Jews with Purpose and Direction

Sometimes change comes upon us in a flood without warning. On other occasions, we are warned beforehand, but often we don’t take heed of that inner voice giving us the preverbal heads-up. If we are to succeed in our endeavours and our future, we would do well to pay close attention to those little warnings (from that little voice within) that life provides us with.

All of us now, after the exodus from Egypt, are on the way to Mount Sinai. We are counting the days, as Rambam said, we waiting with a patience and a sinking heart to the great event – of receiving the Torah. This week, our weekly chapter “Shemini”, the book Leviticus, one of the central themes of the chapter is Kashrut.
Disputes over Dietary laws – an excellent example of pluralism, has always existed in Judaism. Rambam, trying as he always is inherent, to explain what others take for granted, believes that the idea behind the Kashrut – is the preservation of health.
Ramban: “kosher food is good for the soul.” Rabbi Isaac Arama: “Dietary laws were not, as some believe, dictated by” therapeutic considerations. God forbid! “.
Different and sometimes opposite views – sometimes is the most important essence of our religion, at its heart my wish is that this understanding would lead to the cessation of religious wars within Judaism, and rather a tolerance for differing views.

If we look at this week’s portion, we observe that G-d is giving instructions and specific tasks. We as thinking Jews should follow those instructions with the due diligences required. There is not only forethought in this biblical illustration but there is ultimately a very strong sense of balance.

The balance is observed everywhere, even the animals that are being placed in Noah’s ark – on a two by two basis – there being a male and female representative of each. Nature in its infinite wisdom dictates simultaneously, polaric opposites both to be present and thus an important balance occurs. Whether hot and cold, light and dark or male and female, G-D never implies that the male species is more important than the female, all would do well to understand this principal of nature – just as with light and dark – one simply cannot exist without the other – neither is more important than the other – when seen in such a light “no pun intended,” how could they be?

The appearance of a female Rabbi in our part of the world, is a heads-up, a sign of change in our world. If we resent or resist such change, then we make “hot more important than cold,” – how could this be? We as a community would do well to find a balance, would do well to understand natures laws and embrace them as our own – natures laws are after all far higher than man’s (again no pun intended;) and once we have been sufficiently open minded to give each light and dark its full sway within our own mentality – then and only then, will we see the rainbow, that was otherwise hidden from our sight. In South Africa at one stage, shortly after our new democratic dispensation, we became fondly known as “The rainbow nation.”

But these deeper truths, this balance we need to find and cultivate in our lives, is often one of an individual nature, it is a something to be looked for and felt after deep within our own selves. Often the outside world will give us so-called clues to these things (perhaps areas in which we are weak.) The outside world, or better put “Life” or even better put “G-d” gives us these things by challenging us, if we for example are apprehensive about a specific task or things that need to be done, then we need to look within at the “apprehension,” that is our clue, that is our weakness or imbalance – suggesting perhaps that we need to work on our confidence. That is to say apprehension or fear are identical in nature to one another – they differ only in degree. Just like “hot and cold,” are identical in nature, differing only in degree.

So, in such a case (of fear and confidence) we are being told that we, by remaining polarised by our thoughts and feelings of fear, are actually polarised to that end of the spectrum, and if we do not find a balance in our lives (in this case cultivate more confidence) we will end up suffering the consequences of our own ignorance, or inaction or both. We need to find balance for our ship – a balance for male and female roles and responsibilities, a balance of love and firmness for our children, and wherever the Universe suggests to us that we are out of kilter – we should strive to find balance; such will allow us to sail the ship of our Souls at an even keel, and more often than not allow us to arrive safely at our destinations.

One ship sales East, and another West – it is the set of sail – and not direction of gale, that determines their port.

Rabbi Julia Margolis is the chairman of SACRED ( South African Center for Religious Equality and Diversity).