• Rabbi Michael Barclay

TABLE FOR FIVE: Five Takes on the Weekly Parsha, Shemini

Updated: Dec 23, 2021

Whereas many traditions emphasize faith, Judaism focuses on behavior, on actions that lead to understanding. Not just words. Here, drinking is forbidden in the Tent in order to distinguish between sacred and profane, clean and unclean.


Boundaries. Distinctions. For Jews, not for others. What is unclean for us may be fine for others, but we must act within Torah guidelines to understand deeper the differences between what is for Jews, and what is not.


Everything is holy, but not everything is Jewish. There may be holiness in the Catholic rituals of Communion, in the ecstatic practices of the Ayahuascero with his tribe, or in the physical sacrifice of the Lakota Sundance ceremony; but these are not our way. Our pathway is specific, our boundaries clear. This text teaches us to stay true to our instructed practices. And if we are clear in our “Jewish path,” then maybe we can truly appreciate the beauty of others.


Think of it this way: Every spiritual path is like a different color. Judaism is blue, Catholicism is purple, Islam is red, Shamanism is green, and so on. All are sacred, but if we just casually mix them all together, we get a murky, ugly brownish gray. But when we are true to our paths and respect others, we create a rainbow filled with the colors of God.


Let’s be true to living Jewishly through the Torah’s instructions, and in so doing be part of creating a rainbow in God’s exquisite painting of life.


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