The New Shul

Parshat Sh’mini/Shabbat Parah

In this week’s parashah, Sh’mini, Aaron and his sons begin their work as priests in the service of God. The Torah tells us: “Moshe said to Aaron: ‘Approach the altar and prepare the sin offering.'”

Didn’t Aaron know his job? After all, he had been anticipating this moment for a long time. Why did Moshe have to prod him to get started?

According to Rashi, Aaron hesitated at the last minute because he felt inadequate to the task. He felt overwhelmed by guilt because he was the one who had built the golden calf. So Moshe had to explain to him, “It is for this [work] that you have been chosen.” In other words, when there is a job to do, we have to look beyond our own sense of inadequacy and get on with the work that has been assigned to us.

The Degel Mahaneh Efrayim read Rashi in a different way. According to the Degel, when Moshe said: “It is for this that you have been chosen,” “this” refered not to the work but to Aaron’s sense of unworthiness. It was precisely because Aaron felt undeserving that God had chosen him to do this work. God needed someone who would recognize that he had not earned the job. Only such a person would understand that the work was not about himself but about the greater purpose that it served.

There are times when we all feel inadequate to the task in front of us. The Degel’s point is that, instead of being paralyzed by that feeling, we can turn it into a strength. If our sense of being undeserving causes us to look beyond ourselves and focus on the task instead, if it causes us to recognize that the work is not about us in the first place, then it can help us to do that work better, with our hearts more deeply in it.

  • The New Shul’s Shabbat services are on Friday evenings from 6 to 7 pm, and on Saturday mornings from 9 am to 12 noon. The kiddush-lunch this Shabbat, April 2, is sponsored by Mariam Cohen and Barry Schnur in honor of their 35th wedding anniversary.
  • Childcare is available from 10 am to noon on Shabbat mornings. Learning services for children this Shabbat are from 11 to 11:30 am.for toddlers and preschoolers, from 11 to 11:45 am for grades 1 to 3, and from 10:15 to 11:30 am for grades 4 to 5.
  • Minyanim during the week are on Sunday mornings at 9:30 am, Monday evenings at 7 pm, Wednesday mornings at 7 am and Wednesday evenings at 7 pm.
  • Pesah begins on Friday night April 22. Services for the first two days of Pesah are on Shabbat and Sunday, April 23 and 24 beginning at 9 am. Services for the last two days are on Friday and Shabbat, April 29 and 30 beginning at 9 am.