“For I am God who lifts you up from the land of Egypt.”
~ Exodus 11:45
This statement was said to the Jewish people almost forty years after leaving Egypt, when outlining the dietary laws.
Why use the strange verb ‘lift up’ instead of the usual ‘brought out’?
And why is it in present tense?
Kashrut has nothing to do with physical health or cleanliness. For better or worse, these foods affect the soul – not the body. As such, our gastronomical choices either debase or elevate us.
This remains as true today as it did then.
“God spoke to Moses saying: Command Aaron and his sons”
~ Leviticus 6:1-2
The majority of mitzvot are communicated using the verb “say” or “speak”. However, here the Torah uses the more emphatic “command”.
These laws pertain specifically to the priests who serve in the Temple as representatives of the entire nation. Like all civil servants, this meant long hours, basic pay and not much appreciation.
With such difficult conditions, even the inspiration of their Holy work would wear off. Speaking wouldn’t suffice. Instead they needed something more enduring – a commandment.
“When a man among you brings an offering”
~ Leviticus 1:2
Judaism teaches that by bringing an offering, we’re not feeding God but moving closer to Him.
But why say ‘man’ – women bring offerings too?
To teach something deeper: the word for man ‘adam’ is also the name of the first man, for whom everything was created. Just as Adam never offered something stolen, so too we shouldn’t.
Therefore, when coming to get closer to God, don’t steal by using someone else’s path, prayers or process. Just come as you are.
“These are the accountings of the Tabernacle as ordered by Moses.”
~ Exodus 38:21
As a Divine document, it’s a foundation of Judaism that the Torah doesn’t waste words.
Yet after expending thousands of words in many chapters describing the building of the Tabernacle and all its implements, the Torah now repeats every aspect again, in detail, to show exactly how much of each material was donated.
Why? And how come it was Moses who ordered this?
Because money has the uncanny ability to blind, anyone who manages it must show accountability. Even Moses.
“Do not ignite fire on Shabbat”
~ Exodus 35:3
Although there’s a huge amount of laws governing Shabbat, only one action is explicitly forbidden in the written Torah: kindling.
Because physically there’s nothing some animal cannot do better, faster or longer.
Spiritually, however, our mind and creative-power place us on top of any ecosystem. Our control of fire is undoubtedly the most cogent expression of this.
Therefore, while we’re prohibited to create on Shabbat, the rest of the week it’s our responsibility to set the world on fire.