Shabbat Shalom from Vivian Lieberman
Vivian Lieberman – a member of Federation's Board of Directors – shared her perspective on the Torah portion Acharei Mot in the national Women's Philanthropy newsletter.
In Acharei Mot, G-d instructs Moses and Aaron on the procedures surrounding Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. On this day alone, one person—the High Priest—has permission to enter the Temple’s innermost chamber to offer the sacred incense to G-d and to pronounce G-d’s most sacred name. Another unique feature of the service is the casting of lots over two goats to determine which should be offered to G-d and which should be dispatched to carry off the sins of Israel into the wilderness.
The whole parashah is framed as G-d speaking to Moses after the death of Aaron's two sons, Nadav and Avihu, who were killed for coming too close to G-d’s presence. Why does the Torah mention them now when the story of their deaths was told earlier in Sh'mini? According to Rabbi Marcia A. Zimmerman, it’s because the Torah wants us to learn through this repetition the power of our tears.
She writes that even though G-d forbids Aaron's family to mourn, the Rabbis cannot bear this prohibition. As proof, she cites Vayikra Rabbah, a collection of Rabbinic exegesis on Leviticus, where we learn of Elisheva bat Aminadav, Aaron's wife and the mother of Nadav and Avihu, mourning her sons' deaths despite G-d’s decree. “Tears seem to get a bad name in this parashah, but I am here to advocate on their behalf,” Zimmerman says.
I join in her advocacy. This Torah portion has great meaning for me because my son passed away very recently. I cannot imagine not being able to mourn my son regardless of the circumstances of his death. Losing a child is not the natural order of life.
This time has also taught me the importance of community. Through my active involvement in the Jewish Federation community and beyond, I have felt great support and comfort from so many people. I am also very grateful for my involvement in NWP, and I am looking forward to the Board retreat in June and the Lion of Judah Conference in September.