luck that I end up picking the one that involves the laying out the rules of several of Judaism’s most important holidays.
I thought what on Earth am I going to say about this? I’ve already started doing the prep work for the high holy days and its six months away – clearly this is quite important. So how am I going to do
this justice? Then I thought, I have a college degree and if thirteen year olds can do this, so can I.
But as I researched, it became clear to me that the desire to make something, in this case my d’var torah worthy and special was very much what E’mor is about. In this portion God lays out a laundry list of dos and don’ts for the priests. Then he gives very specific instructions who can approach to give sacrifice. Apparently God had had a lot of coffee and pulled all nighter to prepare for this strategic planning meeting, because he then gives a litany of how-tos for a number of the major holidays in Judaism. Luckily Moses was taking notes.
So God took care of all of the hows, so the question that remains is why? Why does God have so many strong commandments to lay upon his people? Well, if anyone knows how easy it is for humans to take things for granted and only call upon them only when they need them, it’s God.
How often do we hear on tv or in movies when our sad hero’s beautiful love interest is in intensive care after a completely implausible yet terribly tragic accident “God, we haven’t talked in a while, but…” and then proceeds to ask for a rather large miracle. And let’s be honest, that doesn’t only happen on tv. Meanwhile, people in our society have become so accustomed to complaining about
every little inconvenience – my train is late, I’ve been on hold for fifteen minutes, that solar panel is blocking my view of the football field (that is from a real NYTimes article) that they completely ignore all of God’s blessings. We go through the motions of living as it completely passes us by. As the wise sage Ferris Bueller says: Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it. That is what God is doing here. He is putting up a big STOP sign. He gives us these laws to force us slow down and consider what it is that we’re doing, to make these moments holy. What a blessed life we would lead if we really could make every moment truly special – every conversation, every drash? But in the meantime, God has done us the favor of
handpicking the beautiful moments of ritual that give us the time to commune with Him and each other.