Healer of the broken heart…

Tzav - Healer of the broken heart...
Art by Maggidah Shoshannah Brombacher, Ph.D.
Visit her gallery
Contact her at shoshbm@gmail.com – originals from this series are available.

Parashah Tzav: Leviticus 6:1-8:36

"And the Lord spoke unto Moses, saying: command Aaron and his sons…" (Leviticus 6:1)

This week foreshadows the tragedy of next week: the death of Aaron’s sons who bring "foreign fire" for the sacrifice. The whys and wherefores of that event will be discussed next week, but it helps to know that some of the midrash suggest that their deaths were punishment for an earlier crime, not the foreign fire itself.

Given that interpretation, the two of them must be seen as "flawed." Why then, this week’s midrash wonders, are they told to bring sacrifices? The meaning is very deep; listen:

R. Abba b. Judan said: Whatever the Holy One, blessed be He, declared unfit in the case of an animal, He declared fit in the case of man. In animals he declared unfit the blind, or broken, or maimed, or having a wen, etc. (Lev. 22:22), whereas in man he declared fit ‘A broken and contrite heart.’ R. Alexandri said: If an ordinary person makes use of broken vessels, it is a disgrace for him, but the vessels used by the Holy One, blessed be He, are precisely broken ones, as it is said, The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart (Ps. 34:19); Who heals the broken in heart, etc. (Ps. 147:3); I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit (Isa. 57:15); ‘The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise.’ (Ps. 51:19)

Midrash Rabbah – Leviticus VII:2

Astounding! According to this reading, we are drawn to G!d not in spite of our flaws, but because of them! And we are not drawn to the Eternal One in order to be punished for them, but because the Holy One, Ha Kadosh Baruch Hu, yearns to heal us!

Yes, our brokenness must be accompanied by contrition, but what really is "contrition" other than a sincere desire to heal?

Too often we are tempted to "see" only the terrifying aspect of Justice in the Almighty: even the words are powerful and intimidating. We read about curses and blessings, and focus on the curses; we recall the Hollywood spectacles of cosmic destruction, but forget the "still, small voice" that the prophets hear.

How much we lose, when we do not recognize the yearning of the Eternal One to comfort us, to take our broken, shattered vessels of body and spirit and heal us.

Another midrash from this same verse extends this Eternal Love not only to us, but to our descendants, arguing that no matter how much we are flawed, our descendants bring our names merit, and so for them we should be honored! This is the reverse of the normal argument, which is that we should be spared from our misdeeds because of the covenant with our ancestors; now, we should be honored because of what we have not yet done!

But most importantly, we must remember that we are loved not despite our flaws, but because of them. This is not only the central teaching of these midrashim, but in the deepest sense, it is the subtlest truth about our relationship with the Eternal One. How magnificent is our G!d!

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

4 Responses to “Healer of the broken heart…”

  1. Denis says:

    Did Cain bring honor or shame to his parents? Did Aaron’s descendents bring honor or shame to his father? Did Eli’s sons bring honor or shame to his father?

    We honor our parents and our father’s by behaving honorably…not through the brokeness of willful neglect of righteousness and not by the sinful indulgences of wicked ways.

    The Eternal One seeks us to honor Him just as we choose our sons to honor us; through the obedient and respectable lives that we strive earnestly to entreat them to through their upbringing.

    We bring no honor to our forefathers who knew, loved and obeyed the Holy Covenant that the Almighty gave to us by acting willfully in the brokeness of sin. Yes, through our contrition The Lover of Our Souls yearns mightily to heal us of our wounds and scars.

    We honor The Almighty by living righteously in keeping the divine love of obedience to the Commandments of the Covenant and by casting out all foreign gods, earthly distractions and man based thoughts. Just as our fathers failed to heed the cry of Moses and Joshua to completely eliminate the people and their gods from the lands that they would inhabit, so we are still today to be faithful to that same decree, that we will not follow any influence that removes our mind from the faithful dwelling in a place of obedience before Our Creator.

  2. Uriel Brule says:

    Not all children bring honor to their parents, as you correctly point out. And yet, not all of them bring shame; did not Avraham bring honor to Adam and Chava?

    While you are correct to point out that we are expected to live in an honorable way, the challenge of this midrash is that it suggests that it is when we stumble that the Eternal One is drawn to us in love.

    As for casting out “man based thoughts,” the Sages tell us that the Yetzer HaRav must be struggled with, but not eliminated. For without these thoughts, we would (God-forbid!) not have cities, families, or children!

    Judaism is a rich and complex theology that poses no “simple” solutions, and acknowledges the robust complexity of living in the world richly engaged with God and people.

  3. Melchor says:

    There’s also this story: when Moses came down the mountain, he had the new rules about koehsr and kashering. Since none of their knives and dishes were kashered yet, the Israelites had to eat dairy until they could get their “meat” kitchens set up and have koehsr meats.

  4. Elizabeth says:

    There were so many different ‘explanations’ for the dairy, I could not pobissly include them all but I found them all interesting. They all came back to .EAT DAIRY. Now I just have to work on my GF Blintz for next year!