What a beautiful Shabbat service we had this past Saturday morning. Our very own Mishpachah Torontow was present in person and on Zoom to celebrate Joshua being called to Torah. Joshua and Katie Marr have both dedicated themselves to learning over this past year+ and that learning culminated in our class having its first Shabbat dinner together on Friday night, being at shul on Shabbat and then moving back into learning gears on Sunday morning. What an honour it is for me to be in this cycle of joyful learning with so many people.
This week in Ki Tetzei, that learning might feel overwhelming with so many myriad laws for circumstances we may not think we would encounter in 2021/5781. Thank goodness most of our young men are not heading off to war, but even on a more prosaic note, most of us are not planting vineyards or plowing with oxen and donkeys (never mind yoking oxen and donkeys together)!
And yet. We can read these texts and try to understand how we might understand these situations on a more metaphorical level. What is it about mixtures and combinations of mixtures that distress our Author? Why should we be concerned to not combine linen and wool together in our garments?
One of the reasons – perhaps – for this concern about mixtures is a sense of maintaining seder, or order, a sensibility that permeates our Torah. A place for everything, everything in its place. Our grandson Jacob is coming to visit us this week. When Jacob was little, his Zayde Aaron used to read to him at bedtime by using a miner’s lamp to light up Jacob’s story books. Jacob knew precisely from year to year where that miner’s lamp lived – and he came to love that reliable sense of order.
At this time of year in Elul, at a time when we are thinking about our relationships with others, what we might know to be out of order might be a good beginning to put things back to rights. We first read about the laws of shatnez (not mixing wool and linen fibres) in Leviticus/Vayikra (19:19), which followed the command in the previous verse (18) to love your neighbour as yourself. Not only should we love our own gifts and our own purpose but also love those gifts of those around us. Distinctions between others – including fibres – creates order and is maintained by a sense of order. One is not better than the other, just distinctly unique.
I wish all of us good health and meaningful reflections and repairing of loose threads and establishing of order during this month as we come up to Rosh Hashanah.
Kein yihe ratzon,