I am so fascinated by the focus on speech at the moment. Entering in the Omer Count I began a journey with a group on the lessons from the Chofetz Chaim on understanding the sin of Lashon Hora – evil speech. Time and time again it has emerged in my studies or perhaps I am just far more aware of this issue than I ever have been before.
To open up this Torah portion and the first focus to be on speech again has confirmed for me that Father is speaking very seriously to those with ears to hear that our speech is what will either lead us into His fullness or what will bring destruction over lives. As always, the choice is ours but the warning is clear. If Miriyam was not enough of an example and the students of Rabbi Akiva who died from a plague because they spoke disrespectfully of one another, then I am not sure what will be. http://www.jewishmag.com/123mag/rabbi_akiva/rabbi_akiva.htm
The next question that we must ask ourselves is why has HaShem signed off on all of us, on a global scale, wearing masks? While we all have our own opinions on this, I do feel it is a very clear message – that we are being held accountable for our idle speech and we need to start taking stock of what we choose to say. Life and death is in the power of the tongue. Proverbs 18:21
In this portion HaShem is speaking to the Kohanim (Priests) and setting their tasks before them. What is very interesting to note is how Father is speaking to them. The word vayomer is a compassionate way of speaking because what He is calling his Kohanim to is going to cost them – their lives will not be able to be lived as the rest of Israel and Father understood the burden that these restrictions would bring over their lives.
What we see in Aharon and his sons is the prophetic picture of a life of wholehearted dedication and the call to live out a life of holiness at a deeper level.
The first directive HaShem gave was to avoid the tamei realm. Tamei refers to being spiritually unclean – in a sense that you become fragmented and vulnerable.
“Why is death seen as tamei and why does it make the priests tamei? Could it be that the dead are a false representation of God? We are made in His image which is life – when we are no longer alive we are no longer in the fullness of God’s image.
A kohen’s best friend, dearest aunt, uncle or cousin, or most beloved rabbi or talmid could become tamei – or even die -- and Adonai’s instructions were for the kohen to go on with life as usual, giving priority to the Divine calling of service to his neighbour and/or the community as a whole. If a member of the kohen’s nuclear family – defined as his: wife, his mother or father, his son or daughter, or his unmarried, dependent sister – however, became tamei, the kohen was permitted – indeed encouraged – to lay aside community/neighbour centred mitzvot and ‘ministry’ completely for as long as he deemed necessary, to deal with his nuclear family’s needs, to bury his dead if need be, and to share the grief of, and to give support to and receive support from, the members of his immediate family.
This teaches us a very important lesson about Father’s priorities. Long before He constituted society, He personally established the family unit. He defines very clearly for us – what is and is not a family unit. He has made it clear in Torah that the family unit as He established and defined it is to have priority over a person’s ‘ministry’.” Extracts taken from Bill Bullock, Rabbi’s Son, The Beloved 2005-2012
The Sh’ma teaches us this priority: Deuteronomy 6…you are to teach them carefully to your children*, you are to talk about them when you sit at home**, when you are travelling on the road***… tie them as a sign, put them on the front of a headband around your forehead*, write them on the doorframes of your house** and on your gates***…
How does ADONAI place priority for us in the Word?
- ADONAI ELOHIM
- Immediate family
- Personal purity & spiritual health
- One’s mitzvoth (ministry)
- Personal goals/desires/appetites
Now, you may ask, what does this have to do with lashon hora or speech?
I believe lashon hora can pull us into the realm of death, not physical death as such but certainly in in terms of the fullness of one’s life lived on earth. We can cause the death of someone’s reputation without giving it much thought and go about our day but that one piece of unsolicited information can cause someone’s life to become completely and utterly decimated. My husband and I have been at the receiving end of this type of destruction and it has meant work being lost, relationships being strained and a great deal of stress and sadness.
Our tongues do so much damage and yet it is the norm for the world – to roast and defame people in a world of cancel culture and tabloids. How do we separate ourselves from this realm of verbal death?
We stop. We stop participating – and this means we even stop listening to the speech that brings destruction. What Father asked the Kohanim was huge – He asked them to ignore their human need to mourn for their close friends and extended family and go on with life as normal because His k’hal, His community would need their consistent service and example of His strength.
In a different way but if I can use this analogy, I believe, as His chosen people, His royal priesthood, we too are being asked to step away from this realm of death of the tongue. How would we be able to function, serve and worship in His presence if we are surrounded by words of death and destruction and to make it worse, if is our own our tongues adding to this realm of death?
Father is calling us to a higher level of worship, holiness and dedication. There is no more time to put these things aside for another day – the time is now for us to choose His ways over the ways of the world and our own flesh.
Will we hear HaShem as He speaks to us with compassion? Let us not be like the church of Sardis whose deed were left incomplete or the Church of Thyatira who tolerated Jezebel. Let us be a sweet fragrance unto Father – a fragrance of wholeness and obedience – a fragrance of life!